📲 Instagram: @elsie_sieberg
🎙 Podcast: The Whole-Hearted Health Podcast
Hello, everybody. Welcome back to the Food Freedom Lab. I am super excited for our guest today. I have Elsie here sharing her story. And I wanted to make sure she came on to share her story because the first time I heard her story, chills. Chills to the point that I was like, I need to have her on here because I know that her story is one that is going to impact so many because she has so many different sides to it but now seeing her in recovery, oh it’s just, it’s just the inspiration that you need. So Elsie, thank you so much for coming on. I am so excited for you to share this today.
Thank you so much for having me. I think it’s been, yeah, long overdue.
Yes, yes. So, let’s just go ahead and dive right in. I’ll give you the mic and just start from the beginning, how everything started, and then kind of the depths of it, when you decided to change, what that looks like, and what you’re doing now?
Yeah, so little background. I am 24. I am originally from Minnesota. I live in Naples, Florida now. Absolutely love it. I’m a little sun worshiper, but I do have a lot of sides to my story. And I think the beginning, I guess that feels the most relevant is I was always an athlete. So I was always very into health and fitness. That was my hobby, which eventually has transformed into now I am a health and fitness coach. I’ve been coaching online for a little over two years now, which is amazing, and I love it. But throughout that, I had so many points where I was like, I feel like such an imposter because I preached this food freedom and this balance, and yet there were times where behind the scenes I was struggling so much.
And I think really it started back in post high school, early college, just with a lot of stressful things. I had a lot of kind of undealt with emotions, toxic relationships, things just going on in life that I did not have the knowledge or kind of capacity to know how to handle. So I turned to restricting my food and basically projecting all of that stress and overwhelm onto fixating on my body. So I got to a point where I was very underweight, I was over exercising, under eating, all the things. So really I was more on the kind of anorexic orthorexic spectrum. And it took probably I lost my cycle for five years, it took a long time.
And I tried many, many different things, but throughout probably the course of the last six years or so, I had worked so, so hard. I hired coaches, so I worked with like macro coaches online. I got even more, just dove into the research and you know, what was going on. I knew that there were things that I could do and I saw the stories. I saw people who used things like macros and things like lifting to get to heal, but there were pieces that I was missing along the way. So, worked with some amazing coaches, but there were times, I just still, it was a mindset piece that was really, really a struggle for me.
So, as I started to gain weight back, I gained muscle, became even more passionate about the the health side, the nutrition side. I loved all of it, but it also was still, there were points where I would just get into these cycles of, I couldn’t tell if it was the physical restriction or the mental restriction, but I would, even for years, I would either wake up at night and eat or just have these urges where I told myself I was allowing foods, I told myself that, no, I love my lifestyle, but I was still having episodes of overeating. And it started to really compound and show up again probably the last winter. So it was about maybe, I don’t know, eight, nine months ago, is when it started to kind of pick back up again. And it usually was correlating with times in life where I was really stressed, subconsciously even.
So I continued, I was working with a macro coach at the time, not because I didn’t know what I needed to do, but because I thought that accountability was maybe my issue. So I thought maybe if I just, you know, have outsourced this and it just continued to get worse and worse. And I was like, I cannot keep this up. This is not a way to live. It was hindering, obviously, you know, my body image. I knew it was affecting my health because I was just on this yo-yo cycle. And that’s when I think, I want to say it was early, earlier this year that I found your page. And I knew, I’ve known a lot about the psychological aspect of things. I knew there was that emotional component, but having all that knowledge didn’t know the ABC steps in order to kind of implement it and get better, to end the cycles.
I would have days where I’m like so excited, I thought, oh yeah, this is going to be great, I’m going to not do this anymore, and then it would happen again and again, and I was just like, what’s going on? So I think it was honestly early, I don’t know where I can even go from here. But I decided to kind of drop everything. What I had thought was the answer of tracking my macros more and being more strict and doing all these things. And I said, that’s not working. If it was already, if it was going to work, it would have worked already. I’m what, five plus years into this now. And so that’s when we started working together and it has been amazing. I was on the cusp. I knew that, like, I had all these random puzzle pieces, and I think having you interpret everything for me and just say, hey, Elsie, this is what you need to do, and piece those, like, things just started to click.
