I was the overweight kid, the chubby teenager. People who meet me now can’t imagine this, but, yes it’s true. So I usually pull out my phone and flash this little gem at them:
That’s my extremely thin brother and sister on the left and, well, there I am—adorable for sure but you can imagine I had a few insecurities in my little family.
They were on the A team for our country club swimming. I was on the B team. They were athletes. I could sing. I grew up in the southwest, and so this is what mealtime looked like: pop tarts or toaster strudels for breakfast, chicken fingers and a cookie at lunch and, honestly, dinner is a blur for me but I’m sure it had sugar, butter or the word fast in front of it (Can I get an “amen” from my fellow southerners?). We didn’t sit down to eat as a family much because my brother and sister were so busy with all of their many sports.
Early on, I noticed my mom’s eating issues, and she saw the same thing in me. Wanting to save me from weight struggles, she would lovingly ask me, “are you sure you really want to eat that?” She 100% meant well, but it actually deepened the issue and made me want to rebel and eat more. This began my saga of what I now know to be emotional eating. I ate when I was sad, when I felt frustrated or when I was simply bored.
And as I ate and ate, my sister continued to grow tall and lean with a rocking bod. She was skinny and could (and still can) eat literally ANYTHING. For years I struggled with feeling like the unwanted one because boys always asked her out but not me. I am certain it was superficially because of my weight.
As a sophomore in high school, I wore a DD bra! So I had a breast reduction since it was so difficult to manage at such a young age. After my surgery I felt much lighter and able to move, so it motivated me to lose weight. I started going to our local gym after school. I was obsessed with sweating. I slowly lost some weight but was still heavy. When I got to college I fell into a depression for the first time in my life and put weight on then. Call it the infamous Freshman 15 or whatever, but I struggled so much with it. I was still very active in the gym, but you can’t outrun a horrible diet. I fluctuated throughout college and, honestly, really struggled with shame. I had this body that I didn’t really like, and that always felt like a huge, thick cloud looming overhead. I moved to Morocco for a year after college, still struggling with enormous amounts of shame, so I prayed one day that God would speak to me and tell me who I am. I listened and felt like I heard the word Zara. I wasn’t very familiar with it, so I looked it up and found out it means “radiant one and princess.” At the risk of sounding cheesy, I can hardly explain the transformation that brought about in my life. Hearing that truly set me free and cleared that thick cloud of shame.
While it felt miraculous at the time, I still have moments that could easily trigger that familiar body-shaming. When I got pregnant, I found myself really worried I would gain back a ton of weight and not be able to get it off. I remember trying on a pair of shorts and standing in the mirror, horrified because I was going to need to go up a size from my norm. I felt out of control and scared that all the hard work I had done would be reversed. But I made a decision to not know my weight during my pregnancy, and this was so helpful. It let me focus on what was really important about my body, like growing a human being.
After having my baby, I did make a goal to be leaner than before I got pregnant. I wasn’t overweight. I was maybe responding to a bit of my fears, but mostly I considered it a good challenge. So many people struggle to get their bodies back post-baby, so I didn’t know if getting leaner was even really possible. Most of the women in my family (well, except for my sister, of course) have not been able to do this. If it could bring my son into the world, what other ways could my body be strong, incredible and life-giving?
This is when my journey with macros began. I had never counted a calorie a day in my life. Deciding to measure and weigh my foods seemed a bit ridiculous, but I was game to try something new. I reached out to a local dietitian in Town, Tiffany Breckenridge. It was an adjustment at first to log everything I was eating, but I picked it up pretty quickly. I learned how to be strategic with foods. I also started incorporating foods, like dairy and bread that I had deemed off-limits before because of Paleo eating. To my surprise, I was eating more carbs than ever. Finally! I could eat a lot of the foods I love and still treat my body well.
Tracking food this way has truly changed my relationship with what I eat. I don’t feel guilty about having a piece of pizza because I know I have the room for it. I don’t have to avoid my favorite muffin; I fit it into my day by having a lower carb dinner. It’s all about being strategic, friends, and getting all the nutrients your body needs.
Do I still struggle? There are days that may surprise me, and I emotionally eat. But you know what? Those days are few and far between, and now I recognize it and have a healthy tool in place to return to always. Now I don’t compare myself to my sister. I appreciate her amazing body and how she can eat donuts and pimento cheese every day without counting anything. But I appreciate my amazing body and my journey, as well. I LOVE the life that struggling with weight has lead me to. I get high off of sweating and choosing healthy food.
Now I remember who I truly am. Even if I had the body of my dreams but was empty and hollow inside, it wouldn’t make me happy. Our minds and souls need as much care as our bodies. To be present is to be self-forgetting. Being consumed by my weight, body image and imperfections steals from the beautiful moments that make up my life. My everyday journey is a balance of learning to take care of myself, managing my food and cravings and being self-forgetting. It matters that I take care of myself so that I can be filled up and present. The 10 minutes I spend to pray and meditate before my toddler wakes up, the 45 minutes I spend working out every day and the times I say no to emotional eating help me be full and live from a place of abundance rather than scarcity.
What macros does for me is removes the guesswork. It simplifies taking care of myself and supports my freedom to enjoy food and friends in a way I never had before. It’s eliminated the guilt and reduced the temptation to change up my diet with every new fad around the corner. We all have busy lives, and there are at least a thousand options every day of what to put in our bodies. I believe it is good stewardship to learn what our bodies need, and that is why I love what I do with my clients. I get to help them make food and healthy eating fit into the framework of their lives without overcomplicating things. We figure out what fills them up and what keeps them from being present when it comes to self-care, and then we take action! We all want to love our amazing bodies, after all!