I never thought I had an issue with my weight growing up, but looking back, I really did. I remember I wouldn’t eat breakfast because it made me feel bloated and I wouldn’t take any money for my dinner so I could stop future me from pigging out at the school canteen. I remember transforming into a mad woman, rampaging the kitchen when I got home for anything that was remotely edible.
I stopped unintentionally binging around the age of 15 but I would always have severe food guilt for anything slightly unhealthy. Don’t get me wrong, I still ate whatever it was, but I would have an overwhelming sensation of regret and shame. This was also around the time I would look in every mirror from a side angle and rigorously inspect all inches of my tummy. I would breath in heavily to try and see how flat my stomach could get and every time remain unsatisfied with what I saw. The mirror felt like a best friend I would always go to, but an enemy that knocked me down when I got close.
At the age of 18 I went through as phase of going to the gym every morning during the summer break. I would walk 30 minutes there, 30 minutes back and endure a 2-hour workout. I wouldn’t eat breakfast beforehand because I wanted to feel as thin as possible if anyone saw me. God forbid I had a rounded stomach and let people know I actually eat! I would then come home and eat something where I could track the calories easy. I then wouldn’t eat till around 6 when everyone got home from work, but let me tell you, the mad woman in me made a reappearance that summer. I would devour a full box of Jaffa Cakes and my evening meal would be the calorie intake of a full day in one sitting. Strangely, I still couldn’t get my head around the fact I wasn’t losing weight. I would think “Well, I go to the gym every day, so why am I not skinny?”. I was blind to fact my exercise regime wasn’t paired with a steady diet.
After that summer, I managed to get my diet pretty stable. I was eating enough and at regular times. However, I never really felt satisfied with what I was eating. I didn’t feel full or felt too full. I felt bloated or dissatisfied. Then I discovered… veganism (cue celebratory music)! It honestly felt like a God send. Banishing meat from my diet reversed all the irritability in my stomach and I felt a whole lot healthier.
Transitioning to a vegan diet has totally altered my mind set in so many positive ways as well. First off, you have peace of mind that you are doing some good in the world. You feel like you are doing your part for the animals and the earth.
However, the main topic for this blogpost is on my body image issues, so I will stick to that for the moment! As I knew I was only putting mostly natural and wholesome foods into my body, I wasn’t as concerned about how my body looked because I knew I was doing all I could to keep it healthy. My body was not only thriving, but my mind set was too. My constant concerns over my weight suddenly turned into a sensible awareness of my health. I wanted to eat my veggies to fuel myself for the day ahead, not to try and lose weight. Without this continuous obsession over my body, I did lose weight without even realising. In the nearly 2 years I have been vegan, I have lost 2 stone. It was so gradual, I didn’t even notice. However, the point is that veganism was the first stepping stone into realising that nourishing my body with hearty vegan food was WAY more important than what the scale had in store for me that day.
As much as I am grateful for veganism to have introduced me to a new way of living, I know I am not ‘cured’. I still have my issues. I still get fixations on my weight every now and then but I have to remember I am only human. We all have our down days where we become too hard on ourselves. Veganism isn’t a quick fix to all of my self-esteem problems but it has placed me in a position where I don’t hate myself for eating food. It has given me the will power to say ‘no!’ to non-vegan junk food but still feel the pleasure when I want a treat I am allowed to eat.