I’ve struggled with body image since I was a teenager, cycling through every extreme diet from South Beach to low carb to an array of juice cleanses in an attempt to lose weight. While I never developed a full-blown eating disorder, I pushed the boundaries of healthy eating, and my body dysmorphia led me to unhealthy choices and times of despair. I’ve spent so much energy and a staggering amount of my life obsessed with food, diet, and my weight. While I am grateful it led me to this perspective, I am sorry I spent so much time mistreating my body.
Over the years, I have found that the biggest challenge with extreme diets is that they are un-sustainable. As soon as I would slip—which was inevitable—my hunger would be all-consuming and my appetite felt out of control. I would feel guilty and decide I should find a new diet, something I could stick with, and the whole cycle would begin again. It would take many years and much research into nutrition, healthy living, and better food options to realize that a too-restrictive diet (with too much sugar, too many grains and not enough fat) can disrupt one’s blood sugar levels and leave the body feeling unsatisfied. After all, how can you not be obsessed with food when you aren’t nourishing your body?
In 2013, I had the opportunity to talk with a woman who would change the course of my life: Margaret Floyd Barry. She challenged me to approach food in an entirely new way. Rather than fear fat, she explained that fat was necessary for fertility and a healthy pregnancy. As I was planning to start a family, her words resonated. Additionally, Margaret was practicing a raw primal diet at the time. Unlike the more common raw vegan diet, she was eating raw dairy, fish, and meat (which, at first, sounded extremely unappetizing to me!). Not only did Margaret feel great, she was less hungry than usual. After years of struggling with feelings of insatiable hunger, this last point caught my attention.
When I stopped taking the birth control pill in early 2014, my skin began to break out, and I was once again forced to confront my food and lifestyle decisions. That same year, I met Melissa Henig, another pioneer in the raw diet world, who encouraged me to incorporate raw cultured butter into my meals to help balance my hormones. After so many years of avoiding dairy, I was skeptical, but decided to take a risk. It would turn out to be a huge shift in my perspective on food and healthy living.
Similar to Margaret Floyd Barry’s experience, I found that as I added higher amounts raw dairy to my diet, I could go longer periods of time between meals. Previously, I couldn’t go more than two hours without feeling distracted and grumpy. Unless I overate, I never felt quite done. Now, not only did I feel more in control of my hunger, this real food way of eating also curbed my tendency to overeat, and for the first time, I felt satisfied (no post-meal chocolate cravings!). I was creating a relationship with food that nourished my body with whole, real ingredients, and, in the process, completely transformed my appetite and my cravings. While it took a while to determine the correct balance for my body (and yes, sometimes things go a little off the rails, like when I had terrible morning sickness or when we were moving) but overall I now have a clean, healthy diet and am over 10 lbs. lighter than my pre-pregnancy weight.
Of course, this shift in my attitude toward nutrition, food, and diet isn’t simply about looking good and I certainly am not suggesting everyone needs to be super skinny. Instead, the aim is to feel good and maintain a positive relationship with food. I am passionate about sharing my approach with others because it dramatically improved my own life. I hope it will bring positivity and wellness to yours.