In high school, I memorized the Weight Watchers' point slider and took great pride in knowing exactly how many points I was eating with each meal. I closely monitored my points intake vs the number on the scale... and that's where my weight loss/gain and body image journey took off.
At the recommendation of a broadcasting professor in college, I entered the Miss America program and won Miss Ohio 2011. While the experience was invaluable and I continue to stay involved with the program today, competing in the swimsuit portion was not good for me. My body was never good enough in my mind, and I went through weight swings of 40 pounds during competition time vs the "off season." I tried every crash diet imaginable, which I inevitably broke after a couple weeks because they were so restrictive.
All that mattered in my mind was being skinny. I counted every calorie, but the nutrition behind the calorie didn't matter. A typical dinner after returning home from broadcasting the evening news was a pint (or two) of ice cream. Emotions were so closely tied to my eating and when I cheated on a diet or found myself binge eating an entire loaf of bread at night, I felt weak and deflated.
Then I accepted a morning television role and was forced to make some health changes. In order to wake up at 2 a.m. (the call time for AM television!), I couldn't continue to eat sugar and drink caffeine all day long or I would never fall asleep by 6 p.m. First, I quit drinking Diet Coke and put water in its place. Second, I placed a big emphasis on eight hours of sleep. Up until then, I prided myself on not needing much sleep, but the minute I started getting a good night's sleep, the pounds dropped right off and I felt SO much better.
Most importantly, I quit counting calories and shaming myself on days when I didn't eat very well. Today, I say I went on the diet of forgiveness. Instead of beating myself up for eating a bowl of ice cream (which would lower my self esteem and drive me to eat the rest of the carton), I enjoyed a smaller portion of the sweet treat and moved forward.
Once I stopped dwelling on my food, exercise and the number on the scale, I was able to finally listen to MY BODY. Who would have thought that my body was telling me exactly what it needed all along?! I learned how to eat until I was full and then stop. I learned when I was dehydrated instead of hungry. I learned what exercises I love (barre, yoga, walking) and would be motivated to do every day instead of dreading the workouts I couldn't stand. And this changed everything.
Today on my journey, I am in year two of expanding what I can cook. The first bonus is saving a ton of money by not eating out as much. But I also am enjoying finding recipes that are simple (nothing to complicated for me please!) and also delicious. My husband has suffered through some terrible meals, but never complains and seems to be enjoying my progress as a chef.
The other part of my journey is now sharing what I've learned (and am always learning!) with others. I have a particular drive to help women in their teens and 20's figure out nutrition and health. It's difficult when you are starting out on your own - and I am here to help guide them to make choices that are best for their body and unique needs.
I'll end with this. Once I started loving my body instead of picking it apart, it changed every single thing in my life. Confidence with your health transforms your career, relationships, emotions, drive... Not to mention how it impacts your longevity and the quality of your years. It's so important - and once you realize what it's like to feel great about your body, you will never want to go back.
Let me know if you know a woman who is looking for some help with nutrition and health! I'm offering free 45 minute health consultations. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org.