There is a ton of information about the benefits of exercise and weight loss. It is undeniable that having an active lifestyle and striving to consume ethically farmed nutrient dense food is a paramount step towards achieving a healthy lifestyle. I have however noticed that a lot of information about this topic is centred almost entirely around the physical benefits of being healthy. Very little information is shared about the mental and emotional impacts of undertaking a lifestyle transformation journey. More so the information that is shared tends to highlight only positives and rarely explores the complex feelings that come with undertaking such a drastic change. I have personally experienced a lot of benefits of overhauling my lifestyle. I am happier, I have more energy, my mind is clearer, I enjoy food more, I sleep better, I have less anxiety, I am stronger, I am so much more confident, etc. I cannot stress enough how great this journey has been overall. Even so, it has come with some unexpected hiccups and road blocks that I was completely unaware of. The issues that I have faced and continue to face as I evolve reveal to just how complicated the human experience is, and how little information is given about the emotional toll of any change. It also shows how quick we are to place life experiences into either good or bad categories, rather than accepting moral ambiguities. So even though becoming healthier is an objectively good thing to do, it can have significant negative impacts on your mental and emotional well being. Below details the five main emotional side effects I have or am currently experiencing whilst I endeavour to better myself.
When I was starting my health journey 2+ years ago, I decided to begin by changing my diet. Since I was 14, I adopted a high carb diet that saw me often go through extreme restriction followed by extreme binging. This decimated my metabolism. Aside from that, I was also increasingly anxious about my overall health and no longer wanted to take a backseat approach to my personal nutrition. I really wanted to change my life, and I wanted to do it in a sustainable way that was also healthy for my body and mind. In 2019, the Ketogenic Diet gained a lot of traction amongst the circles I was interacting with. This diet is a high fat low carb diet that switches your body from using glucose as your main fuel source to using fats which are converted to ketones for energy. With this switch, your body utilises a more stable supply of energy because once it uses up the fat you consume, it turns to using the fat that you have stored- hence enabling you to lose weight. To be frank, the major appeal of this diet was that it promised weight loss with minimal effort. This is the exact same strategy that all other quick fix programmes utilise. Though I was attracted to the idea of instant fat loss, I decided to dedicate the first month to research only. I did so because though I was drawn to the idea of easy weight loss, I was 1000% sure that this would not be the case. Even so, I was still eager to try this diet, but wanted to do so in a healthy way. To bolster my new food lifestyle, I read lots of articles and watched tons of videos analysing the current nutritional values globally, why the ketogenic diet works, how it works and what to expect along the way when embarking on this process. The information I got was key to me understanding how I could best navigate this diet, how to avoid the trappings of instant gratification and really reframed my understanding of food and its impact on my body and mind. This post therefore details how I approached the ketogenic diet, examines the pros and cons of being keto and gives some advice to those interested in embarking on a new diet or lifestyle approach.
It has been about 1.5 years since I managed to successfully drop about 17kgs and completely alter my relationship to food and my overall health and lifestyle. I started this journey because I felt I had to. I was deeply disgusted with my entire life at the time. I was sad, unmotivated, depressed, afraid, insecure and overweight. Post graduation, I filled my days with meaningless work and most of my nights with alcohol and/fast food. I was essentially numbing myself to life and at intervals having panic attacks about potentially getting cancer due to my unhealthy lifestyle. I did not recognise myself when I stood in front the mirror. I hated how heavy I felt when I moved and how quickly breathless I became when I attempted most physical activities. I did not like myself and I felt truly hopeless for the first time in my life. This post details the key stages marking my descent into this state and what finally prompted me to change it.
THE GENESIS OF SKIN RELATED ISSUES
Since the onset of puberty, I have had a pretty terrible relationship with my skin. I had somewhat severe acne from the ages of 11 to 17, and really objectively terrible advice on how to treat it. I remember getting into an argument when I was 12 with an older boy, and him telling me to ‘go get a facicure’ before I spoke to him. I was horrified. Someone else once viciously commented that I had a great body, and that the only thing that ‘spoilt it’ for me was my face. Jesu Kristo! I was shook! Every time I visited my aunts, or other relatives, the first thing they always commented on was the state of my skin. I appreciated all those who tried to help albeit unsuccessfully, but most just gawked at me with slight disgust. That period of time was also really jarring for me both emotionally and mentally. I was juggling a myriad of sudden and disruptive changes that had occurred seemingly simultaneously. At 12 years old, I lost my mother to breast cancer. At the same time, my body was blooming into womanhood, starting off with the swelling of my breasts. I had to try and develop a healthy relationship to the same body part that killed my mother. Despite my confusion about my enhanced femininity, my mind started to get excited or sometimes afraid of the prospect of eliciting male sexual attention. This was then topped off by the fact that though my body was budding into a voluptuous frame, my face was erupting with ‘gross’ and ‘impossible to manage’ acne. The dissonance was unreal. I could not tell if I was attractive, unattractive or a weird mix of both. I also could not tell if I cared about what I was at the time, because my mind was numb, dealing with the trauma of losing my mum. I did not know how to deal with any of it, and there was no one I could really turn to to help me. Mum would have helped me, but she was gone.
HOW I KNEW I HAD A PROBLEM
I have known for a long time that something was not quite right about how I navigated the world. When my mother passed away from losing the fight with breast cancer when I was 12, everyone told me that time heals all wounds. So I waited for time to heal me. Over the years it was also heavily implied that talking about mum was wrong and showing any signs of grief was a sign of mental regression. There was also a lot of emphasis placed on the idea that because I was the first born, I had to be strong- and strength meant stoicism. To everyone that knew me post mum’s death, I was very artistic, quite smart, highly assertive, but a bit atypical and somewhat aloof. High school masked my issues because there were clear structures that dictated everyone’s social conduct. For as long as I adhered to whatever was required of me, it did not matter that I spent most of my time in my mind trapped between the past and the future. It was never noticed that I never really participated in the present other than to tick the prescribed boxes. So I swayed between filling journals with painful poetry and haunted drawings, and resurfacing only to cram some formulas to vomit them onto exam sheets. Because I was eloquent and I passed all my exams, no one ever thought to check in on me. After all, I ticked the boxes. After high school, the structures became blurred and I found myself having to make very uncomfortable decisions about my future. Decisions I was not ready for. So I let my environment dictate my path and stuck to the high school formula of burying my head in my thoughts and resurfacing only to fulfil my social obligations. And this was the beginning of my unravelling.