I was a young girl when I first began to question my body. I was in dance class, starring at the bodies of my peers. They had talents in gymnastics and would show us different moves, and I also had a close friend who was a gymnast. I looked up to them indefinitely, and I thought that by being flexible, I could be adored, the same way I adored them. But, in the midst of my thoughts, I associated thin with love.
I spent every morning before school dancing like a fool in my bedroom, dancing for hours on weekends at times. I saw pudge and disgust in my own body, and the pressure to be thin around me was quite present. One side of my family was overweight, whilst the other had very thin counterparts.
I didn’t think I was particularly beautiful, and I became very influenced by conversations in elementary gym classes where the teacher would mention nutritional value tables, teaching us about calories, fats and carbs. We were given the Canadian Food Guide to consult, and were advised a specific amount of exercise minutes per day. I was never the most athletic, and I took my lack of exercise as a jab to my self-esteem.
After my 14th birthday is when things sunk in. I had always tried to hide my body in black clothes prior, and did not like to be in tight outfits. I wouldn’t eat in public, and was humiliated by myself and my body. Not to mention, I had my eyes set on a senior about to graduate high school. He could NEVER see me eat!
I spent my ninth grade trying to lose weight, whilst my self harm worsened consistently. Sure, I was losing weight, I was constantly tired and binging on several occasions. I was invested in proana, spent a majority of my time on Tumblr and sunk deeper in self-hatred. My weight never plummeted exactly, but my mental and physical health definitely took a turn for the worst.
There was a period where I was over-invested in exercise. The spring of 2013 was dedicated to weight loss; I was out of school due to mental health issues and spent hours in the gym. I would either walk or rollerblade to the gym, unless I had tutoring next door, and spent so much time on the treadmills and ellipticals. I refused to gain any muscle because I wanted to be frail. My speed on the elliptical caught a woman’s attention once, where she commented and told me it was crazy how fast I was going.
The summer proved worse where I spent about an hour a day in the incredibly hot sun, rollerblading as fast as I could, in sweaters. I was very unwell.
For a few years, the mentality was still present, but I was practically free of the behaviours. Sure, I hated my body and wanted to lose weight, but my weight had stayed balanced for years. I tried to learn comfort within myself and move along with my day. Not to mention, food is absolutely delicious!
In June of 2015, I turned to veganism, with no relation to my eating disorder. I truly did it for the animals and their well being. The documentary Earthlings was highly graphic and did traumatize me, leading me to hear pigs screaming and refusing to eat because of the trauma, but it was not related to my eating disorder. The sudden change in food and diet did awaken the disorder, but I fought it harshly.
In April of 2016, I became invested in RawTill4. I saw Freelee The Banana Girl’s body and took her word like a Bible scripture. I could be happy, thin and healthy, whilst eating all the food I wanted? YES, PLEASE! But, that wasn’t the case
What is RawTill4:
Raw Till 4 is a lifestyle rather than a diet. A vegan program that focuses on eating A LOT of raw fruits (especially bananas!) and vegetables, no animal products, little to no fats or seeds. You basically eat whole, unprocessed raw foods until 4pm. Then you are allowed to cook and eat certain beneficial foods, but again, without oils to help flavour and cook your food. (www.rawtill4diet.com)
And then began my journey.
It was a high carb/low fat vegan diet with restrictions on fat intake, meal contents, salt and oil, and you had to have exercise included almost daily. It was also instructed to use a calorie counter online that calculated fats and proteins. It was encouraged to hit 90% carbs/5% fat/5% protein.
ALREADY we’re mixing an eating disorder with calorie counting!? Not a good idea.
It started out great. I was feeling wonderful, eating as much as I cared for, and I was losing weight. I just didn’t know it would harm me the way that it did.
The problems began when I was constantly eating and still not hitting my caloric intake goals. I was aiming for at least 2000 and could barely attain that on most days (especially since I hated banana/date smoothies). If it weren’t for me having 2 free periods in school, I would have never gotten close to my goals. Some days, I would arrive with half a watermelon and several other fruits to school, spend my day near the counselors office and eat all day, and couldn’t even finish my food load.
I would beat myself up if I couldn’t attain the 90/5/5 goal, and began to stress over the amounts of fat I had eaten. I would sometimes go frantic on my rollerblades, pushing myself far much harder than I should’ve, and I was weighing myself practically daily at about the 2 or 3 week mark, hoping on and off the scale repeatedly, not really entering any weight gained in aspiration to lose it. I hadn’t even hit the 2 week mark when I had attempted to purge again.
I wanted so bad to see the number on the scale decrease that my intake decreased, too. It must have been obvious because my mother took the scale away. And, there I was, finally noticing a problem. I was no longer in a healthy BMI and spent my lunch and third period to buy a scale.
I had started to take laxatives (something I had never done before), and I would cry and avoid meals when my significant other would come to visit. All I could picture was my “fat” body and how I was kissing “beauty” goodbye.
I finally attained that thigh gap the 14 year old me wanted, and I was swimming in a pair of jeans that used to be snug. I had lost over 12% of my body weight AND COUNTING! It was visible in my attitude and on my body, and though the 14 year old me would have begged for that, the 18 year old me wanted anything but THAT! I wanted so bad to gain the weight and to be free of my fears, but food just made me cry. I was so scared of ingesting anything, and I was hateful for putting myself in that position.
For a while after stopping RawTill4, I was dependent on laxatives and restriction. I hated the weight loss, but I wanted to keep it so badly. I sought help, and am now registered for an eating disorder program in March. I fight every single day, and some days are no longer battles. I’m happy I gained the weight, even though some days, I turn to my maladaptive coping behaviours. I often celebrate my body with my partner, looking in the mirror while I’m nude and commenting on how beautiful a healthy body looks on me. I’ll grab my tummy and thighs in front of him, and giggle at how cute they are.
I am much happier wrapping my palm around a big handful of chips and eating bananas, than I was restricting anything with too high of a fat content that could jeopardize the “wonders” of RawTill4.
I am happy I had this experience because, it really showed the sick side of my brain and how ridiculous it all was; that being thin would NEVER make me happy!
I am not condemning RawTill4, but I can tell you that I will never revisit it again. You can’t just hop into a diet like RawTill4 when your mind is still sick. I am not saying it doesn’t work or that it should be avoided, but it did NOT work for me. It created fear foods, and worsened my eating disorder overall. It encourages rules and habits, and for those who follow extremes, it can truly ruin their mentality and their body.
I learned that loving my body in whatever shape or form it chooses to take is much more valuable. I can eat wonderful foods, ranging from high fat to extremely healthy. And, if weight is an issue for a potential partner, I will never be with them. My body can be a different shape tomorrow, and that is okay. Recovery is much more tasteful than calorie counting and restriction.
The only thing RawTill4 and I have in common now is that we are both VEGAN!
**I do believe that veganism is the best possible way to live, but I do not support it to achieve weight loss, nor do I think it should be visited in the midst or the ending of an eating disorder. I believe that people should be vegan because, the torment caused to animals is diabolical and unnecessary. Not to mention, livestock eat up many of our resources, and animal agriculture attributes to 51% of greenhouse gas emissions! There are many vegan options of mock meats and dairy products that are just as delicious!**
This post is not to demean Freelee the Banana Girl, but more so to spread awareness about the effects of dieting on individuals.