When Love Comes From Within, It Can't Be Taken Away

By Nicole DiGrazia, Guest Contributor

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All my life I’ve struggled with an addictive personality and self-destructive behavior. But the one thing I never struggled with, was my body image. I liked the way I looked enough not to care about it.

Although I was working as a personal trainer, I was smoking and partying hard every night, that is, until I decided to stop playing the hypocrite, preaching one thing and doing just the opposite. Eventually I turned my life around, quitting smoking and partying, and jumped right into the abyss of clean eating and hard training.

Up to that point I hadn’t spent much thought on food; I’d always been a good cook and, with my dad being a chef, I had enough knowledge about healthy and simple foods. Well, according to lifestyle magazines and social media, that knowledge was wrong. The way I looked was even more wrong.

Apparently, I needed to have sculpted abs, defined biceps, and quads like a soccer player because strong was the new sexy. And supposedly everyone could obtain these results simply by sticking to one of thethousands of diets promoted by the fitness industry.

I was thrilled and excited about it. I started training like never before. I had a mission. For the first time in my life I started caring about my body image. I wanted to put on that muscle mass so badly. I started eating and working out like some of my favorite crossfit athletes, but after the promised 6 week transformation phase, nothing had happened. I kept gaining weight, but no other results were achieved. I started training even more, at the most improbable hours of the day, getting up at 4:30 AM to hit the gym in time before going to work (at another gym). I was exhausted, physically and mentally. Time went by and nothing changed. I looked the same, just bigger. I started beating myself up. I must have been doing something wrong.

 I couldn’t work out more, and I didn’t have the time or the energy. But I determined that I could change my diet. I tried low carb, no carb, paleo, Atkins, Dukan… the outcome was the exact same. I lost my period and at that point I had no other thoughts in my head. I was obsessed with food and training, and I was unsatisfied with life.

 My social life was nonexistent, I was missing out on life and ruining my mental health. I decided to take a break and go on vacation. I went to San Francisco and on New Year’s Eve I met a guy and fell in love. Even though we lived in different countries, we managed to keep in touch and decided to move to Australia for a year. I was healed, or so it seemed. Love had made it possible. I stopped working out like a maniac, I ate all the delicious foods, and my period came back. Everything was back to normal and I was happy… Until the day everything changed again.

At one point my boyfriend expressed attraction to another girl. It was just an innocent statement, but that triggered my fear of abandonment enough to make me want to change my body once again. Tired of the fad diet I had already tried, I just started to count calories. I didn’t want to leave out entire food groups anymore; I thought that a little restriction would bring me closer to my goal. I felt the adrenaline and excitement of regaining control. Counting calories was fun and easy and the pounds dropped. And the more they dropped, the more I restricted. I felt great and liked what I saw in the mirror. I lost my period again, but I didn’t care. I had a new mission and this time I was seeing results, that gave me even more motivation.

But soon, family gatherings and holidays came around and I noticed that I couldn’t think of anything except the food that I would cook, but not eat. I was saving my calories for the evening, to make sure I didn’t eat too many of them during the day. I was hungry all the time and I just couldn’t think of anything but food. I was staring at the clock imagining the moment I would eat again. I went to bed hungry and woke up even hungrier, just to punish and restrict myself all over again.

Thinking about it now just makes me sad. I didn’t want anyone to notice in what kind of hell I was stuck in, so I hid it, hid it well, not even my boyfriend noticed. But one day I just couldn’t carry it anymore and I talked to him. I told him what I was going through and together we started figuring out a solution. We talked about it daily and I am so thankful for the love and patience he showed me.

My biggest fear was that I would substitute a different set of addictive behaviors in place of my eating disorder. Therefore, I enrolled in an online class through Harvard to keep my mind occupied after work. I was still working as a fitness trainer, but I totally changed my approach to it. No more self-destructive workouts and I started doing exercises that I enjoyed.

It wasn’t until I stumbled across some social media accounts about yoga that I realized that what I was doing was what people call yoga, but I was hooked. I started practicing daily and I also started eating more. My mind started forming new thoughts and my preoccupation with food began to fade.

Although I still speak daily with my now fiancée about my experiences, it’s not about food anymore. I still don’t have my period, but I’m confident that my body will take care of it in time. From time to time, I still have thoughts about food, but as soon as they arise, I observe them and gently push them away.

I am still afraid of gaining weight, but my drive to live a happy and addiction free life is stronger than that urge to control and restrict my diet and myself. Love is the key to everything. Love saved me once, but it took going through hell a second time to realize that that love needs to come from within. When it comes from within, it can’t be taken away.

If you’re struggling right now, I see you. May you all be happy and free.

About Nicole DiGrazia
I'm 32 years old, a fitness trainer, and I like serving and helping people. I'm very passionate about chemistry and mathematics, and I've recently fallen in love with yoga; those are my tools to figure out the world and make it more enjoyable.