Updated: May 1, 2018
I never realized this, but basically my entire life was revolved around food.
Coming from an Italian background, my family always encouraged me to eat more - "you barely ate anything", "have another serving", "you're not going to let that go to waste, are you?".
Eating until I was stuffed was considered normal for me. I pretty much ate until I was very very full at every dinner growing up. Now that I think of it, my family actually obsesses over foods that we are going to eat at holiday events too.
The idea of counting calories and actually eating balanced portions never really came to mind for me until I decided to compete in my first bikini-bodybuilding competition. Even when I first started lifting, I still never had balanced meals - everything was always excessive portions - even if the food was labeled "healthy" I still always had to eat as much of it as I could fit on my plate (bowls and bowls of fruit and I even had 10 egg whites for lunch sometimes!)
When I was competing, I seriously felt on top of the world for the majority of my prep. I was losing a ton of weight and I never looked better. Everything was going great for me, until..it wasn't. The last few weeks of my prep did something to me...it mentally challenged me in a way that I have never ever been challenged before.
I was eating very very basic foods - chicken and potatoes, egg whites and asparagus, protein shakes..
When you eat like this for a longer period of time, it really starts to mess with your head - and boy did it mess with mine. I found myself doing the weirdest shit just to maintain my sanity.
I would eat cucumbers with calorie free syrup because that was the closest thing to a treat I could have at the time. I would find food accounts on Instagram and just stare at all the high calorie, epic food creations that I normally would never even eat anyway! And worst of all...while I was working at a grocery store at the time, I would walk through the isles and just plan what I was going to buy..for the moment I had a taste of freedom. I even bought 10 boxes, yes 10, of special edition oreos and saved them in my house to have after my show.....along with some other goodies as well (AKA the post competition shop).
As you might be able to tell by now, I pretty much have set myself up for a complete disaster. I already had a bad upbringing with my relationship with food and I definitely worsened when I was on that competition diet. The sad part is, I was so zoned into my competition to realize the mental damage I have already caused for myself. All I needed to complete this disaster of a formula was one thing......freedom.
I competed in two shows in 2015. After my first, I was told I could have a cheat day before I had to get my skinny little ass back on the shitty damn diet. Can you guess how that day went down for me? Yup, I ate everything that I could basically fit into my mouth that day (ha ha I.I.F.Y.M.outh) because I knew that it would soon "be gone again". Talk about separation anxiety huh.
I returned to dieting for my next show - 4 weeks later - and I really don't know how I was able to continue, I was so burnt out man. A friend of mine mentioned how she was reverse dieting to avoid rebounding, and I brushed that idea off because "I'm so dedicated, that will never happen to me". I remember after getting off the stage I kept saying to myself: "It's finally over, I'm free". Silly girl - the universe had a little bit more in store for me.
I didn't have many friends who were into this lifestyle at the time, and this was before social media was nearly what it is now. I trusted the few people that I knew at the time, and I basically copied what they did too - which was have an entire week of eating post competition with the foods purchased from the "post-competition shop". I took off training that week, ate out every single day, and overindulged in peanut butter, cookies, ice cream, pizza, nutella, pancakes, and anything and everything else. I finally felt reunited with food again - in a sick, sick way.
Many empty ice cream pints later, days and days later, days after the "post competition binge-week" I had promised to only last for 7 days.........and Houston, we have big a problem.
I could not stop eating all of these sugary, high calorie meals. Every. single. time. I would try to track my macros (tracking macros was new to me at this time) I failed. I would measure out 15 grams of peanut butter, then freak out because I felt so restricted and I would legitimately eat almost the entire container...mindlessly. Think about how you are when you're reading a shocking text message and someone else is trying to talk to you....yeah good luck with that - you are WAY too zoned in to even realize what is going on around you, and that is how it felt for me. I would order pizza pies for MYSELF and eat it shamelessly because...well..I deserved it right? Girl....
The weight kept going up by the week, days even, My body was changing faster than I could even try to control it by adding more cardio in. I kept giving myself a new goal weight, "110 is perfect", oh wait "115 actually sounds good", "well..."most girls are 120", "okay, back to our original weight at 125...time to stop now....", "130!? FUCK I've never seen this number before..", "135, jesus christ what the fuck is going on with me.." "140....okay....ENOUGH".
Just as I had done the impossible by losing 23 lbs and getting on stage, I have once again done the impossible.....I lost my vision.
It wasn't until I hit 140 when I really did realize I had a problem, when I realized that I couldn't keep using my competition as an excuse to keep eating. I couldn't keep telling the world I was "bulking" and ohhh look at the "booty gains" from all the donuts #EatAllTheDonuts. I had to face this girl I have become, The Fucked Up Foodie, and completely turn my life around if I didn't want to see 150 lbs.
So how did I crawl out of rock bottom? How did I ultimately stop shoving thousands of calories down my throat in a sitting?
I let go. I let go of tracking, I let go of meal prepping, I let go out weighing my food, I let go of fasted cardio. By letting go of these things, I realized I had no more triggers. I had no reason to binge, I wasn't restricting myself of calories, I wasn't trying to diet anymore, I wasn't weighing a single damn thing. If I had a craving, I went out and satisfied it, but I wasn't buying shit to just sit in my cabinets and tempt me. I developed an entirely different approach about fitness, and it was called - "feeling good". Being super skinny on low calories didn't make me feel good, but eating my life away on the couch didn't either..
I started to work out because it made me feel good, not because I had to. I ran because it helped me relieve stress, not because I had to burn off the 500 calories I had just eaten. I ate because I wanted to enjoy food, not feel like a piece of shit after every meal. I ate because I wanted to get stronger in the gym, not feel so full where I couldn't even get my workout going.
After basically a year of intuitively eating, having treats here and there, but eating a very balanced diet - I finally freed myself from this vicious cycle I was in. I THEN began to revisit tracking macros and starting a small cut, but took a completely different approach. I never ever went back to eating basic, boring foods -but I also never went back to eating like complete shit. Here we are, years later am I now revisiting competing, again, with a completely different approach - flexible dieting. Eating foods that I enjoy and that also are nutritious and fuel me properly for my everyday lifestyle.
I truly do believe that, although we may fail so deeply at something one time, that does not mean that is the end result. Failure is only the end result if you decide to never revisit that situation again. Yes, I ate complete shit my first competition season. I dieted way too hard, and thus, I rebounded way too hard. I placed well on stage, but in terms of my rebound, I failed myself.
Three years later, I am making my fucking comeback to this stage, and i'm going to show you how possible it is to revisit something you failed so miserably at, but take a completely different path and really turn this whole damn thing into something amazing. I am returning as a completely different competitor, mentally and physically - ready to show the world how a fucked up foodie changed her life around and isn't afraid of a little failure. This time, I am healthier. This time, I am mentally stronger. This time, I am more knowledgeable. This time, my alter ego will not control me - because I've already got her fucked up game figured out.