No Wellness Wankery

108: Nat's Real Story "I never thought I was thin enough"

March 31, 2024 Lyndi Cohen
No Wellness Wankery
108: Nat's Real Story "I never thought I was thin enough"
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

"You're constantly striving for more, you want to be thinner, you want to look better. And it's just like this toxic path that never really ends and it never gets you anywhere. I should have asked for help..."

On this week's episode I am joined by real story guest Natalia Szala. And this week's is a bit of a special one, as Nat is also my colleague and friend. 

When we get together to film we'll often hash back to all of our previous dieting years, sometimes having those "holy moly, you did that too!" moments together. 

And today we are sharing these all with you too! 

Diving into our own battles with food, from the sneaky (and deceptive!) comfort of solo binge-eating sessions. To the quiet struggles so often hidden behind social media's "flawless" bodies.

We're peeling back the layers to let you know you'e not alone.

Nat and I dig into the whole external validation thing... Where what's oh-so often praised as 'discipline' can actually be reinforcing harmful habits.

And we shed light on the necessity of confronting the roots of disordered eating. So you can live a life without obsessing over food!

Want to ditch the diet culture for good? Get my Back to Basics app today - try it FREE for 7 days here. The customisable app helps you create a healthier relationship with food—no rigid rules or diet plans required!

Get my Free 5 Day Course to help you stop binge and emotional eating. 

Looking for more support to feel in control around food? I'd love to support you in my Binge Free Academy

If you don't already - come follow me on the gram at @nude_nutritionist (no nude pics, sorry).

Want to share some feedback or have an idea for an episode, I'd LOVE to hear from you - hit me up at hello@lyndicohen.com

Speaker 1:

When you feel that food is limited, it just makes you want it so much more, and that's what happened for me. That triggered me so much. I'm going to be real. It's going to be like that if you are recovering.

Speaker 2:

I'm keen to know what strategies you used in this recovery phase. I'll tell you a story.

Speaker 1:

I remember always looking forward so much to a binge, to planning out exactly what I'm going to eat and what I'm going to have, getting it going to the supermarket. It would pretty much always be something like chips, nutella bread, kit Kat, sometimes like pastries, cookies. I would honestly it would be a feast. It could feed multiple people, but really it was just for me. I remember one time my mum was going to be away for the weekend and I got all this food. I was so excited. I pretty much ran up the hill just to get home and put on my favourite movie and just like eat it.

Speaker 1:

And then I walk in the door and she's home and I was so angry. I was like why are you home? You're meant to be out. Like, what are you doing here? And she's like, oh, no, things have changed. And I was like what do you mean? Like can't you just go? And she's like what's going on? What's all this food? And I had to lie to her and say, oh well, I was going to invite my friends over and you know we were going to watch some movies. And now you're here and she was like oh, you can still have your friends over, sweetie. Oh, mum, that is not it.

Speaker 2:

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's episode of no Wellness. Wengie, I am stoked because sitting in front of me is my colleague and, I guess, my friend, nat Jalla. Natalia Jalla, it's so nice to have you here.

Speaker 1:

Thanks, lindy, it's so great to be here. I'm a big fan, obviously, of the no Wellness Wengie podcast and I've had a little go at this before and so this is only my second time. So second time recording, yes, no, but I'm very excited, very excited to share my story.

Speaker 2:

You and I chat because you run my socials. If anyone's following me on social media, yes, it's Nat and I. We collaborate and you probably would have seen in the last few months my social media game has gotten a whole lot better. That's because Nat started working with me about six months ago and you and I just sit around every Tuesday and we hash back to all our previous dieting years and we tell our stories to each other and sometimes we have these moments of going holy moly, did you do that too? I did that, and so often disordered eating and eating disorders exist with no one's watching, no one's hearing. We think we're alone. We were so isolated and I think this is why I wanted to have you on the podcast so we can share our stories and go. You're not alone if you're listening and you're not crazy. You're very normal and I want to hear from you. I want to hear about how did you get started dieting? Take me through. When did it start?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so for me, I think it really started when I was around 14, 15. I remember what really triggered me was Instagram. So before that, you know, I think I had a really healthy relationship with food. I grew up, you know, with my mom, always like having positive messages to me around my body, like never commenting badly about how I look, like never commenting about my weight or anything like that. And it wasn't until I downloaded Instagram and I remember specifically seeing this photo of a girl and she was wearing those Nike Pro shorts. I think you know which one I'm talking about. Oh, I know I had them pinned on my wall.