And it was absolutely insane. I think part of the success, or the reason for it, was giving up control. I wasn’t trying to control it anymore. I was like, you know what? I surrender, I give up, like not in a, I’m done, but in a, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to move past this season. I mean, learn from it so that I can not only, you know, feel better, break the cycle, but help others do the same, because I know I’ve saw it in so many, I helped so many of my clients over the last few years, you know, improve their relationships with food and end, you know, their binges or, you know, increase their quality of life around food and their bodies. I was like, I know that I need to walk the walk. So that’s a little bit about me in a long slash short version.
Oh, you’r story. I love it so much. Okay, I want to go in a little bit deeper in areas. But before we do that, can you tell me a little bit more about like how you’re living your lifestyle now and like what recovery in your life like looks like and feels like now?
Yeah. So truthfully, I don’t think we realize how much the way that we feel about ourselves in our I mean, I’ve always been the fit girl.
So even when I was in the throes of being sick, I was always the fit girl, the one that was in the gym, the one that everyone was asking for workout tips or nutrition advice. But I never had that like ultimate confidence in myself. And finding, having the peace, I think, mentally and emotionally to know that like, this is no longer ruling my life, but it’s an awesome part of my life has really shifted, I think, even just how I show up in every aspect of life. So I think at first, after walking through the program and really just like giving up the numbers, getting back in touch, I cannot tell you how crazy it was to basically relearn what it’s like to feel and acknowledge and understand my hunger cues and fullness cues and things like that, I thought I had a grasp on like what intuitive eating would look like, but I had restricted for so long and tracked my food for so long that I had no idea how to even go about that.
And so having that broken down, even in the most elementary way, changed dramatically how I looked at food. And so in the beginning of kind of that phase where I was just like done with the numbers, just slowly listening to my body, there were still moments where I could find myself, you know, zoning out or not listening. But it was like being reminded, okay, I am in control, food is not in control, and ultimately it was the allowance of everything. And then as time has gone on, I started to be able to get back to, okay, so yes, I can have whatever and, you know, no food is going to necessarily harm me. However, I’ve been able to get back to a place where I’m looking at food solely as what’s going to make me feel good. And I think that’s my favorite thing that you like had ever said to me, or ever like I heard on your page or on your podcast, it was just like, how do I want to feel after this?
And so now I’m able to, I have like a very just simple way of eating that I love because it makes me feel amazing. And I know that like, I don’t feel restricted, even in the slightest. And I don’t have the urge, like I know that if I ever feel the drive to eat more than quote unquote normal because I need that. Or it’s because I, you know, I worked out harder that day or it’s a natural response. And so I think being just more at peace with the ebbs and flows and also looking at food solely as what do I want to get out of this, is it in an, for my case, most of the time, it’s simply, I just want to feel good. And so I have a very easy time making decisions like that.
And nothing is off limits, but also I know what, you know, will serve me long-term. So it’s finding so much more of a peace with it, so much more of a balance that I never really thought. I honestly, I think having those moments when I think we were on our calls and I was just like, I literally forgot that it was possible to feel so good in your own body, in your own skin, because you weren’t stressing about food, or stressing about being smaller, or stressing about all these things that like literally just kill your happiness. Like I have just found so much more authentic joy. I know that sounds so cheesy, but like-
But you can feel it! Like you can feel it in your energy!
And I think that that was the missing piece for me. I had the knowledge, I had all this, and I was missing just like walking and genuinely walking it out. And finding that again, getting back in touch with my body, like our bodies are so cool and smart. And I always knew that. But I stopped trusting mine. I stopped listening a long time ago. So getting back to that, it was like, plugging me back in to like energy and I yeah it’s been amazing.
Elsie, I would love to know as the quote-unquote fit gal who was super into macros, I know a lot of people reach out to me and say you know I’ve been on the macro counting and the calorie counting for a while and I want to break away from that but I just can’t stop thinking about the numbers. What helped you detach from the numbers so that you were able to start looking at food as just like nourishment instead of X amount of calories?
So honestly, I had tracked for so long, and I knew I can, I didn’t need to be using the numbers because I knew I could have told you calculated it all out with just looking at it. Truthfully, it was a very, honestly, easy transition because I think I was just so done anyways that I was like, oh, you want me to cut this cord? Okay. Because it was such, it was a relief at that point in time. Like I said, I was willing to try anything. I was like, tell me what to do and I’ll do it. But I think don’t like, just like I said, going back to those elementary principles of, okay, what is my body telling me right now? Like where am I at?
