After Years Of Restrictive Eating, I've Begun To Reverse Diet & Have Never Been Happier

February 15, 2023


If you’ve been in the fitness industry as long as I have, it’s unlikely you’ve had a smooth sail throughout your fitness journey. It would be lovely to say that it’s easy to lose weight, or get the dream bod. To eat what you like and look good. But in all honesty it can end up being unrealistic, hard and just all round miserable.

The glorious entity that is social media has fed us with a lot of toxic information and I, like many others, absorbed each post and took it as my own personal message that I had to do whatever x,y and z were doing, and that if I didn’t I would never be happy.
Now, before I carry on I’d like to point out I’m not against fitness or social media or being healthy. I’m just against the forcefulness of it and I’m angry about the communication of the info out there. It makes us ‘mere mortals’ feel less than. We all deserve to be happy in ourselves and not be force fed others successes to help product sales.

I properly got into fitness when I was around 18 years old. I started going to the gym and eating what I thought was ‘healthy’. My inspirations came from various Instagram influencers. They all had perfect bums, flat abs and seemed to be living a very good lifestyle. What I now know is that these accounts are highlight reels: life is just NOT like that. Every day is different, not every day is beaches, protein bars and bums. Sometimes it’s busy days, a piece of cake and stress! But we shouldn’t feel guilty about this.

So flash forward a year after I’d started my fitness journey, and yes, I had lost weight. But I’d lost more than that: I was so restrictive of my food. I felt like I needed to track all my calories and eat minimal ‘healthy’ meals. And of course I too fell for the “death to all carbs” movement. But all in all none of this was making me happy. Life wasn’t easy: I didn’t enjoy my time at university as I was so conscious all the time of what I was eating, when to eat, how long I needed to train for and even how to burn off the bad foods. It often stopped me from going out.

Unfortunately, I know I’m not the only one who’s felt like this—it’s a control thing. You feel like this is the one thing you have free rein over, you can choose what you eat and when, and if it’s going to make you look good then why not huh? Thing is, I didn’t even feel like I looked good. I never felt enough, ever. And I think when you live in such a restrictive way, you just never will.  I even tried going to a nutritionist at one point, but she didn’t look the way I personally wanted to look so even that I wouldn’t follow. Seems ridiculous but once your mind is set it’s very hard to reverse it.

a hand holding a measuring tape against a gray background.

I managed to get through uni and my eating got slightly better. I was still quite restrictive but I’d made some friends and I think becoming more social got me out of that comfort zone so I felt like I could eat a bit more. As the years went on my whole mindset just kept ebbing and flowing. By this point I was training so hard, almost 7 days a week. For a year I didn’t even have a period! It was all very overwhelming and there weren’t many people to talk to. It also seemed like all these social media personalities were doing the same methods as I was, but seemed as happy as could be! Obviously I’m not trying to turn this into a sob story but I think a lot more people have been through this than I realized at the time.

Now we flash forward again. Of course I had my moments of my bad habits creeping back in (bad relationships didn’t help either). But I was getting older so I just felt fed up feeling like this. I had more acknowledgment of how my bad habits affected me and wanted to make it go away. Then one day, I came across an old Instagram account I used to follow. She was originally a gymshark athlete. She was an influencer who sold the dream of macro counting, calorie counting and stuffing our bodies with protein powders. But in her newest post she was just different. She later released a YouTube video about her quitting weightlifting and quitting this diet culture. It finally hit me. I don’t NEED to do this! She just looked so content and happy, like she’d finally found peace because she wasn’t forcing herself into a lifestyle she hated. Don’t get me wrong, if heavy lifting is your thing then knock it out! But forcing this opinion on everyone just doesn’t work.

Every body is different and we are not everybody. I started to follow her journey quite religiously and it began to lead me down this completely holistic approach that was just wonderful. This isn’t to say that all you have is kale smoothies and salads. Instead it’s the idea of finding a new approach. The thought behind holistic health is that we need to nurture our whole bodies, appreciate them and prioritize what we need over what we want or don’t have.
After countless years of tracking everything I’ve eaten and never letting go, I thought I’d give in and try something new. I am so grateful I have. I’m starting to listen to my body. This is beyond just reverse dieting, this is reversing my whole approach to wellness. Your body needs food, it needs movement, it needs nourishment! But you just don’t need to be so mean to it. I’ve found that eating healthily but not restrictively is just a brilliant combination. I love food. My mum always says, some people eat to live and some people live to eat. I’m definitely the latter. So what I’m really saying here is stop doing what everyone else is doing. You don’t need to restrict and overtrain to achieve your goals, because in all honesty you’re probably stressing your body out so much that it’s just not practical.

Of course if you want to lose weight, that is an absolutely relevant goal to have, but you need to start thinking about things in the long term. Will just losing weight make you happy? Or do you maybe need to evaluate your lifestyle a bit deeper? Are you rushing your lunch on a busy office day? Are you forever stressed and just waiting for the day to end? Are you constantly comparing yourself to EVERY single person because you think they’re better looking than you? Well, STOP IT!

We should treat ourselves how we would treat a friend. If you’re restricting yourself with food and forcing yourself to do these workouts you hate then maybe it’s time to reevaluate and think about whether you’d put a friend or a loved one through that. The answer is probably no. It might be time to start doing what makes you happy, this may be Pilates or yoga. It may still be weightlifting. It may be eating what you crave and not feeling so guilty all the time. Whatever it is, tune in with your body, what would make your body happy?

So I’ll leave you with a lovely little quote from Dr Seuss, I think it sums up life pretty well. “Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is youer than you!”

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Photo: Jon Tyson via Unsplash; Jennifer Burk via Unsplash; Caju Gomes via Unsplash

Clemency Drew
Clemency has been vegan for going on 5 years now and she has never looked back! She loves animals and our planet and wishes to savor them in any way she can. She is also a massive fitness freak who is set on proving to people that you can be vegan and planet-friendly while also being into fitness and achieving goals.


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