Speaker 1:

Yes, yes, you did. You took it one step further than me, but, yeah, no, she had like a visible abs. She looked great and I thought I want to look like her. How do I look like her? So I started researching and I started Googling and I was like you know, what did you?

Speaker 2:

Google. What were you Googled?

Speaker 1:

I searched. You know how to get a flat stomach, how do I get a thigh gap? And all this stuff that came out was, you know, my fitness pal, do this meal plan, 1200 calories. It all started from there and I thought, cool, yep, I can do that. So I started, you know, downloading my fitness power, tracking how much I was eating. I remember counting down to the grapes.

Speaker 1:

I got very specific, I got very strict and I was good at it. I really was. I was really good at restricting and sticking to you know, those 1200 calories for a while until, you know, I did start to get hungry and that's where I had those periods of, you know, eating quite a lot of food and then I would feel guilty and I would restrict. It wasn't I don't think I was a binge eater then. I definitely still had a disordered relationship with food, but that cycle continued for years and years.

Speaker 1:

What did people around you say? So I was really good at hiding it. So my mum would always pack me lunch, a sandwich, some fruit, yoga, that kind of stuff. Like dinner was like meat, veg, just normal kind of food, and I would eat that. But I would always throw away my lunch and just eat like fruit. I remember sticking to fruit because for me that felt safe, I could very easily track it. And then no one else really commented, no one really paid attention. My friends didn't really say anything because I guess they were distracted with themselves. Had they noticed that you'd lost weight.

Speaker 1:

Yes, they did, and actually, funnily enough, that's when I started to get so much more attention from boys and that, I guess, encouraged me to keep going, because, especially at that age, you do want to get attention, you want to be seen as the hot girl, the cool girl, and I definitely got that and I thought, okay, well, what I'm doing must be right, because people are seeing me Like, yes, this is what I want. So I kept doing it, and then it just got so much worse from there, because I actually joined a gym and I became a cardio bunny.

Speaker 2:

And your friends say to you oh my goodness, you're so disciplined. I wish I could be like you.

Speaker 1:

Yes, yes, they did. So the cardio, like I was obsessed. So excessive exercise, excessive, and I was exhausted, and this continued for quite a while. We got to the stage where I actually lost my period, obviously because I was under eating, overexercising. I went to the doctor and the doctor prescribed me on the pill. They said this will help you regulate your period. This is how you're going to get it back. And I thought, okay, that sounds good. No one asked me are you eating enough? Are you overexercising? That was completely out of the question.

Speaker 2:

No one suspected that you had disordered eating. What they saw your body and they thought you don't look like you have an eating disorder, which is one of the things we see all the time. In fact, they saw all your disordered eating patterns You're overexercising and they thought well done, you're healthy. We're so proud of you and that just further endorsed you to keep going. Can you tell me then, when did you start binge eating?

Speaker 1:

So I started binge eating when I was around 16. That's when it got really bad. I remember specifically after I got my braces and after I got them put on and everyone said to me oh my God, you're going to lose so much weight, so much more weight, because you won't be able to eat all these foods. And that triggered me so much that I ate all the foods I wasn't meant to be eating, like I was in pain and agony eating the hard foods that I shouldn't be, just because I wanted to eat. I just like the idea of having the food restricted and you know we talk about this all the time. You know you talk about this a lot. It's that restrictive cycle that when you fear that food is limited, it just makes you want it so much more. And that's what happened for me, and I actually gained quite a bit of weight.

