My relationship with food has been a lifelong rollercoaster, and likely always will be. But in the past year I've made massive progress mentally and emotionally, and that's largely thanks to Ottawa holistic nutritionist Brittany Gordon. Let me explain.
recalibrating after burnout
Last spring I reached out to Brittany (aka Healing Ginger) to ask for help rebuilding my relationship with food. Just a few months earlier I experienced burnout and my first panic attack, so I took a hard look at how I'd gotten to that point.
I overhauled my priorities and my workload. I said no to heaps of projects. And yet, I was surprised by how tired I still felt. I was hitting months-long plateaus in my strength training, which was frustrating since I'd decided I wanted to compete... but I didn't want to embarrass myself in front of lots of people. I knew my sleep habits and eating habits were still kinda crummy, and I'd heard other friends speak highly of Brittany's holistic approach to health.
So off I went to her cozy and welcoming practice inside Iron North Studio.
Brittany and I talked through literally everything.
Her onboarding process was incredibly detailed, with a lengthy intake form. They say honesty is the best policy so I laid it all out for her. After I answered all the questions, we talked through it together to ensure Brittany had a complete and accurate picture.
We covered everything from family medical history, to my past with disordered eating, body dysmorphia and orthorexia, how much I sleep per night, how many nights I'm out per week, how many hours I work per week at both of my jobs, and just generally what a typical day looks like for me. This is not someone who automatically hands the same nutrition plan to anyone who walk into her office, every single plan is 100% custom based on your lifestyle and your goals.
nutrition without a weight loss goal
So we talked about those goals. I told her straight up: I wasn’t interested in losing weight and didn't want to grant power to the numbers on a scale.
In my experience, anytime I've made weight loss my goal, I've spiralled back into disordered habits. A few years ago I lost 35 pounds and still wanted to lose more. In my head there was never an end point. And of course I put it all back on. Even at my lightest I was still obsessed with finding only the most flattering clothing that hid my "flaws" and I was terrified of wearing a swimsuit, let alone the bikinis I happily wear now. Clearly shrinking myself was not the answer.
I told Brittany I wanted to learn to eat in a way that would help me get strong, increase my energy, and let me do all the things I love without feeling so tired. I wanted to build a more balanced relationship with food where it was okay to enjoy a salad AND fries.
She was 100% on-board, and in all the months we worked together she never once brought weight into the conversation. She never made me feel like I needed to shrink myself to be "healthy". She explained all the other metrics she uses that she feels provide a much clearer and more complete picture than a number on a scale. I LOVE THIS WOMAN.
when your body thinks you're 72
Through numerous baseline tests, we learned I wasn’t providing my body with enough of what it needed to keep the lights on. Mentally I had turned a corner, but physically my body was still calling out for help. It wasn't getting the nutrition, hydration, and sleep it so desperately needed.
Here's what I learned:
- my body was so depleted that it was interpreting my exercise as stress
- I had the metabolism of a 72 year old woman (I'm 38)
- I was significantly dehydrated
- I wasn't consuming nearly enough calories per day, or the right calories
I learned that because I'd been under-fuelling for my level of activity AND because I wasn't getting enough rest, my body had begun interpreting all my exercise as stress. It was in a continual state of fight or flight and was going into survival mode. Talk about a wakeup call.
A realistic approach to food
My knee-jerk reaction was to say, "okay, I'm going to start cooking lots of meals and eating all the vegetables RIGHT NOW." To which Brittany gently but firmly replied: "Amy, you're busy and you don't cook. Let's find some realistic, sustainable solutions." GIRL. THANK YOU FOR THE REALITY CHECK.
Like I mentioned, all of Brittany's meal plans are 100% custom, designed for the unique needs, challenges, and lifestyle of each client. Since I'm short on time (and cooking skills) and pack a lot into my days, Britt created a whole binder of recipes that were simple, only included foods I like (no goat cheese or olives!), with enough fuel to keep me going. Plus every meal created leftovers so hubby and I could make the most of our (his) time in the kitchen.
She even took my Invisalign into account because it means I can't really snack throughout the day; she balanced that with larger meals with all the nutrients I needed.
recipe time: even gummy bears!
Although Brittany custom creates each client's recipes, she gave me the thumbs-up to share some of her tried-and-true crowd pleasers. Just click through for the full recipes, and I promise they're easy and delicious!
Brittany's Gingerbread Granola
Brittany's Real Fruit Gummies (yes you read that right)
food: a work in progress
I think I've finally grasped that my relationship with food is exactly that: a relationship. It's a dynamic thing that requires thought and effort to keep it healthy. For me at least. Have I lost weight? No. Did I want to? No.
But thanks to Brittany's guidance I'm happier, healthier, and consistently sleeping better than any other time in my life. I no longer have the metabolism of a 72 year old, my hydration levels are much, much better, and I'm not associating judgy feelings with certain foods.
Oh and btw, I crushed my very first powerlifting meet. I smashed through my plateaus and set personal records in all my lifts. Click here if you wanna see me lift 260 lbs.
If you've struggled with food and want to chat with someone who won't promote a fad diet or 10 different supplements, reach out to Brittany. She's a wealth of information and above all, she's REAL. You won't regret it.