When I look back at high school I remember playing on the field hockey team, shyly crushing on boys in my class, driving with my friends with the music blasting and a new found sense of freedom. But underneath all this, I didn't feel free at all. On the surface my high school experience looked pretty great, straight A student, MVP of the team, having a cute date to the prom. However, every day I struggled. I felt the ever present desire to feel skinnier, to feel more attractive, to stand out among the mass of my fellow teenagers. These desires paired with my perfectionist personality created a toxic relationship with food. It felt good when my body was starving. Going to bed hungry after doing 2 sets of 100 sit-ups and skipping breakfast the next morning would give me a sense of pride. People would compliment me on how thin I looked, which only fueled the fire. I didn't realize then, but I was developing an eating disorder. Behavior that I thought was normal because I was being rewarded for how I looked.
And then there was a shift, after a friend told me about how she threw up on purpose after eating too much. Which planted a seed that would change the next year of my life. Something that only happened occasionally started to happen everyday, 2-3 times a day. I would eat anything and everything until I felt sick knowing that I wouldn't have to worry about it later. It started affecting my energy and there were days that I felt so tired I couldn't move. My iron levels hit rock bottom and I felt like a zombie walking through life obsessed with where I would get my next meal. Like an addict, in a spiral, feeling completely out of control. Which just made me do it even more to try to regain the all control I had lost.
And one day my parents sat me down, and told me they knew.
There was so much shame that I had been carrying around and in this moment I completely broke down. My secret was exposed and raw, but there was also a sense of lightness and release just knowing that I wasn't alone in all this. And I promised myself that day that this needed to stop. I have spent the last 10 years trying to repair the damage, a slow process and something that I work at every day.
I have never met Amanda but I have followed her for some time on Instagram as the writer and photographer of the gorgeous images behind CRAVING THIRTY. She did a call out to her followers asking them to tell their stories and share advice as part of her Emotional Eating Interviews series (Part I, II, III and IV). And this gave me the courage to tell mine. I was honoured to be chosen as a participant and took the chance to be vulnerable and to share this for the first time publicly.
Her work focuses on helping people with emotional eating through coaching and her blog boldly dives into the sensitive issues of eating disorders such as anorexia, binge eating and bulimia intertwined with beautiful food posts and an assortment of yummy healthy recipes. However, recently she has also started the inspiring Self Love Project, a non-profit initiative with a mission to mentor women and girls ages 13-24 through empowerment curriculum to be taught at middle/high schools and colleges. This will help teach women the value of practicing self-love early on so that they can live the lives they were meant to live and support each other more effectively and authentically.
This is exactly the type of guidance and support that my 18 year old self really needed. An early start at creating a healthier more sustainable relationship with food, and my self. I have so much respect for the work Amanda is doing. And find it to be relevant no matter what age you are.
Read more about her thoughts on this topic below:
What drives you? What's your mission?
At the end of the day, I just want to help people. If I can use my life experiences to help others in any way, I am happy. Through both my projects, CRAVING THIRTY and The Self Love Project, I want to encourage people to love and nurture themselves in every way they can.
Life is too short to waste it on negative self talk and self destructive behavior.
This is a lesson I am still learning but I know it's a message worth spreading.
Was there a key/favourite moment in your experience/journey so far that has made it all worth it?
A few years ago I had a session with a 75 year old woman who wanted to improve her health on many levels. I gave her some advice that I thought would be useful, but didn't hear from her until 6 months later. At 75 years old, using the tools I had given her in that one-hour session, she managed to lose over 20 lbs, reduce her cholesterol and get off her blood pressure medication completely. Tears welled in her eyes as she thanked me. It made me realize that knowledge is power no matter what age you are. And I felt so grateful that I was able to make a difference in someone's life, even at that age.
What is your favourite way to nourish yourself and your health?
I nourish myself in many ways. I feel most nourished when I'm in good company, but also after a great workout or when I spend time at the beach. I believe it's important to care for yourself on many different levels.
An ideal day for me would be to spend time with a close friend, go to a yoga class and have a spa day topped off with delicious food. There's something about pampering myself that makes me feel grounded and in tune with who I am.
I also love losing myself in a good book and spending time alone to get centered.
When do you feel the most beautiful?
I feel most beautiful when I'm relaxed and happy, and when I'm feeling confident in what I can give to the world. When I'm excited about a project or feel good about the work I do, it shines through me.
If you had one piece of advice for the next generation of young women, what would it be?
Have confidence in your power as a woman. Embrace your femininity, your sensitivity and your intuition. Each of us is a beautiful, unique and powerful gift to this world.
Don't waste your life worrying about what other people think. Be confident in who you are and what you know deep down to be true. Only do what is right for you.
*NOTE: All photos were taken by Amanda, you can click on the images to visit the original recipes on her blog.