The C Word- Calories

I mentioned before how counting calories became an obsession for me when I was anorexic- and I do mean OBSESSION.  I would count the calories in EVERYTHING, literally every, single, last thing.  Chewing gum, was a particular favourite here- you don’t even swallow it, how crazy is it that someone would study the calories in CHEWING GUM!?  But I did, and again I can remember another ‘panic’ moment when I realised the new gum I’d bought (chocolate dessert flavoured, to try and ease my never ending cravings) had 5 calories, when my usual mint had 1- that’s an extra 4 calories!!  Oh good god, how did I not realise this before?!  I can remember this totally throwing me.  Thankfully I can now look back see it all in a completely different light, and realise that the amount of calories something has, does not reflect it’s nutritional value.  I also know that as I train quite hard, 6 times a week I need a lot of calories to fuel my work outs- but that’s for another blog.

Calories Through Anorexic Eyes

My diet, if you can call it that, during my ED was something more akin to the dreaded Weight Watchers.  I would ‘feast’ on Boots Shapers Meal Deal, but shun a salmon fillet and some avocado.  I mean who wouldn’t pick a low calorie, vaguely bacon flavoured little puff of air over a natural, nutty flavoured, ripe bit of avocado, obvious choice really.  I would ‘allow’ myself more calories at the weekend (lucky me) and use them to eat sparingly during the day, but have a Magnum, some chocolate cereal and whatever else in the evening.  Then end up feeling both sick and guilty.  What little food I was eating wasn’t great.  Yes, of course I had the standard chicken and broccoli, and chicken a salad, then back to chicken and broccoli again.  But the other foods I had in my ‘diet’ were of such little nutritional value, and if I’m being honest, not even that nice.  I can remember one specific occasion- it was a best friends birthday and she was celebrating by having afternoon tea at The Wolesely, in our own private room. How lovely!  How scary more like- how would I tot up the calories of little, tiny, fiddly bits of cake?!  CAKE, for the love of god, what was she trying to do to me- of course my friends didn’t ‘know’ at this point.  Anyway I went and ate sparingly, trying to taste a bit of everything but likewise not wanting to eat a lot so I ended up feeling both guilty and unsatisfied.  But that’s ok, because once I’d left, and obviously attempted to add it all up to rough calorie value in My Fitness Pal, I stopped at the services, which I knew had an M and S and bought every low calorie option going.  I had saved oodles of cals as I hadn’t eaten very much and merely picked so I had this lovely surplus to gorge on rubbish.  I can remember being amazed at how much I could get for a certain amount of calories.  A salady thingy, a bag of flavoured crispy air like bites, a wannabe chocolate type affair and some little layered mousse with fake cream- yummy!  Of course I ate it all and felt hungry about 30 minutes later- why?  Because there was nothing in any of it that was actually going to fill me up, because it was ‘low cal.’

Calories In My  Eyes now

I understand that when it really comes down to it, calories are a big factor in someones diet.  If you consume more than you use, you will gain weight, that is fact.  BUT, the type of calories you consume can have an effect on your body, as I understand it.  My nutritionist once said to me that 100 calories from chocolate is totally different to 100 calories form celery (celery was like my BFF during my ED!).  And how right that is.  So now I don’t actually look at the calories in anything, at all!  Never did I think I’d say that.  I know some people who compete and need to get lean/to a low weight need to track what they eat but I personally don’t like the idea of having to count the calories my food.  I would rather someone made an informed decision on what they wanted, rather than look at the calorie value.

Calories in The Eyes of the Media

I do think there is less of it now, but still we are bombarded with low calorie diets.  And I feel these are aimed at women in particular, and it’s not great! Those Boots Shapers layered moussey thingys with the nice fake cream- what actually is that?  And what actually will it do for your body?  Will it give you a momentary amount of satisfaction, while you’re on a sugar high from the added sweetener, and then leave you feeling low and wanting more?  Most probably.  So rather than looking at the calories in foods, I try and look at what the foods will do for me, how they’ll make me feel, what the benefits are, and how they will really taste.  Calories are important, yes, but not in the way I was viewing them before.  Give me high calorie salmon and avocado over a low calorie bacon flavoured puff of air any day.  Will the bacon flavoured puff of air contribute to my intake of omega 3’s, will it help my hair to shine, my nails to grow and my bones to become stronger- doubtful.  Obviously food should be something that is enjoyed, and I’m not saying it should be viewed simply as fuel but our bodies need fuel, and without it they just don’t work.  I want my body to work, and not only work, but work in the best way it can.  I’ll never be Jessica Ennis or Paula Radcliffe but I can be the best version of me.

If you ever find yourself getting obsessive when it comes to calories, take a step back, don’t focus on the media c**p that’s being promoted by the latest Big Brother evictee- be sensible, and look at what the food really is, will a calorie laden avocado really hurt you?

Listening to Your Body

As I’m sure anyone who has suffered with an eating issue will know, actually listening to your body is one of the hardest things to do.  All too often you listen more to your mind, and the little negative things it has to say, and this can blank out anything your body is actually screaming out for.

