Food: Friend or Foe? Vicki's 150 lb. Vegan Weight Loss Journey
I know I probably deal with “food issues” more than the average person given I’m not only a fitness competitor but also a nutrition coach for vegans. But either way, it’s really FUCKED UP (pardon my French) just how many of us struggle with getting our “diets” right. Whether it’s using food as a crutch to get us through tough times or deeming food as evil altogether, I’m always shocked and saddened by the number of women who contact me because they don’t know how to eat intuitively (or when NOT to eat) and see themselves as “fat,” unfit, unattractive and even worthless because of their negative relationship with food.
I often think back to a time when one of my competitor pals was telling me that she once ate an entire bag of chips naked–in front of the mirror–to help end her “chip binge” episodes.
Again, pardon my French, but that’s also really FUCKED UP!
I’m proud to say that I’ve never suffered from an eating disorder though some people might say my strict vegan diet is questionable. 🙂
I am, however, the first to admit that bikini competing has made me look at food in a completely different (and somewhat disordered) way. And don’t even get me started on how it’s changed the way I see my body. The daily bloating struggle is real, my friends!
As health-conscious vegans, many of us like to label foods as either “bad” or “good.” And as much as we want fries with our veggie burgers, we’ll instead opt for the salad because we know that fries = bad and salad = good. But I say “why not get half fries, half salad but ditch the bun on your burger instead?” It’s all about balance, baby!
Another mindset that’s helped me over the years is thinking about how foods will make me feel tomorrow vs. this very second. Think of it like drinking. Sure, it’s all good while you’re slamming back those cocktails, being the life of the party. But a night of boozing (for me anyway) always ends in fries and candy at 2am then a complete write-off next day (sans-workout and probably the ordering of Panago veggie pepperoni pizza.)
And yes, I try to not keep “bad” food in my apartment so that I’m forced to eat “good” stuff. But you can bet your ass that when I’m dining out with friends or visiting my parents, I’ll share a plate of yam fries, chug some Shorkey maple syrup and stuff my face with Kraft peanut butter and All Dressed chips (I’m sounding REAL Canadian right now, aren’t I?)
I also know that my mom will always bake one or two of her carb-a-licious, full-brick-of-vegetable-shortening-added-but-vegan-nonetheless, homemade pies. Of which I will eat at least two pieces… Then likely more chips…
Would you consider this “disordered eating” behaviour? I’m sure some people would. I do, after all, feel guilty sometimes because it’s not exactly “role model” vegan nutrition coach behaviour. But most of the time, I don’t feel guilty at all. And that’s because I train my ass off at the gym almost everyday AND I make healthy choices **most** of the time.
It’s also important that we focus on how “good” foods make us FEEL good vs. how bloated and gross too much “bad” food can make us feel. And I’m not talkin’ ’bout eating chips naked in front of your mirror either.
It means discovering what “optimal” feels like and not wanting to feel anything less than your “optimal” because not feeling optimal sucks!
It’s discovering how properly balanced meals fuel our training, boost our energy, regulate our digestion and aid in our muscle recovery.
And it doesn’t mean that you have to eat nothing but asparagus and protein powder all day long. Instead, find some healthy meals that you love, eat them often and allow yourself a little treat every few days for being “good” the rest of the time.
And on that note, today’s post isn’t actually about me at all. But apparently I don’t know how to not talk about me and went off another Shorkey rant. 😉
Nevertheless, I’m super excited to share the inspiring story of Vicki Strickland: a lovely vegan lady from Portland who after years of overeating and emotional eating, found veganism, made peace with food AND in doing so, lost over 150 lbs.!
PS – apparently I’ve jumped on board the “gif” train for this post too. But who doesn’t love a good GIF?! And who doesn’t love a good vegan transformation story?! So without further ado, take it away, Vicki!
Food: Friend or Foe?
Guest Post By Vicki Strickland
I remember the day that food became my enemy.
I was 13, a little tall for my age at 5’8” and perhaps a bit underweight at 122-ish lbs. I can’t remember what I was doing when I was first asked “what are you going to do about your weight problem?” But I’ll never forget the rush of emotions I felt in that moment.
The next day, I started a four-year diet I was forced into, which ultimately forged a pathway into my brain that told me I could not be trusted with my own health.
For years I traveled down a road that told me food was my enemy.
Once I left the house and started living on my own, I quickly began to satisfy every craving I had experienced in those miserable years. And then one day–at 26 years old–I stood before a mirror and realized that my body had finally caught up to the image I had held as truth for so many years.
I was now obese.
Food slipped into the role of a dear friend and I turned to it for any reason I could find. I rarely, if ever, ate without feeling guilt, no matter what I was eating.
Food consumed my thoughts 24/7.
I did the yo-yo diet routine until finally, at 46, I decided enough was enough. I worked to forgive the abuser that introduced such confusion into my life. And I came out of denial and finally admitted the truth to myself: I had absolutely no idea what a healthy approach to eating looked like.
I knew it wouldn’t be found in another diet; it was deeper. And I knew that I couldn’t experience an authentic lifestyle change without the fundamental healing of my relationship with food. I had proven to myself that I had willpower, but willpower without a healthy motive was just slavery.
So on a random day in November, I “started” my journey to health and wellness.
For the next year and a half, I continued to exchange fruit for junk food, cut my portions and ultimately, actually choose to eat rather than starve myself out of guilt.
The weight slowly began to melt away.
18 months later in March of 2013, I was invited to be part of an online community that had committed to do a three-day vegan detox and “cleansing.” The organizer of the group had set aside a 14-day window and left it up to us to decide when we would complete the detox. I was convinced that it was going to be the worse thing I had ever done. So I decided to get it out of the way in the first three days.
Well, at the end of the three days I felt so amazing, I didn’t want to stop! And the next thing I knew, I had completed the entire 14 days. And now, more than three years later, I’ve never looked back.
My new found clarity of mind – which came as a result of cutting out all the animal products and junk in my diet – gave way to a strong desire to educate myself in the area of nutrition.
All of a sudden, I found myself wanting to fuel my body rather than just feed it. I realized that I was in control of my own health, that the responsibility to be the best version of myself was mine and mine alone. Food was no longer my enemy, and it certainly wasn’t my best friend, but it was fuel for my health.
Since then, I have gone from a depressed, obese, guilt-ridden eater to a lean, weight lifter and runner. And, perhaps most importantly, I am a joyful, hope-filled, responsible woman.
The journey has been long and tough, and especially sad at times, but it has also been, without a doubt, the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Today I don’t hide from humanity. I no longer wear shame as an obese person, and I’m not living haphazardly. Instead, I am fully engaged in my world, reaching for dreams and living out loud.
Truths I’ve learned along the way:
- Anyone can do anything at any time.
- Loving yourself isn’t prideful, it’s your responsibility.
- It’s never too late to be the person you desire to be. At 50, I am training for my first fitness competition and fulfilling a dream I’ve had for more than three decades.
Be well, be happy, be healthy, be you!