Managing body image
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik
We’ve all met them. They’re the over-achievers who take on life with an all-or-nothing approach. “Healthy living” means no sugar, wheat, caffeine, alcohol, animal products or morsel of cake ever again. A Monday is greeted with, “Today’s the day I will start my new healthy lifestyle.” Tuesday is filled with various reasoning tactics related to why the new diet really might not be the best choice. And by 6 p.m. on Friday, you’re bound to find your friend in the corner of a bar, tossing back margaritas and a mound of something made from a bajillion calories.
It’s a roller coaster. Hell, I’ve stepped on board more times than I care to admit. You might have, too. And you know what that means? It means you’re perfectly normal.
We live in a world where magazines tout “Six Pack Abs in a Week!” and your neighbor is regularly chatting with you about the latest cleanse, pill, vitamin, get-slim-quick-and-pray-you-make-it-out-alive trend. So much of what we know about health is related to getting skinny, doing it fast and subscribing to whatever it takes to get there.
But you and I both know that these extreme approaches lead to nothing but a recipe for disaster. The truth is, the “successful” are few and far between when it comes to sticking with a rigid lifestyle for an eternity.
When I was 16 years old, I was far from “fat,” “hideous” or any of the other awful things we tell ourselves in our adolescence – and, unfortunately, often carry into adulthood. I was facing so many of the normal body issues that plague our self-image in those formative years. After a few years of running with my parents who were runners in their college days, I joined the cross-country team to see what it would be like to compete.
What I hadn’t expected was the major body changes that followed. My stomach started to look flatter and my legs thinned out to mimic that lean look runners often acquire. Some of my friends started commenting on my body and a few even told me that I was “starting to look too skinny.”
I loved it.
Thus, began my obsession with keeping my body that way and maybe, just maybe, getting it to be even skinnier. I started counting calories down to those that were in a stick of gum. Each meal that I skipped made me feel empowered. One day, I was sitting in class with my cousin and he put his hands around my forearm before wrinkling his nose and exclaiming, “You’re soooo skinny!” Each time someone commented on my weight, it fueled my want to take this new “healthy” lifestyle to the extreme.
Clearly, I had a very disordered perspective on healthy eating and what it should entail. It wasn’t until I fainted in the middle of a cross country race that I realized something was really wrong.
This, of course, is one very extreme example of how we push our bodies to meet ridiculous standards that are so often self-imposed. And it goes both ways, I’ve also been know to toss back an entire half gallon of ice cream under the premise of “I’ll start tomorrow,” which is otherwise known as one big fat lie.
This way of thinking led to a constant up-and-down effect throughout my teenage years and early 20’s. Unable to maintain the harsh parameters I had set for myself, I would eventually fail at my grand ol’ plan, caving to an entire chocolate cake instead of taking the one or two bites I had wanted earlier in the week.
It wasn’t until I was able to admit to these patterns that I realized I was the root of my inability to maintain a healthy path. Me! It was all me! When I was diagnosed with celiac disease – an autoimmune condition that results in the removal of gluten from one’s diet – in September 2010, I was faced with a decision to continue down this road or get down to business with sussing out the details of a healthy lifestyle once and for all.
I created my blog, The G-Spot Revolution, as not only a healthy living resource for people who were new to gluten-free living, but also as a personal lifeline. It was then that I began to work through my former beliefs that if a person makes room for “fun” foods, then he or she is certainly a health failure.
Who the hell thinks up this crap?! Me. I do. (I never said I was normal.)
These days, it’s so important for me to remind myself and teach other people how to discover their personal health sweet spots. The moment I decided that I could have a green smoothie in the morning and still make room for a few bites of gluten-free cake in the evening was also the moment I found healthful bliss.
As we journey through this new “AfterGlo” adventure, I plan to also help each one of you ditch the ridiculous standards and subscribe to a more balanced way of life. Guess what? Ten minutes of exercise is better than nothing. And that scoop of ice cream? It won’t make you fat.
Let’s cut the crap and get real about what a healthy life really looks like, OK? I’ll give you a hint: You’re about to “glo.”
Caroline Shannon-Karasik is the upcoming author of a gluten-free healthy lifestyle book, set to be released in January 2014. She is the author of the popular gluten-free blog, TheGSpotRevolution.com and is currently training to become a certified health coach. Her writing and recipe development has been featured in several publications, including, VegNews, Kiwi and REDBOOK magazines. Caroline lives with her husband Dan and four adopted cats in Pittsburgh, PA. Caroline can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.