Written by Alison Bell
I learnt something very important whilst on reflection, and that was to let go.
My food journey has been a long and bumpy ride, as I'm sure it has been for many of you reading this. For me it started at a very young age as a professional athlete.
I was an aspiring young tennis player and had access to some of the top physical trainers and nutritionists in the country. I spent some time at the Australian Institute of Sport where the diet encouraged for a tennis player was very high in carbohydrates. While I was training six hours a day I was more than capable of burning off the food I was eating and was a healthy weight. I was however very prone to injuries, fatigue and had constant allergies. The injuries eventually got the better of me, and after 3 shoulder surgeries I was told I would never play tennis again.
As I was no longer playing tennis I was free from my strict regulated fat free, carb loaded diet and boy did I go to town. I ate fast food that was previously forbidden, I ate chocolate, sugar and all kinds of bad things. I drank beer and partied hard, with no awareness that there would be consequences. I was still young and making up for lost time!!
I woke up and noticed clothes were no longer fitting, the fitness I had taken for granted had disappeared and all up, I felt rather horrid. So the first thing I did was join Weight Watchers. We all know how well that goes. I actually starved myself all day so I could use my "24 points" of food on 2 slices of pizza for dinner. Not quite the way it's supposed to go eh? But I managed to have some success dropping 20kg. As I returned to "normal" life, the weight slowly crept back on and gained a little interest along the way.
I was sick of feeling sick. I took myself to a naturopath who indicated I would do well removing wheat, yeast and dairy from my diet. This rocked my world. How could I possibly survive without my vegemite cheese sandwich for breakfast, my ham and salad sandwich for lunch and my pasta for dinner? But I was willing to try anything and incredibly, it worked. I started to feel alive in a way I never had before. I could breathe through my nose for the first time in my whole life. I had a new level of energy that was unexpected, my eye sight improved and I had a new found mental clarity. That was 15 years ago.
TIME TO GET SERIOUS
I joined Weight Watchers again (yup, slap me now). I had a new found vigour for life and was determined to shed these extra kgs. I approached many staff members about their menus and recipes asking for assistance as I needed things to be without wheat. Not one person had any idea how to help me continue my weight loss journey being gluten free. This wasn't working. Hence I moved on to Jenny Craig (yup you can slap me again). Their pre-packaged foods were sure to be the answer, except they all contained wheat! Again I had hit a brick wall. I felt lost and had just about given up until I stumbled across Cyndi O'Meara of Changing Habits at a Thermomix cooking class.
ENTER THE HCG PROTOCOL
I spent a full year implementing real food food philosophies and procrastinating about doing the Changing Habits 4 phase fat elimination protocol. A full year wondering whether I had it in me to do something so rigid and challenging. Then bam, I was in. And what an experience that was. I completed the protocol 5 times to reach a weight I was happy with, and then did it one more time for a cleanse. It changed my life. But it also turned me into a food nazi, which had some rather substantial negative impacts.
I became completely and utterly obsessed with food. Food was the ONLY thing responsible for ANY illness, for any ailment, for any mood swing, for ANYTHING. I became judgemental of my friends and what they were eating, I turned into a lecturer and preacher, I said no to any food offered by my colleagues proudly pointing out the reasons why, rather than just politely declining. My goodness, how anyone was still my friend is beyond me!
Despite all my clean eating and military like focus on ingredients and what was right and what was wrong, I became unwell with 3 autoimmune diseases. This confused me and made me angry. I was doing everything right (or so I thought) and not a smidgen of "bad" food crossed my lips. How could I be sick? Well this was my lesson. Food is a very very big part of wellness, but it is not he only part. I was so obsessed with food that it had become stressful, and I had ignored every other part of my life that contributed to overall health and wellbeing.
Don't get me wrong, I am still obsessed with food, I love it with all my heart (sometimes a wee bit too much) and I won't compromise on some things. But a simple "no" when offered something from a packet is sufficient. The ability to be flexible and to find balance is SO important. It doesn't matter how well you eat, or how much you exercise, you may still become sick. There is so much more to life than just diet and movement. There is mindset, life purpose, lifestyle, social interaction, happiness, family, spirit, soul, connections, relaxation..... Sometimes we need to let go a little to gain insight and wellbeing. Our health is not reliant on one single focal point (such as food), it is reliant on our overall outlook to all things in us and around us. I am still a work in progress as I continue on my journey to health, and my while my diet plays a HUGE part in my healing, it is not the only area that required adjustment.