I never knew how much the word “whole” would define my life. Frankly I didn’t even know what it meant to be whole. I lived my life being disconnected from myself. My body and the image I had of it had been a source of pain for me for so long that I got really good at not living in it.
I spent 15 years of my life trying to lose weight. I wanted to be a model, but what I really wanted was to be beautiful, to be enough, to look like the women I saw in the magazines and on television.
There was just one problem. I didn’t look like them.
So I started dieting. I started with Weight Watchers, moved on to Atkins, and made many diet pitstops in between. The diets were successful, but the weight would come back so I’d try something new.
When I was in high school a friend taught me to throw up my meals and I felt I’d found the easy way out. I didn’t have the wisdom to know that the easy way is never really easy.
I clearly remember the day I was crowned Homecoming Queen. I came home from school and threw up all the “bad” foods I’d eaten. Then I washed my face, wiped my eyes, and zipped up my white satin dress. I went to the homecoming game, rode in a convertible in front of thousands, and my name went up in fireworks.
People often asked me how I stayed so happy. The truth was, I simply became whoever would make them happy. I felt like such a fraud.
In college I started doing illegal drugs that were appetite suppressants, and I used alcohol to numb my feelings. It was an endless cycle. Pain… eat… guilt… more pain… eat… I was convinced I’d die from it. I never thought that food could also be the key to my happiness.
After graduation, I realized that nothing had changed. I’d been fighting my weight, chasing the fashion model dream for 10 years, and I looked more or less the same. I was exhausted and I decided I’d never diet again. Maybe I wasn’t meant to be a model.
In 2011, after relaxing into my “bigger” body, I was approached by modeling agent who represented a wide range of sizes. I signed with them and my career took off.
For the very first time, I felt like it was okay to be a size 14. The next thing I knew, my face was plastered on the Forever 21 website, in the aisles of Target, and opportunities began popping up everywhere. I was living my dream — and it happened because I stopped trying to be something I wasn’t.
I signed with Wilhelmina Models and moved to NYC to find more work and make a fresh start. I didn’t want to be the party girl anymore. I didn’t want to be the chubby, funny friend or the people pleaser. I was living on my own and I could be anyone I wanted to be.
I had been experimenting with changing my diet to deal with digestive issues and brain fog, and the results were phenomenal. Then I stumbled upon Whole30 – a month-long challenge to eliminate processed foods, grains, dairy, sugar, alcohol — anything that could potentially be wreaking havoc in the body. There was no calorie counting or hunger involved, and I liked that.
The program has a strong focus on breaking habits and encouraging mindfulness. I was deathly afraid of falling back into the diet-binge cycle, but this felt different. I committed to the challenge for the first month of 2014.
I’d just moved into my new apartment in the West Village and life was good. By the end of the month I’d lost 15 pounds and was in disbelief at how good I felt. My mind was clear, my energy was high, my skin was glowing, and my stomach was flat. I wanted to keep feeling that way, so I kept at it.
But by April I faced a scenario I couldn’t have predicted. I’d lost 30 lbs… and all of my plus size modeling jobs. I went from a size 14 to a size 8/10 and the phone stopped ringing.
I had an expensive NYC apartment and no paycheck. I could rebuild my career at my new size, but it could take years to build a new portfolio and consistent clients.I had to act quickly.
My new lifestyle was too good to let go of, and I knew I had to share what I’d learned with others. But I also had to make money. And so I decided I’d find a way to make my passion into my living….
More to come on tomorrow’s Part II Post.