Speaker 1:

In saying that, I never got to a stage of being overweight and that's what you would call a little bit chubby. So I guess that's why my eating disorder went undiagnosed forever. Really, no one ever diagnosed me. I never wanted to admit to anyone that I have it because I was so embarrassed, like how do you go to a doctor and tell them hey, I can't stop eating chocolate, I can't stop eating all the cupcakes that my mum gets for other people, like I feel so out of control. It's embarrassing, like you feel embarrassed and you know, and there is that stigma like you shouldn't be doing that that's not normal and it's definitely not talked about enough. So for me, I just, yeah, I completely lost control around food and I went from cycles of restricting a lot it would be probably like a week or so of like just not eating enough and then like two to three weeks of just completely losing control and eating everything, everything and anything.

Speaker 1:

And this pattern you kept it hidden, right? Yeah, I kept it hidden. I never, ever told anyone, never told my friends. I hid it from my mum. Of course. She knew something was up, because she could tell there was a lot of food constantly missing, and so what she actually did was she took me to the doctor and she thought I had a worm in my stomach. So she went to the doctor and she said, look, I think my daughter has a worm because she's eating so much, and like, and I thought I did too. I thought it makes sense. This is why I'm so hungry all the time.

Speaker 2:

It's so funny, we laugh about it. And we have to laugh about it because it's such a ridiculous situation. It was so unsuspected that you might have an eating disorder that the possibility of having a worm was more likely even to a doctor. And the story you've been telling yourself is I'm too hungry, there's something wrong with my appetite and, fundamentally, the real problem, which is the problem I see with so many clients is they're not eating enough during the day.

Speaker 2:

You were fundamentally starving yourself. So, yes, even if yesterday you did eat enough, if you have starved yourself for weeks and weeks before, your appetite has some fundamental changes where you are hungrier than, I guess, what you probably think you should be, and so you had created this food monster.

Speaker 1:

Exactly, that's exactly it.

Speaker 2:

How do you feel when you were in this obsession where food controlled your life?

Speaker 1:

I just thought this is normal. I guess this is what I'm going to feel like forever, and I remember daydreaming and planning of the day where I could actually eat what I wanted to eat within my day. I always thought my diet is going to have an end date, this is going to end, and then I will be able to eat a toasted sandwich for lunch and actually a yummy yoga bowl and still healthy food, but actually eat enough. I was daydreaming of that. I was quite literally dreaming about food. It's how restrictive I got and how obsessed I got. But you know, no matter how hard I tried, I always would end up losing the weight and regaining it. So that end date never really came for me. It was just a constant ongoing cycle.

Speaker 2:

What was your breaking?

Speaker 1:

point. My breaking point was uni, so that's where my eating disorder completely went out of control. I felt like a terrible friend because I would live with housemates and I would eat their food and I tried to replace it as much as I could. You know, sometimes I couldn't because it was food that was not replaceable. I remember there was a time where one of my housemates, she, made this batch of bolognese and I would just kind of peek at it day by day and then eventually there was very little left, like keep in mind, I thought that she was eating it too. And then it got to the end of the week and she was like where's my bolognese? And of course I was so embarrassed I was like I can't tell her that I ate it. I thought she was eating it too throughout the week, like she meal prepped it, and I just felt awful. And to this day I feel awful.

Speaker 1:

And you know, I thought, like how can I admit to someone that, like I'm eating the food? Like there's something wrong with me. I must be a terrible friend. But really we know that this is actually normal behaviour for a binge eater. Like this is what happens. So you know, if you're listening and you're thinking. You know I'm a terrible person. I do this Like I eat my kids food, like I eat my housemates food. Please don't. You know there's nothing actually wrong with you. This is your eating disorder. This is what it does to you. It controls you. It makes you turn into an obsessed human being and you need to. You know you need to work on that. You need to work on building a healthy relationship with food. You need the support to actually get there.

Speaker 1:

But that's something that I didn't do and that's something I regret so, so much. Because because I wasted so many years saying no to plans and you know, just feeling out of control around food, that I would avoid going out with friends, avoid social situations. I would just stay home and binge and be sad, because I didn't want to admit that I had a problem, because I was so embarrassed and so scared of what might happen and that's definitely my biggest regret in life. You know I should have asked for help and I wish that I had that help in front of me or near me where I could access that support, but I never felt like I did. You know, it was just like it wasn't talked about and, yes, I did learn about it at uni, so we talked about.

