When I was in school to become a nutritionist a few years ago, I was surrounded by beautiful women who brought their green smoothies, nuts and seeds, and homemade kale chips all in mason jars as their lunches. Don’t get me wrong, I was in school because I had a passion for food and nutrition and cooked most of my meals at home, but I am pretty sure I grabbed a coffee and muffin every day on my way to class for the first few weeks. I was living with my boyfriend and worked full time an hour away from my school and I was pretty consistently bringing my leftovers of pizza, tacos, and lasagna and walking a block or two away from school to eat them, fearing the embarrassment that I wasn’t completely consuming a whole food and nutrient dense diet. I did, most of the time, gravitate towards colourful fruits and veggies to fill my plate because they supplied me with energy and made me feel great but I never thought twice about making a cheesy delicious dish or going out for a burger and a beer.
By this time, I had done my fair share of fad diets and had gone through the realm of binging, restricting, binging, and restricting again through-out my teens and early twenties. But at this point in my life, I was just eating what felt good day by day. Yes, sometimes that was a spinach salad with homemade dressings but it was also often fajitas or boxed cereal in the morning, and ultimately I was happy. I didn’t really have a fear of food nor did I have body image issues, I was eating what I wanted, with whom I wanted, and I felt balanced. I had some curves on me, my hair was a little brittle, and I had a couple of pimples but I didn’t think about those things much. I never reflected on if I had a healthy relationship with food or not, eating was just coming naturally.
I truly loved every second of school towards my diploma and learned more lessons than I ever thought possible, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t develop disordered eating through-out the process. From the influence of my glowing peers and the many ‘facts’ I learned about food, I cut out meat, dairy, soy, gluten, fried foods, processed foods, and caffeine. Yup, that meant not allowing myself my early morning treat of a muffin and coffee, no evening snack of cereal, and certainly no pizza or tacos. It made sense to do this though, I wasn’t skinny, I had a little bit of acne, there was some unwanted cellulite, I totally had that mid-day fatigue, and a nutritionist shouldn’t have any of that right? I should be embracing juice cleanses, snacking on sprouted almonds, and meditating three times a day right?
I felt that if I continued the ‘poor diet’ and lifestyle routines that I was practicing, I would be an inadequate holistic health practitioner. I didn’t think it was fair for me to dish out all this wellness information to my clients when I didn’t fully embrace it, so I changed my life. Did it feel good to eliminate animal products and wheat from my diet? Yes, it did, after taking a couple of weeks to adjust to it. But man oh man, you should have seen what I was eating… or lack there of. I was currently living life too scared to go out and socialize with friends over food and wine and on days where I was on-the-go and didn’t pack enough food, I would literally sit there and starve as oppose to grabbing something conveniently packaged along the way, because I thought I was learning that that was wrong. During our one hour lunch breaks, I would pop on over to the gym for some cardio. I really wanted to achieve a certain look because I thought that was all part of being a nutritionist… It really wasn’t and it took me a while to figure that out. I mean, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the way that I looked though, I dropped 18 pounds in 3 months. I was hungry a lot of the time but I did feel pretty good, not really understanding at the time that those feeling were stemming from the fact that I thought I looked good to others.
School finished, one of the best and most inspiring years of my life, and I went on a vacation with some friends (woohoo!). I took this time to indulge a little bit now that I had graduated and had been eating pretty “clean” for about 9 months. Well, it didn’t end up just being a little bit, I am certain that I had never eaten so many calories per day in my entire life! I could not stop. Every restaurant or buffets that we went to, I would eat my plate of food and anything that was left on theirs. I was catching up for all this time of depriving myself of my favourite foods. I was no longer vegan and was truly eating everything in sight. By the end of the summer, I gained all of my weight back, 20 pounds, in just a matter of months. Here I was again, guilty that I wasn’t embracing the “nutritionist lifestyle” and fearing becoming a professional at all due to self-esteem issues and complete confusion.
It has been two lovely but crazy years of figuring all of this out. I took this time to better understand the body, mind, and spirit connection and tapped into my soul and reflected on what I was doing, what I was feeling, and who I was meant to be as a human and energetic being. One of the first things I realized was that I completely took for granted the relationship with food that I previously had. I am so grateful for this journey and have acquired so much knowledge along the way, but I should have trusted my gut feeling all along, that what I had been practicing in my own life for years was absolutely okay!
To be a nutritionist, I don’t have to teach people how to have the “perfect” diet because a healthy relationship with food includes all foods! I once was able to stay balanced because of my love for all things food without self confusion and hatred and now that I am back to those roots, I think that’s what makes me a great and real nutritionist… Yup, now I make my own hummus and kombucha and meditate but I also eat Peanut Butter Oreo’s and have no fears of going to an Indian Buffet with my best friend. I believe that I can be me and still inspire wellness and I truly credit the beautiful thing called balance.
Are there foods to limit? Yes, everything in moderation, but your every day life shouldn’t be filled with any exclusion, avoidance, or fear of food. Loving yourself means your favourite foods, without guilt, but also giving your body what it needs through nourishment. Your body will love and benefit from nutrient dense foods, exercise, sleep, and self care because it all FEELS good. There’s no doubt in my mind that with a whole foods diet you’ll feel better. However, some days, ordering ice cream with extra toppings without questioning it also feels really good!
Life, or career, doesn’t start when you reach a certain size, look a certain way, or eat a certain type of diet – this won’t make you smarter or more likable. Your life really starts when you begin to let go of any expectations you feel you need to meet and embrace what makes you feel like the best you. Yes, I still have some acne and a couple of food allergies but with my love and passion for nutrition, I know that everything is going to be okay and I am so motivated to show people the real journey towards wellness. I am a completely open and honest nutritionist that is still learning new things about my body every day and I am so excited to help you get to know yours too.