When I was 19, I found myself in an emotionally abusive relationship that left a big black mark on my self-esteem.
Being young, naive and believing the man’s promises to change his behavior, I let it persist for two years, until I had built and saved enough strength within myself to sever myself from the situation and put my foot down. It took a long time for me to recover from that period in my life. Luckily, when I started dating my fiance, he was there to help me through a lot of it. He was patient, he was understanding, and he was protective enough to offer to meet up with the guy and teach him a lesson or two.
Internally, though, a lot of my wires were disconnected and reconnected–reconnected shoddily at best, with a few wires completely hacked–which skewed my self-image and essentially changed me from the bubbly, rosy-eyed 19-year-old I was into a more reserved, introspective 21-year old with a taste for Carlo Rossi table wine. I had let the opinions of an abusive partner shape how I saw myself. He would constantly make fun of my weight, push me to go to the gym at 11PM on a school night because “I needed the exercise,” but would then accuse me of trying to look better for other men when I finally made a concerted effort to get fit. In addition to all of this, he would bring me out to eat every night on his mother’s dime, and would bring me to greasy hole-in-the-wall joints where we’d order burgers, fries, pizzas and pasta plates loaded with cheese and sauce. The mixture was toxic at best. It took a lot of my strength and willpower to finally kick him out of my life, even after his multiple attempts at reconciliation and several hours of crying and talking, trying to get me to give him “one last chance” (read: a 15th, 16th, 17th chance). There are a lot of stories from that period in time. I’m thinking of perhaps saving them for a book later down the line.
While I try not to mull over it, there are some days when his influence is more apparent than others. My relationship with food, while strained before meeting him, became muddled and abusive throughout the duration of my relationship with the guy, and by the end, I couldn’t tell what was right and what was wrong when it came to what my body needed.
Since then, I’ve been through several ups and downs with food. This past winter was perhaps my worst yet; I let emotions from negative experiences in my classes seep into my eating habits, and there was a point where I’d order a pizza two or three times a week because it was easy, fast and it satisfied that internal, emotional need for the salt and cheese and carbs that gave me comfort. Before I knew it, I was ballooning up, unable to fit into half of the clothes in my wardrobe. I could tell that I was losing control of myself, but was too overwhelmed by the situation to know how to change. It hurt, mostly because I knew I was doing it to myself.
Since I discovered keto and paleo, that odd and sometimes strained relationship I had with food has been regulated, at least for the most part, and I don’t have any questions about whether this lifestyle works in my benefit. I’ve managed to tame my inner foodbeast with a lifestyle that encourages natural movement, building strength, and feeding myself with foods that provide nutrients rather than temporary comfort (which is a comfort in and of itself.) I feel better, and although I’m not happy with my weight as it is, I feel a lot better internally now than I have ever before.
There are a lot of people, men and women alike, who go through experiences similar to mine, and it often results in a bad relationship with food, or lowered self-esteem, or self-destructive habits, or a combination of all three. Despite my insistence that the paleo lifestyle can help a lot of those people feel better about themselves and their lives, the only way change happens is when these people take the first step forward and don’t look back. In the reality of things, they’ll be the ones to judge what makes them feel good, complete and satisfied. I can only give my non-professional advice.
So, to all of you who have some burden in your lives, whether it be a bad relationship, a dead-end job, family problems, depression, issues with food or any other assortment of difficulties, let me assure you that these problems (most of them) are only temporary if you let them be temporary. The best advice I got while in that abusive relationship was to take every step I could to get out of it. Easier said than done, of course, but it eventually worked for me, and I finally had the chance to rebuild the parts of myself that got torn down and thrown to the wayside. Solving your problems requires you to take the first step–you’re the only one who can.
That being said, I encourage those of you out there who are struggling to find a balance in your eating habits to give Paleo a try. Just give it two weeks. Give up the whole-wheat bread and replace it with nuts, vegetables and high-quality proteins. Move your body more throughout the day, even if it means taking a few extra trips to the water cooler. Give your body two weeks away from alcohol, grains, sugar and other processed foods. Start consuming more olive oil (it’s good for the skin!) and give up the pizza.
You may find that the change is a refreshing start to a whole new path in your life. You may not. Like I said, it’s up to you to decide what makes you feel best. As far as I’m concerned, rebuilding healthy relationships with the food you use to fuel your body is one of the most basic, yet essential, steps that one can take to improve overall well-being and health. The rest of the change that happens in your life is completely up to you.
Let me know: How do your experiences in life shape the way you approach food? If you’ve tried Paleo, or if you live a Paleo lifestyle right now, how has it changed your approach to food and life in general?