Body Positivity Part 3: Lynsey Walker
“You know how you don’t have ‘normal girl legs’?”
This comment was said to me when I was 15 years old. It was not in reference to a disability, an injury or a scar that afflicted my legs (none of which I have). It was about the fact that I have thighs and that I didn’t (and for the matter still don’t) have the long, skinny legs that the person uttering this comment identified as “normal”.
I would love to tell you that I could pinpoint my body image struggles to this one comment, but this was just one small sentence that I filed away to use as ammo against myself. In truth, while the words did sting, they paled in comparison to the things I already believed about myself. I and my internal dialogue had developed a tumultuous relationship with each other over the years, and no passing comment could match my level of smack talk.
Now it would be unfair to say that all of this internal negativity was bad. I did use as fuel to push myself through two degrees in nutrition, but the devil sometimes isn’t in what you don’t know, it’s in what you do. I read anything and everything I could about health and nutrition. I had my list of “approved” foods (the ones that made the grade in my mythological nutrition checklist). I had my list of panic-inducing, diet-ruining, health-derailing “bad” foods that I tried my best to avoid. I worked out religiously. I tracked everything that passed through my lips. What I ate and drank consumed every second thought I had throughout the day and what might have outwardly looked healthy, was internally exhausting.
Eventually, I broke. After more than a decade of fighting my body, I just couldn’t do it anymore. Something had to change and that ‘something’ was how I thought about myself and food.
For over five years now, I’ve been pretty happy in my skin, I’d even go as far as to say confident, but changing the narrative after so many years didn’t just happen overnight. I had to go to counselling, lean on the support of my husband, and do the work to get me to where I am today.
Thankfully, my breakpoint happened before I developed an eating disorder, but I did suffer from a form of disordered eating known as Orthorexia, better defined as an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. While an obsession with healthy eating might not seem like that big of a deal, orthorexics may feel socially isolated, and lose their ability to eat intuitively; knowing when they are truly hungry or when they are truly full. This leaves them constantly teetering on the edge, and as many other diet followers encounter, when they fall they feel out of control, ashamed, and a deep sense of failure.
When I was struggling through this, the concept of ‘eating intuitively’ seemed absolutely crazy. Without rules guiding my day wouldn’t I just live off of cookies (for the record my favourite food)? The answer is no. And it wasn’t until I was able to loosen the reigns a bit that I fully understood this.
Was it my personality, the need for control, or low self-esteem that caused my eating to become disordered? Most likely a combination of the three, but there’s no denying the role that diet culture played on my early views of what it meant to be healthy. I used to believe that healthy (and thinness) lived in the extremes, filled with ‘rules’ about the types of food and how much of it was to be consumed on a daily basis. I didn’t have the capacity to trust that my body knew better about what it needed. Some days you would be hungrier than others, some days less so, it doesn’t make you a bad person.
Today, I’m so happy to see a shift in the world of nutrition and there are some amazing nutritionists out there opening the dialogue around intuitive eating and preaching that ‘healthy’ doesn’t have to just kale and kombucha… sometimes a cookie or a glass of wine is just what the doctor ordered.
For anyone who feels they are struggling with diet or consuming thoughts around food or body image, I couldn’t recommend more working with someone to help you get on the path to intuitive eating. If I look back to when I was younger, I thought negative self-talk was just part of who I was and that I would never be happy with how I looked. I’m so glad I saw the light. I still like to eat healthily and workout, they are the fuel that allows me to do all the other things I love in life now; not the things that hold me back and keep me missing out.
Note from Pranin Organic; More BOPO: Looking for more inspiring stories told by powerful women? You’ll love Vivienne’s Body Positivity story which is told from behind the camera lens, as a photographer.
Lynsey Walker is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) and holds an MSc. in Human Health & Nutritional Science from the University of Guelph. Known for her enthusiastic spirit, and persistent drive to always be learning, Lynsey has a dynamic resume in the natural product industry, holding various sales, marketing and product development roles, including one as the former Education Manager for Genuine Health.