I know a lot like a lot of what you talked about is the just like, you know, the the scale it’s a spectrum It’s your body’s gonna tell you what it needs and it’s almost always right and so getting back in touch with that helps kind of loosen the it lessens the pressure of Our bodies are not a math equation. It’s not always going to be the same. So if we try to plug ourselves into this math equation, it’s going to probably cause us, you know, issues. And I have a hard time, I guess, like talking bad on macros because I think it served its purpose. And I help people understand more about nutrition via macros as a temporary tool. And I think for me, I really overdid, like I let macros overstay their welcome.
And so getting back into, okay, applying that knowledge of what I knew before and what I’ve learned from building a balanced plate with the intuition, that’s where the magic happens. So I think if you’re relying on the numbers, ask yourself, like, okay, if this was working, and if it was supporting my relationship with food, it would have already, but it’s not. So be willing to experiment and get uncomfortable. Um, and honestly, I think after the first few days, I, I don’t, I didn’t feel the pull to the app that I thought I would when I had a clear guide outside of that. I think when people try to quit tracking on their own without a replacement strategy, it’s, it’s gets muddy. It feels very easy to be drawn back to that old habit of like a crutch almost.
And I think that happened to me. So having the guidance outside of that was amazing. And honestly, like even since then, there have been times as I did transition my way of eating, just with my history, I was like, I want to make sure I’m eating enough. So I would track here or there randomly just to give myself a guide months and months later. This wasn’t in any early stages because I wanted to rebuild that trust. But later on, it was absolutely not an issue. And I think because it was my perspective on it, that this isn’t necessarily like tried and true data. This isn’t concrete. No macro calculator is going to tell you more than what your body can tell you.
That makes sense. Yeah, and you can see how that has completely shifted with you and your statement before when you’re like, if I feel like I need a little bit more food, it’s probably because I do. And I know that that fear there when we’re just so fixed on the numbers comes from what is wrong with me instead of, wait a minute, maybe I just move more today or maybe my body just needs it. And I think that that shift for you is major. Did you ever find yourself when you were transitioning into the more fitness side of it, any like justification of maybe some disordered behaviors that kept you in the cycle for longer?
Yeah, I mean, I did. I justified it as health. I justified it as, no, I’m just really into it or no, I’m just trying this. But even when I was recovering from my eating disorder, I worked with a coach and I think I was using that almost as a like hey look I’m getting help with this. But it was really just a masked another way for me to still have control and not truly slow down, not truly get in touch with what my body needed, not truly eat more, still was very stubborn with it. And I think I did that along the way. Very often, it wasn’t until, I see this a lot too, with many women who are like, oh no, I couldn’t eat more than XYZ calories because that’s way too much. But we’re only thinking that because you see so many people maybe out in the industry eating, you know, they’re like, yeah, my maintenance is X, Y, Z calories that it’s really like, probably not. To answer your question, I think it’s just, there’s always going to be something we can, we can make excuses. I just don’t know if there’s, there’s not a good way to answer that. Cause I feel like a lot of what I did, I was justifying and I didn’t care.
I don’t know. I just didn’t care. I just, this is all fine.
Even if it’s not fair.
I relate to that so much and that’s why I was curious about that because I know that what kept me in the cycle for so long was that justification of like, oh, it’s no big deal. Like this isn’t that bad. I only did it one time or only do it once a week. And, you know, really just kind of in denial, but the excuse, a hundred percent. What about, I know in the beginning you mentioned losing your period. What did it take for you to get that back?
Yeah, so I believe it was the fall of my freshman year of college was like my last cycle. And it was a good five, if not five and a half years that I didn’t have it. And I knew that was not good. I knew. And I went to lots of, you know, I tried things. I went to different doctors. We won’t go down that rabbit hole. But it was basically me having to understand, okay, what’s the cause of this? And it was the stress, the restriction, the over-exercising. But it wasn’t until, honestly, I think the mental stress was a huge part for me. And obviously, I was working on it. I just, that was one thing I really justified, that I was, I even during my kind of issues with like, you know, emotional eating or binge eating, sometimes I would use that as an excuse to say like, oh, I just need to eat more.