Speaker 1:

I studied nutrition, so of course I studied about eating disorders. But I thought, no way, that's not me Like, it's just my willpower. There's absolutely no way. I haven't any disorder. This is normal. It's normal to feel out of control around food and to binge eat and, to you know, hide it and eat it in secret. No, it's not normal.

Speaker 2:

And you don't need to live like that. I think that's a fundamental thing. I get so many emails from people saying I've been like this for so long.

Speaker 2:

I don't know any other way to be. I don't think I could be any other way. I think there's something fundamentally wrong with me, and everyone else seemed to get it. They can stop eating when they feel full. They wait till they feel hungry. It's nothing wrong with me. It's not. Tell me about where you are now, because the person in front of me is is not the person who's shying away from life, who's meek and mild in the corner, who's saying no to opportunities you live. Big and Huge part of that is because your eating disorder is something you have overcome. How did? What was the turning point for you?

Speaker 1:

So it wasn't until I finished uni that I realized, you know, I actually want to be in the workforce, I want to help people and I need to take control. You study to be a nutritionist?

Speaker 2:

Yes, and, for the sake, I always talk about the fact I became a nutritionist and, by the way, if you're a nutritionist, dietitian, listening there are so many of us who end up going into this profession precisely because we think, oh what, how brilliant we can get paid for our obsession. Oh great a profession that will feed the thing I can't wait to read about all the time. And so, just like me, you became a nutritionist, for I guess the wrong reasons, a hundred percent.

Speaker 1:

I thought I'm gonna help people, you know, to lose weight, to be healthier. I didn't actually know what that meant, but I thought, no, this is gonna be my goal. And then I realized, you know, I Am out of control. I actually got really depressed as well after uni. There was a lot of things happening and my eating disorder just completely it was still out of control. I moved in with my boyfriend and his brother and I Started doing like a casual job, in fashion. Of course, that just triggered me even more, and that went on for quite a while until eventually I thought you know, I have to do something. So I started slowly reintroducing Different foods. How did you know to do this? I just did more research. I thought, you know, there's something wrong with my gut. So it actually started with my gut. It was completely messed up, and that's actually quite common as well. You know, if you're a binge eater, you might experience a lot of bloating, discomfort, all that kind of stuff. Your digestion is messed up.

Speaker 2:

In addition if you are restricting, people say I feel really bloated, my gut's in a terrible place, but I'm not eating anything. What is it? And we get wrongly a diagnosed with IBS kind of symptoms. But the fundamental problem is you are stressed, you're not eating or you're eating too much a hundred percent and that's what it was.

Speaker 1:

I thought I had IBS. So it started with an elimination diet, as you would think, and then I slowly reintroduced foods and I found I slowly did feel better. There were still cycles where I would go back and I was binge eating and I was eating normal and then eventually, like that, slowly, slowly eased. I also stopped working at cook. I Got a job that I actually liked. I felt a lot more supported from my friends and Just everyone around me not that I wasn't ever supported, you know, I always had like a great emotional support from my family and friends. But I got to a point where I was actually happy in life. I was doing things that made me happy. I guess that's another point of you know.

Speaker 1:

An eating disorder like binge eating disorder. It often means that there's something missing in your life and you know it's hard to find that if you have so much going on and you feel so out of control like how do you get there? It's good to have that kind of support and guidance from someone. So because I didn't have that, mind you, it took years to get to a stage where I felt normal around food. I could have chocolate in the house and I wouldn't eat the whole thing beforehand.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely mind-blowing. There's no chance. I just thought there's absolutely never, ever, ever, ever going to be a day when I have chocolate and I don't eat it All in one sitting never. But I promise you, if you're listening and you feel like this, I promise you that day can come, because that's you now, that's me now. Like I can have chocolate, I can have anything in the house and I don't binge on it. Like I can't remember the last time when I felt how I felt, where I would binge eat. You know that. You know that feeling when you're lying in bed and you just feel so physically ill.

Speaker 1:

Oh, I know that feeling, that you just like you can't even fall asleep because you're so full and you're just so like Sick and hateful and hateful.

Speaker 2:

You're so angry yourself.

Speaker 1:

You're so angry?

Speaker 2:

I'm a mental and a physical kind of ick, so I'm keen to know what strategies that you use to help you along the way that other people might go. Oh, I might want to try that. If you're kind of in this recovery phase, going Okay, what do I do next? Did you start listening to your hunger as well?

Speaker 1:

So my hunger was out of whack. I'm going to be real and it's going to be like that. You know, if you are recovering. It was really hard for me to listen to my hunger because I was so restricted. I didn't even know like what does hunger even feel like? Like what does it feel like? So I did a little bit more research into what that is like and, honestly, it wasn't until I actually did like different strategies of you know going out and eating the foods that I wanted, actually allowing myself to have that, and then I felt, okay, I'm actually satisfied. And after that, instead of you know, completely binge eating for the rest of the day, I would think, okay, am I actually hungry? No, I'm not. So I'm going to have something light and I would try to kind of just like ease into that slowly and if you were hungry, you said I'm going to eat.

Speaker 1:

I'm going to eat. I need to eat. You know, this hasn't worked. I've spent so many years dieting and restricting and I'm still not at my goal weight, like I need a break. So for me it's really was. It was more of like I'm just going to have this break and then maybe I'll try again.

Speaker 2:

Right, and then I'm going to have a break from dieting, a break from dieting, and that's what helped you go. I'm going to stay here. I'm just going to sit with this discomfort and the discomfort of eating when I feel like I shouldn't be eating and the discomfort of feeling guilt. I'm just going to sit here because it's temporary. Yes, exactly. And the other thing you're saying is you said to yourself I'm, I know what dieting, I've tried the dieting thing, I know how it's led, I know, if I keep going on the dieting, where it's going to continue to lead me.

Speaker 2:

What do I have to lose by going down this pathway?

Speaker 1:

Was is that it 100% Like I, literally I have nothing to lose at this point. I've lost so many years saying no to things, you know. I've lost so many years sitting at home in my bedroom watching a show that made me feel like crap and I would just be eating Like it wasn't fun. I was so sick of not having fun and living my life and living a small life With a small body With a small body yeah, like it got me nowhere. You know like what that I got attention from boys. You know I actually don't care. That's not going to bring you happiness. Having more attention from someone praising you how you look, that's not going to make you happy.

Speaker 2:

I'm so glad that my starving myself pleases you. You know, were you scared of gaining weight.

Speaker 1:

Yes, I was Honestly like. I reminded myself I went through this cycle so much and I didn't actually lose any weight because, mind you, throughout this whole process I would take before photos, which ended up, you know, for my after photos, but I never got the after photo.

Speaker 1:

Let's see if all these before photos I would never all these before photos of me being like super bloated, Like I would always take them purposely when after a binge, because I was like this is the worst I'm going to look. My after photo is going to be epic because, like, I have this before bloated photo and then this after photo where I'm super slim. I never got there, so I kept all those photos.

Speaker 2:

But you did lose some weight when you were doing the restrictive phases. But was it just that you just never thought that was the end point?

Speaker 1:

I never I actually never thought that I was thin enough. You know, looking back, yes, I lost weight and I was slim, but in that time, in that moment, I thought no, I'm not good enough. Because you know, when you ask I can that cycle? You're constantly striving for more, you want to be thinner, you want to look better, and it's just like it's this toxic, toxic path that never really ends and it never gets you nowhere. Like and if you're listening, you've been there, you know you lose weight and you're like oh, actually, maybe just a little bit more, maybe just like slightly slimmer stomach, like my bum could be just a little bit perky, and you chase it, and chase it and it just gets you nowhere.

Speaker 2:

It's very relatable, hmm, and I think so many people go. Well, I did lose weight by going on a diet, but I think the thing is, if you didn't maintain that weight and you ended up gaining more weight than you originally started out, then actually that was the result of dieting. It wasn't the weight loss. That contrary, weight loss is not the result Nat, I know you've got some good stories. Yes, anything that you can share with us to help us all feel less alone.

Speaker 1:

Okay, so that's one story that I do want to share with you. I remember one time this was when I was at uni I had a long day. I was going to be good that day, but I was starving. I finished an assignment and I thought, you know, I deserve to eat something good. I deserve to eat what I'm really feeling. I'm going to go all out. So I ordered a pizza and I ordered, like this, chocolate fudge sundae with ice cream to go with it as well. It was from Domino's, if you know. You know, and I was so excited I got the message you know the your deliveries here.

Speaker 1:

I quickly ran out to grab it. I got it and then I realized I locked myself out of my apartment. It was like 11 PM, you know, all my friends were asleep, it was like a school night and I thought crap, I'm going to have to call a locksmith. And I was so, so embarrassed of the locksmith turning up and seeing me with a pizza and dessert that I threw it out and it broke me. I can't even explain the anger and the sadness that I felt in that moment. I thought this was going to make my day so good and now I have to let it go because I'm so embarrassed. Like what's he going to say?

Speaker 2:

Do you think the locksmith would judge you?

Speaker 1:

The locksmith, I thought he's going to think I'm crazy. Like why is this girl ordering a pizza and a dessert at 11 PM? Like how dare she? Yeah, how dare she eat, yeah, literally. So, yeah, that was like a. I thought that was a turning point for me and you know, I think I had a lot of points where I thought this is a turning point. This is where things are going to get better.

Speaker 1:

There was another time where I was walking to uni and I felt so disgusted in myself because I ate so much that day before, you know that really heavy feeling that you have and you just feel puffy and you just feel bloated. And I remember walking to uni and I was just like I can't do this, I just can't do this. And this was actually a day where we had to do, like, body measurements and that was so triggering for me. You know the skin folds, all that kind of stuff, and I kid you not, I broke down bawling my eyes out on a busy Burwood Highway. It was Burwood Highway. I remember exactly and I remember that moment telling myself this is the turning point.

Speaker 2:

This is the turning point. Was it in fact a turning point? And it?

Speaker 1:

wasn't.

Speaker 2:

It wasn't so there were multiple low points where you, just because dieting is so sinister in that it makes us think you know, no, actually let's try it again.

Speaker 1:

Yes, yeah, I had so many, I had so many and it was just like. You know, when you're good and you feel like you're really on track, so you have those low points, and then you're like, no, I'm gonna be good. And you wake up and you're good, you're perfect. You know, you have that yogurt and berries and oats, no honey, like you're killing it. You're on a strike and then something happens and you're like this would just make me feel so much better, like that chocolate, the Kit Kat, nutella bread, and you have it and you're like I am a failure and it's just like an ongoing cycle. And you know, if you've been doing it for years and years and years, it kind of starts to feel familiar and you're like you know, maybe this is what life is gonna be like, maybe this is what my life is, but it's not. It doesn't have to be like this.

Speaker 2:

Well, I am so impressed by you, by the huge transformation that I've seen in you even in the six months that you've been working with me. It's just been very, very cool to watch.

Speaker 1:

Thank you. It's honestly, it's so rewarding working with you and you know there's so many times where, like I, literally get shivers because to me, to think that you know we are changing people's lives and you know, hopefully forever and for the better. Like it honestly, like it brings it almost brings me to tears, like it's just that has tears in her eyes as she's saying this, by the way.

Speaker 1:

It's just yeah, and you know, that's where, like, a lot of the inspiration comes from for the content. Like, if you watch our content and you're like, wow, like I can relate, it's because we've been there, we get it, we get it.

Speaker 2:

Mm-hmm, nat, I'm so grateful for you sharing your story. Thank you for sharing with us and helping us realize that we can get help. It's never too late and you can be in the depths and the darkness of your disorder and get full recovery. Thank you for having me, Lindy.

Speaker 1:

Oh God, what a pleasure. Ha, ha, ha.

Speaker 2:

Everyone. I'm so glad that you listened to this episode. If you want more real chats people like yourself, if you want to share a story perhaps your story and how far you've come I would love to speak to you. Please reach out to helloatlindycoancom. That's helloatlindycoancom, and I would love to hear your story and hopefully have you on the podcast as well, helping other people realize that we are not alone and share some of your best tips with them. Thanks for listening and I'll see you next time.

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Eating Disorder Development and Progression
Overcoming an Eating Disorder Through Nutrition
Overcoming Binge Eating and Body Image