I'm welcoming another wonderful guest to share her story of nourishment and mindset changes. Sarah shares how true self-kindness led to being able to nourish her body and accept herself.
Health and wellness has been a long and bumpy road for me.
I was a fussy eater as a kid and despite my parents’ best efforts, getting me to eat fruit and veg was pretty much impossible. I’d wrap my peas in tissues and throw them in the bin or I’d ask to eat outside (so I could feed my dinner to our dog). Unfortunately for me our dog didn’t like peas and dad was in charge of emptying the bins, so usually I got busted.
When I was 7 my mum and dad split up. I took it pretty hard. I was an only child growing up so instead of beating up my brother or stealing my sister’s dolls I turned to food for comfort. I remember as early as 8 years old I’d sneak into the pantry when dad was in the garden and I’d eat my way through a bag of chocolates. I’d feel happy for a while, comforted somehow, but the sadness would always come back.
As I got older food became an even bigger comfort in my life. It was my constant friend. It didn’t judge me. It would never leave me.
Food was always there and it became my source of happiness.
When I moved out of home I couldn’t cook. I tried to make packet pasta for dinner one night and I burned it. Instead I lived on toast, chocolate and takeaway.
I started gaining weight. I felt tired, cranky and depressed. I had cellulite, wrinkles, fat where it never was before and I felt flat all the time. I could sleep for 12 hours and still feel tired.
Whenever I felt anything uncomfortable (sadness, stress, frustration) I’d reach for the chocolate, and no matter how much I had I always wanted more. As I put on weight I tried every diet under the sun but I’d always give up. Every day became “day 1” – the day I was going to quit for good – but I rarely lasted past lunch time.
I also realized most people didn’t eat as much chocolate as me so I started hiding it and lying about how much I ate. At work I’d put chocolate in an empty paperclip box in my desk drawer, that way no one would hear the packet rustling as I reached for more. I was spending a fortune on chocolate – sometimes over $50 a week. It was out of control.
In 2003 I moved from Adelaide (Australia) to London after a painful divorce. I learned about health and fitness, joined a gym and started drinking carrot juice. Over the course of about six months I cleaned up my act and learned to cook healthy meals. I tried avocado and sweet potato for the first time at age 26!
I became healthy. I lost weight. I got fit and had more energy. I wasn’t ‘over’ my divorce. I wasn’t ‘over’ my parents splitting up. There were a handful of serious hurts I’d never healed, so I slipped back into my old ways.
It got to the point where I’d cry while I ate chocolate because I wanted to quit so badly, but I didn’t have the strength.
I came up with crazy ways to stop. I decided instead of eating chocolate I’d make myself smoke a cigarette first. I figured surely that would put me off because I’ve always hated smoking. Instead I gave the pack of smokes to my house mate and kept eating chocolate.
At my lowest point I lived three doors down from a 24 hour convenience store. I’d sneak out late at night and buy a tub of ice cream. I’d eat until I was physically sick. If I wasn’t physically sick, I’d make myself throw up because I felt so disgusting. I’d throw out the rest of the tub and swear I’d quit tomorrow.
One night, half way through a tub of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream, I decided that was enough. I put the lid on the tub, wrapped it in a plastic bag and put it in the rubbish bin outside the house. I swore to myself that was it. No more. It’s disgusting and I can’t do this anymore. Ten minutes later, I got the ice cream back out the bin and ate the rest. I felt ashamed. I felt sad. Most of all, I felt relieved because I could eat more chocolate ice cream.
As I tell you this I feel deeply ashamed. I let myself get so low that eating ice cream out of the rubbish bin became an option. A year later, watching Sex and the City, I saw Miranda rummage through the rubbish for dessert and realized maybe I wasn’t alone.
Two years ago I started counseling and sought out alternative therapies and healing.
It’s completely changed my life. I’ve realised that instead of feeling and dealing, I was eating to numb the pain. I’ve been able to release the hurt and fear I’d bottled up inside and create a life based on self-acceptance and loving kindness. I’ve learned to forgive myself and others and because I don’t feel like a piece of garbage anymore, I’ve stopped treating my body like a rubbish dump.
Through counseling I’ve realized I treated chocolate like my friend, and when I think about it, it was the only real constant in my life. It helped me through huge life events. It never judged me. It never left me. It was always there for me. I was scared to let it go because I’d woven it so deeply into the fabric of myself and my life. I truly believed I couldn’t cope without chocolate. I felt like there’d be nothing left if I let it go. I’d be alone – face to face with myself and my past, and I was so afraid to feel.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suddenly “cured.” I still have down days. I still get tired. I’m not perfect and I still make the wrong food choices sometimes. What’s different though is that now I care about myself. I’ve learned to stop avoiding my feelings and hiding them from others. When I eat now I remember that what I’m putting in is actually building me, so I try to build my body with the freshest, healthiest ingredients nature has to offer.
A couple of weeks ago I celebrated one year alcohol free and I’m almost three weeks “clean” of refined sugar and processed, confectionary style chocolate. I now get my ‘fix’ from other sources like yoga, meditation, walks in nature, journaling and helping others. I also allow myself the occasional piece of Pana chocolate (made with beautiful raw cacao and agave syrup instead of refined white sugar). I plan to play around with making chocolate at home using raw cacao, natural sweeteners and coconut oil. After all, life isn’t about restriction or self-punishment; it’s about balance and happiness.
The most important lesson I’ve learned from this journey is how to connect with my body.
To listen to what it needs and fuel it with foods that make me feel good. It’s an ongoing process, I’m constantly experimenting and learning, but I’m making progress. My goal is to create a positive life built on a foundation of health and wellness, because I’ve realized I’ll never truly be happy until I nourish myself from the inside out.
You can find Sarah Jensen here:
- Website: www.SarahJensen.com.au
- Facebook: TheSarahJensen
- Twitter: @_SarahJensen_
- Instagram: @_SarahJensen_
- Pinterest: SarahJensenAU
What a wonderful story! Making changes from a place of self-love is so essential, and if you're struggling, you're definitely not alone.
I'd love to know in the comments below:
- Did you connect with Sarah's story at all?
- What is the BIGGEST lesson you've learned about yourself through a hard time?