Meet my celebrity-chef, best-selling author, and incredible friend Sarah Dueweke. Sarah is an accomplished chef and she recently released her first cookbook Primal Kitchen – a best-seller as soon as it hit the bookshelves! I can personally vouch for the deliciousness and amazing-ness of this cookbook. After a long period of “lack of inspiration” in the kitchen for me, I can tell you that is no longer the case with Sarah’s help.
Her talents aside, Sarah’s got an inspiring personal story when it comes to her relationship with food and body. This is the main reason I asked Sarah to guest-star today, because I think you will learn so much from her personal journey. I feel so honoured and grateful that she agreed to write this guest post, so without further faffing from me, take it away Sarah!
My name is Sarah. For many years, I struggled with an Eating Disorder.
Did reading that make you feel uncomfortable? Did you wince, or shift in your seat slightly? Those words often have that effect on people. It’s like a dirty secret no one is supposed to talk about. Well, I think it’s about time to ditch the taboo, how else can we learn from it?
First, a little background story on me… I can’t remember a time when the word “diet” was not in my vocabulary. My life’s history of weight maintenance began at a very young age. I tried dozens of various diets throughout my adolescence, but nothing seemed to work for me. I was convinced my body was just “one of those” and I could never be skinny.
Skinny. That was always the goal. Not healthy. Just skinny.
I was 21 years old when I became anorexic. It was never intentional, it just sort of happened.
That summer I was working full-time as an intern during the day, taking summer courses for university in the afternoons, and working a part-time job at a restaurant on nights and weekends. One morning, a few weeks into my insane schedule, I stepped on the bathroom scale, and much to my surprise, I had lost a kilo and a half! How did that happen?? As it turned out, working non-stop all week long had caused me to forget to eat a few meals. Suddenly, I was super motivated to keep that weight-loss train in motion.
I started keeping a calorie diary, writing down every single thing I ate, and tallying it all up at the end of the day. When it all started, I was eating about 1,000 calories a day. I knew if I wanted to lose more weight, I would have to start exercising so I could burn more calories than I was eating. Calories in, calories out, right?
Somehow in my crazy work schedule, I managed to set aside thirty minutes a day to do some cardio exercise. I was wearing myself out, and eating fewer and fewer calories as the weeks went on. But the weight kept coming off, so I kept at it. Summer ended and regular classes started up again in the fall. I had a less hectic schedule, but I was more motivated than ever to keep losing weight.
I began going to fitness classes at the University’s gym every day, and after a few months, I had my daily calorie intake down to about 500. I could get 450 if I really tried.
I lost even more weight. I also started losing my hair. I couldn’t sleep at night.
I would feel dizzy getting out of bed in the mornings. Sure, it seems incredibly obvious to anyone that I had developed a problem. But I couldn’t see it.
All I could see were the numbers on the scale.
The nights I really struggled to sleep, I would be exhausted, but too hungry to sleep. More than once I took a dose of Nyquil at bedtime, just to try to knock myself out. I would wake up feeling dizzy and sick, but still commended myself for making it through the night without having to eat a snack.
You might ask why I was so motivated to be skinny. The sad truth is that I loved the attention.
When I first started to lose weight, I got complimented all the time on how great I was looking. No one had ever said anything like that to me before. I even loved hearing people tell me I was looking too skinny. I hit a low point when I went home for a visit before my university graduation, and my older sister hadn’t seen me for a while. She was worried, and told me I looked ill. I didn’t want to listen to it. I spent another year following university in an obsessive state, looking at every single item of food that came near me like it was a number. Calories. At that point I was weighing in at around 45kg, and still pushing to lose more all the time.
My transition to a healthier body image began when I moved to Wellington, NZ in 2011. I made a new friend with a very “no bulls***” point of view on life. He was the first person who actually asked me the questions:
“Why would you want to try to be so skinny? You aren’t supposed to be that skinny.”
“Why do you put on so much makeup? That’s not actually what you look like.”
Wait, what? But if I’m not skinny, and I don’t wear makeup, or do my hair a certain way, people will see what I really look like! With all my flaws and imperfections totally exposed! Oh wait, why is that a bad thing again?
I started spending more time with this genius human with all his crazy ideas about what makes people attractive. He dropped by my house one day for a surprise visit to take me out for coffee. I was completely unprepared. Hair a mess. Grungy clothes on. What a sight. He dragged me out of the house anyway. I went into town. Greasy hair, no make up, the works. He even forced me to eat a sweet scone, in all its carby-sugary-buttery glory, IN PUBLIC. Where people could SEE me eating it! I shifted in my seat, looking around at other people in the café, wondering what they were thinking about me and my scone.
And guess what? The world did not explode. No one noticed, or gave a damn, that I was eating a scone. My mind was blown.
That was when I started learning to stop giving a damn too.
The most important question you can must ask yourself when you struggle with your own body image is, Why?
Why should I care about eating a delicious breakfast pastry in public? And if someone does judge me for doing so, why should I care what that person thinks anyway?
Why do I want to be this skinny? Why am I putting all my self-worth into a number on the scale?
The minute you stop worrying about what everyone else is thinking, that is when you’ll be able to enjoy your own life, and love yourself for who you really are.
I didn’t even know myself during my years as an anorexic. I was too self-conscious, and too insecure to stop and try to figure it out.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t as though I just ate a scone one day and was “cured”. But it was a turning point for me. As soon as you have that *lightbulb* moment for yourself, you’ll begin to wonder why you put so much pressure on yourself, and start focusing more on what’s really important. Being the best YOU you can be – Which is already perfect.
It’s given me the time to learn more about myself in general – What I want to do, to learn, to experience.
Because none of those things are affected by the size of my waistline, or the fact that my nose curves slightly to the left, or whether or not I wear mascara to the grocery store.