Similar to many people, I’ve gone through various phases with my diet. Growing up, I didn’t have social media (well, there was Myspace but I only had my school friends on there) or much access to the internet, so the only thing influencing my food intake was my parents.
Mum and Dad didn’t keep crisps, cake or chocolates in the house. The only thing that we did have were Fig Rolls and the occasional Time Out bar, but that didn’t mean that our diets were particularly healthy. I’d eat cereal for breakfast, nothing at school, then cereal again when I got in and usually a pasta-based dish for dinner with a side of veg. So lots of carbohydrates and calories!
At 17 I studied sport coaching and fitness at college where, ironically, we ate cheese paninis, chips and chocolate every day. It was only when I turned 20 that I became aware of what I was eating and how it might affect my body.
Even though I’d studied nutrition briefly at college, my knowledge was still very limited. I decided to learn more about nutrition online and taught myself, ultimately, a load of crap. Fitness had just started to grow on Instagram, and I was suddenly exposed to images of girls with rock hard skinny waists and muscular curves, snacking on rice cakes and drinking protein shakes. The distorted information being shared by these girls was what inspired me to change my diet.
At this point, a work day looked like this:
This was a strict eating regime which continued for around 3 years. Straying from this routine was very stressful for me and I felt guilty if I cheated on my diet. I was convinced that this was the ‘correct’ way to be eating, and that everybody else was greedy and unhealthy for letting themselves eat whatever they wanted everyday. I boasted that I was ‘normal’, and that others were not. I deliberately went to bed feeling hungry. If my stomach wasn’t in a slight bit of pain from the hunger then I’d feel guilty about my day of eating. My logic was that it was easier to sleep through the pain rather than endure it during the day. On occasions (perhaps once a month), I’d also purge if I’d over eaten or binged.
I only realised this fairly recently, but for those 3 years I actually was living with Orthorexia. I hate putting a label on behaviour like that, but I recently read the symptoms, I literally had all of them. I was obsessed with keeping my food intake ‘clean’ in the name of fitness… to save me listing them here, you can read all of the symptoms on the Beat website:
Regardless of this, I was actually a very happy person throughout this time and enjoyed my diet and exercise routines. I never got a diagnosis or spoke to anybody about it because I didn’t think that I had an issue, I just believed that I was the person who was willing to do what it took to be ‘fit’. I started blogging about my diet and fitness regimes on Instagram, and the growth of my followers and the praise I receive for my behaviour just confirmed to me that I was doing everything right.
I eventually did a personal trainer course and that’s when I started to learn the truth about food and how my restriction wasn’t necessarily in order to be fit. Slowly, my diet got less restrictive. I ate lots more and was willing to eat some ‘dirty’ foods in the name of ‘balance’ – a new phase which was breaking through on Instagram.
About 2 years ago I really started to understand nutrition and embrace a balanced approach to my food. The healthiest thing about my diet now is my approach to it. The majority of the food that I eat now is regarded as healthy, but most days, there’s something in my diet that my former self would have regarded as ‘dirty’ and would have felt guilty for eating. But better yet, I don’t really think about it at all. It doesn’t control my emotions and behaviours like it used to and all in all I feel pretty relaxed with what I’m eating.
At 26, I’m the healthiest and strongest I’ve ever been. Yes I have a conscious awareness of what I’m eating, but that’s because I have a genuine passion for wellbeing and fitness.
This isn’t a sad story for me, I don’t get upset thinking about it. I understand that a lot of people struggle with this, so thought I’d share my own personal story as I think it’s super important that we don’t let social media have a negative influence on our lives.
I guess my point here is that social media has had a huge impact on my diet over the last 6 years, both negative and positive. What’s key is that we can find social accounts run by people who ACTUALLY know what they’re talking about, and who have a healthy relationship with food themselves. Here are a couple of people who I would highly recommend to follow: