Since around March of this year, I’ve been on a strict Ketogenic diet. I discovered it from my cousin who had lost a substantial amount of weight following this way of eating, and she discovered it from our friend who had turned her life around because of the diet. I thought – wow, if they can do it, I can, too. And I needed to lose some weight pronto (but I always “needed” to lose some weight, so nothing new, really). I was never happy with my size, and thought I needed to shed some pounds ASAP, especially because I was engaged to be married and would soon be walking down the aisle. I thought I had to look perfect, and that image of perfection came with the perfect physique. I read countless articles on Keto, watched a crazy amount of videos on YouTube, joined all the keto groups I could find, and found myself in the best keto support group ever. Hoping to see results fast, I too was subscribed to Keto.
For those who aren’t too familiar, Keto requires eliminating virtually ALL CARBS. No rice, no bread, no sugar, no fries, no starchy vegetables, almost no fruits… no carbs in ANY FORM. In a nutshell, you shift your body from burning glucose as the primary energy source to burning fat instead. By eliminating carbs, the body starts burning the stored fat, hence the frequently rapid weight loss results. It’s not just the weight loss part that people love about it though: it’s the mental clarity that comes with the WOE. Anyway, loads of literature online. GMG.
I enrolled myself to a meal plan, committed to this way of eating, and found myself dropping pounds on the daily. I started my journey weighing 143lbs (I’m 5’3.5″, so I was overweight), and found myself at 136lbs at the end of my second week with the plan. People started complimenting me and telling me I looked great, and it motivated me to keep going. I was in a good place. I couldn’t stop talking about keto! I experienced the mental clarity that keto-advocates often talk about, and I felt on top of the world. I was disciplined, and was content with the results I was seeing.
Then I quit my corporate job. From Manila, I packed my bags and moved to Baguio. From busy and fast-paced, my life suddenly became freer and more relaxed. I suddenly had more time on my hands. Even if I did have stuff to do, life in Baguio’s just really so laid back. Traveling from Point A to Point B typically takes a maximum of 15 mins, so my stress levels were evened out. I had more time to sleep, more time to think, and more time to pursue my passions and interests. I welcomed the transition with open arms.
But because I had so much free time, I became so fixated on my body — particularly on my weight. I was still on Keto, but it became an unhealthy obsession. I was between 131-133lbs at this point, but I wanted to get myself down to 115lbs. How did I arrive at this number? I literally Googled “Celebrities BMI 5’3.5” height and weight” and got the average. Anyway, I couldn’t get past 131lbs, and I was frustrated. I was plateauing, and I wanted to break through it fast. I explored Intermittent Fasting. I counted every single carb I consumed, and beat myself up if I went over 30g of carbs. I looked at my stomach every single day from the front and from the side, and pounded my hip with a closed fist, satisfied when I could feel the bone. I placed my two fingers between my cheekbones and my jaw to see if I could “feel” definition after every meal: it was my indication that I didn’t have “carb face”. I looked at my jaw line at the mirror to see that it was visible. I watched “Lose Weight Fast” and “Break Through a Plateau” videos on YouTube while I walked on the treadmill (at least 3km per day with a level 5 incline and 10lbs weights on either hand on top of the strength training program I followed). And here’s the worst part — I bought a digital scale and weighed myself about 5-6 times a day. I’d weigh myself the moment I woke up to see my “real weight”, then once more after I drank my first 500ml of water to “measure” water in pounds, then again after every meal, and a last time before I went to bed. And just for a kick, I’d weigh myself after peeing and do a happy dance when I’d “lose” water weight. When I didn’t see the number I wanted, I would feel horrible all day long. The scale dictated my happiness. I became so fixated on a number that if I was farther from it than I wanted, I would spiral down. And honestly, it was addicting. I was addicted to the scale, because when I did see the number I wanted, it gave me a strange satisfaction.
I’m a pretty self-aware person, so I knew this wasn’t normal. I acknowledged it as an eating disorder, but I didn’t want any help. I JUST WANTED TO LOSE THE DAMNED WEIGHT. I didn’t care if it came at the expense of my sanity, which now, in retrospect, is freaking INSANE. My mom would call me out on my obsession, but I didn’t heed. I thought, if I lost the weight, I’d be happier. If I lost the weight, I’d look better in clothes. If I lost the weight, I’d be more confident. My fiancé has been wanting me to shop for myself, but I never wanted to buy new clothes (even if my old clothes looked horrible already) because I wanted to save it for the “ideal body”. My mom would tell me to pay attention to my looks, but I never made any effort because in my mind, I would only make the effort when I reached my goal weight. In my head, losing weight was a prerequisite to living life and looking good.
I became unhappy because I was frustrated with everything. I wasn’t losing weight as fast as I wanted, so I started to binge on carbs. Whenever our restaurant explored new cakes, I would get sliver, after sliver, after sliver and before I knew it, I’d consumed half the cake. Then I would hate myself for bingeing. Then I would commit to “strict keto” again. Weigh myself 6 times a day. Get frustrated. Binge. Keto. Scale. Mirror. Binge. Keto. Scale. Mirror. A vicious cycle.
But today, on a nondescript day, on the most regular, nonchalant day, I just woke up and decided I’m through. I’m done hating myself and my body. I’m done trying to make my body look the way it may never look like. I just woke up and realized it’s a choice: you can choose to love your body. And you should choose to love your body. We don’t wake up one day, look at the mirror, and suddenly fall in love with every feature automatically. It’s always a choice, especially coming from a place of hate and anger. But we shouldn’t we condition our love for it either. We self-sabotage all the time, don’t we? If I weigh 115lbs, THEN I’ll love my body. If I see abs on my stomach, THEN I’ll love my body. Maybe the body has a way of fighting back, of being unhappy with the way we treat it that it just doesn’t respond to hate and negative energy.
And now I get it. I used to roll my eyes whenever I saw these super fit girls on Instagram posting about “loving yourself”, and saying “treat yourself as you would a friend.” At the back of my mind, I always thought, OF COURSE!!! Of course they have license to say that because they already have amazing physiques. I found it unfair to those of us who’ve never had nice (I really mean THIN) bodies, to those of us who’ve struggled with weight our whole lives, to those of us who were bullied because of our size. And it angered me because they had no right to tell us bigger people what to do. But it’s true, and we should believe it — we would never tell a friend that they’re fat or ugly, so neither should we tell ourselves that, right? We should treat ourselves with the same kind of kindness we do our friends. So, here’s to trying and to choosing everyday: trying to love ourselves more, and choosing to view ourselves a bit more positively, in big leaps or in baby steps. I know that I owe it to myself to get out of this obsession, and to be more involved and productive in other parts of my life. I refuse to let the scale and my diet dictate the way I live and love.
But talk is cheap. I want to “recover” from this disorder, and resolutions and mantras always help me with new habits. Here are 5 ‘rules’ I hope follow to set myself up for success on the road to recovery:
I will eat intuitively and listen to my body. I will eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m no longer hungry.
If I eat something that I used to think of as “bad”, I won’t beat myself up over it. Instead, I will be grateful for being privileged enough to experience good food.
Whenever I look at the mirror, I will focus on the good.
I will workout because I love feeling strong, not because I want to look a certain way.
I will do an HONEST daily entry on this journey to keep myself in check.
Today, I choose to love and respect my body. And tomorrow, I’ll keep trying.
Until then, I remain changing for the better.
DISCLAIMER: This isn’t to say that the keto lifestyle triggered my obsession: it’s the diet mentality that did. I still love Keto, and being on it gave me discipline like never before. I know, for instance, that my body responds so much better to activities when I’m not sugar-high, so listening to my body also means acknowledging that I function better on whole foods. I’ve ALWAYS had body issues, but I just recognized how bad it’s gotten while on the diet-mentality. For those whose lifestyles fit keto, then keto on!