I still find this hard but am learning to give my body what it needs.  A great example of when it’s so important to try and do this is when/after you’re ill.  I’ve just had a bug, nothing major, thankfully just a 24hr sickness/upset stomach.  This sort of thing throws me- what do you eat?!  Your usual chicken/fish and vegetables really isn’t that appealing.  Toast and marmite, or a bagel and jam on the other hand is!  Everyone handles their eating disorders differently and everyone has the things that still get them- mine are carbs and sugar.  When I was ill what did I really want, toast.  It’s so comforting and homely and reminds me of being little.  A year ago I wouldn’t have even entertained the idea, this time however I actually listened.  I didn’t have any bread at my house so had to retreat to my parents but I still had it.  Lovely hot buttered toast with scrambled egg AND another piece (I know, crazy or what) with marmite.  Did I feel guilty, for a split second yes, then I actually felt pleased.  I’d got to a point where I felt I could have what I thought I needed.  I banished the annoying voice that said toast was the food of the fat, horrible devil, and it felt good.

Although this was literally a 24hr tummy bug, it makes you realise that if you don’t have your health you really don’t have anything.  Obviously anorexia teaches you that when you’re finally able to see if for what it is, but this just acts as a gentle reminder.

If you feel tired, ease up.  If you feel poorly, eat something you fancy, it may even make you feel better.  Treat your body with the care and respect that it deserves, don’t punish it all the time, it’s doing you well, and is trying to work with you, not against you.

Why 100grams of Lettuce?

The title of my blog maybe a bit odd to some but represents one of my lowest points- weighing lettuce!  Who the hell weighs lettuce?  Me. I also weighed cucumber, yep that’s right, which is pretty much solid water.  Cherry tomatoes, they didn’t escape either, in fact generally I weighed EVERYTHING.

No eating disorder is the same and everyone has their ‘thing.’ Mine was calorie counting, and to calorie count, you need to know the weight of the foods you’re eating, so weighing also became a ‘thing.’  I was pretty good as rapid oz to gram conversions too- such a great life skill.  But in all seriousness I really did weigh everything, a mini set of scales went on holidays and weekend breaks too- only from Tesco, but they’re pretty well travelled little things.

For some reason, 100g was my default amount of foods.  Nice round number, easy to remember and about 3.5oz if you were wondering.  I can remember being hugely thrown but realising the weight of a cooked chicken breast was actually different to that of a raw chicken breast.  What weight should I use?!  Sheer panic- if I eat more plain chicken, that alone will make me pile on the pounds.  Of course it wouldn’t but that’s the warped mindset you have.  So yes, one of the lowest points was when I was at my parents and my mum caught me weighing lettuce.  Both my mum and my dad knew about the anorexia, and I had moved back into their house, as I couldn’t live by myself anymore.  However I think my mum actually seeing my physically standing in the kitchen, precisely weighing 100g of lettuce was the point that made her realise how bad it was.  She told me she will never, ever forget that.  She told me she burst into floods of tears after she’d seen me do it and frantically trawled the internet looking for something, anything that may help. Thankfully she did find something, and that will be in another post.

Hello world! A bit more about me and why I’m writing this blog

So here it is, my first post- can you feel the excitement?!  If you’ve read the ‘About’ section you’ll know that this is an honest blog of what it is like to suffer with an ED, come out the other side, and then totally change careers to try and venture into the health, fitness and nutrition world.  While I am very honest, and there are some parts of my story that were very far from funny, I do have a humorous side and hopefully that will come across too. So a bit more about me:

I fell into a bulimic stage, after a series of personal things (a break up from my boyfriend, death of a grand parent, moving out of home) which only lasted about 10 months on and off and seemed to get better but then anorexia hit.  Thankfully it was only a short period, but anyone who as ever suffered with it will know how horrific it can be, for any amount of time.  I lost a lot of weight very quickly and my general mindset was awful.  After seeking help I then spent about a year and half trying to get better.

Fitness, training and learning how to properly nourish and fuel my body helped my recovery immensely.  I used training as my focus and gradually fell in love with it.  I agree that for some, it just becomes a replacement obsession, to fill the gap the ED leaves but for me that wasn’t the case.  No longer was I going to the gym to burn off what I’d eaten but to try and build muscle and give my body back some definition.  Neither was I counting EVERY SINGLE calorie and frantically putting it into My Fitness Pal to try and work out how much I’d eaten.  Instead I was eating nutrient dense foods, to nourish my body and help restore the things I’d lost.

Before my ED I knew I wanted to change jobs, I just wasn’t sure what.  I have always loved the idea of helping people and truly believe everyone should feel good themselves.  The media is incredibly hard on women, and men, in terms of looks, body image etc and I find it really upsetting.  If me, a fairly grounded, level headed, vaguely intelligent 31yo can feel the effects of the media- how do 15yo school girls/boys cope?!

So this year, I FINALLY made the decision to change careers and do a basic personal training course, followed by a nutrition course.  I am fully aware of the MASS of ‘PTs,’  ‘nutritional advisers’ and ‘life coaches’ out there but I am hoping to get the correct qualifications, and then specialise in a certain area if I want to.  I want to do things the right way, and be respected in my field and will gladly take advice form any current trainers/nutritionists.  I am still working full time while I do my courses but am hoping to be qualified by the autumn, certainly by the end of the year- and then it will get really scary as I’ll be right at the bottom of the food chain while I try and build a career.  But- I have wanted to do this for a long time now, so lets go!