When I was 13, I read a book that introduced me to the idea that ‘eating fat makes you fat’. I believed every word. Why wouldn’t I? People all around me seemed to be focused on the latest food fads. I leaped enthusiastically onto the bandwagon, never suspecting that irregular dieting behaviour was going to set me on course for an unhealthy relationship with food for years. I thought I was being healthy. I looked healthy on the outside, but on the inside my adolescent body was suffering:
- By the age of 25, I still didn’t have any semblance of a regular menstrual cycle. Ever. I could go months on end with no visit from ‘Aunt Flo’
- I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a condition of imbalanced hormone levels in women which often walks hand in hand with fertility problems.
- My GP warned me that I would struggle to conceive.
- I was prescribed contraceptive pills, fertility drugs, and eventually my biggest fear…in vitro fertilisation (IVF) to try to get pregnant.
Amazingly, after years of helplessly following prescription plans and taking fertility drugs, I finally did become pregnant, thanks to IVF. Sadly the celebration was short-lived. Six months into my pregnancy, the stress of the treatments proved too much for my marriage, leaving me a heartbroken single mother to a newborn baby. With a whole new set of personal, emotional and health challenges before me, I spent the next four years battling sleep-deprivation, weight-loss and heartbreak.
I had no-one to depend on but myself, but somehow I emerged from the toughest years of my life healthier than I ever had been.
I found a new respect for what my body was capable of creating and withstanding. I no longer tried to control my body – telling it what it ‘should’ be doing and wanting. Instead I learned to trust my instincts and to listen to my body. Here’s what I did:
- I cleaned up my diet and started to eat some good quality meat and fish. This was after 16 years of almost exclusively vegetarian/vegan eating.
- I prioritised getting good sleep – 10pm bedtime was non-negotiable until I began to wake naturally without an alarm.
- I upped the proportion of plants in my diet and removed most of the nutritionally barren foods like processed sugar.
- I made time for regular exercise. Iyengar yoga practice became my thing.
I was astonished to find that not only did my energy slowly return, but, after 20 years of incredibly irregular periods, my cycle completely stabilised and has remained regular as clockwork for eight years and counting.
The biggest mental shift for me was when I finally ditched the guilt around food (and my failed marriage) and realised that to be a good mother and role model for my daughter I needed to not only be healthy, but happy too. Over the last decade, I’ve learned how to align my life with healthy practices like intelligent eating, effective stress management and regular, enjoyable physical activity. These have completely changed my body and my relationship with it.
I’d love to help you too. Are you ready to take control? Do get in touch with me.