And I would do it in such a disordered way. And randomly, sporadically with no control, saying like, oh, this is gonna, I know I need to eat more, but I wouldn’t do it consistently. Like I wasn’t willing to actually take that step. And so I stayed stuck in the cycle, but it wasn’t until I really worked on managing my emotional mental stress, and that looked like distancing myself from certain people, that looked like lifestyle as a whole. Actually, I didn’t get it back until I moved to Florida. I was in a whole different head space, and I think it was a really positive shift for me. This is something that I, moving was a huge, huge positive in my life. So it was something I wanted for a really long time. I wanted that freedom. I wanted the sun. So I think it was a combination of less stress, more food, and really it was letting go of some of the old things.
Like when I was in college and post, I was very into the high intensity circuit training. And I loved that training. I loved that but my body did not and I was very under recovered a lot of the time. So focusing just more on the kind of obviously holistic way of going about things but I think a lot of it was mental and it was where I had started the piece together, oh this is more of this is a mindset you know our bodies perceive our thoughts. So that stress, if you’re holding on to that, and whether it be from food, from a relationship, from your body image, if you’re just in that constant stress state, it’s probably not going to get better. We have to like really show our bodies that we’re safe, not just tell them or not just phone it in. I feel like for a lot of times, for a lot of years, I was pretending I was getting better, but I was still doing the same things. So…
Oh, that last line, I was pretending I was getting better, but still doing the same things. Oh my gosh, that is so relatable. One thing that I also know is super relatable that I want to go back on is that you mentioned when you went to that macro coach, you were like, I know what I need to do, I just need the accountability. Tell me what you learned from that experience.
Actually, I worked with three or four different coaches over the course of time and would still have just such a hard time with adherence. And I blamed it on, well, I used to restrict really bad and I think I just have a hard time mentally with tracking, yet continued to try to use tracking to get out of that, which is sounds so dumb when I say it back because I’m like, I know now that that wasn’t the answer and that I needed to try a different route. But yeah, I definitely think I realized eventually that I was telling myself that I was the problem. I was like, I just need to be better. I just need to focus on it more. But I couldn’t have, you know, gotten out of there doing the same exact things over and over and expecting a different result.
If you were to summarize the three most helpful things that got you to the place you are with food in your body now, what would you say?
The first thing, obviously, I would not have, I truthfully don’t think I would have gotten out at all had I not pursued guidance with you because I definitely needed you to break things open and break things apart and break it down for me. Because I, like I said, I had the pieces and I was so close, like I was on the brink, but I don’t think I would have gotten that next step and really like change things and trusting. So guidance, trusting the process. I know I’ve experienced this with my own clients where they they find out what they need to do, but they’re still scared. They’re still stuck in their own way because they’re like, oh no, I don’t think that’s not going to work for me. I’m like, okay, well you have this plan, all you have to do is execute.
And so being able to trust you and just say, yep, I’m trusting you, trusting my body, getting back into a place where I was like, stop trying to like force it, muscle it. That was my thing is I wanted to like white knuckle and like just do better. And actually it required me to trust and just like, let, let go, like chill out a little bit. Um, as weird as it sounds. And the last thing, uh, there’s so many, I honestly feel like for me, the mental emotional component was so huge. That was something that we worked through. And I was like, please help me understand this. Like, please help me understand why I’m still stuck and where this is coming from. So I think the third thing was being brutally honest and willing to like dig. And it’s gonna be uncomfortable.
Like digging in your own, like unresolved things and realizing that it’s probably, it’s not about the food. Like it’s not about food. That’s the number one thing you say is like food is not the issue. Food is the manifestation of something else that you’re not willing to work through. And so for me, doing that inner work was absolute game changer. And I had started it. I just needed help kind of fine tuning things. So those are all, those are all massive in getting me to where I am now.
Love it. For anybody that’s listening right now that are in the depths of it, feeling hopeless, but wanting to change, what would you say to them?
That was me six months ago. So I completely relate. And I would say, don’t wait any longer. I spent years and years stuck because I was unwilling to change my ways. I was unwilling to get out of my comfort zone and really there’s nothing beneficial about staying in a comfort zone that’s keeping you sick or unhappy and it took me way too long to realize that. So be willing to try, be willing to fall down. And honestly, there were still times when I was working with Ryann that I did mess up, that I did fall back, but I learned from it. I had a reason to continue pushing forward. And so just don’t be afraid to try. Literally, if you’re in it, if you’re like in the thick of it right now, rock bottom, what do you have to lose?
Clearly, it could not get worse. I was like, it will be whatever. You don’t necessarily need to be at rock bottom in order to make a change. But if you’re at that point, like literally ask yourself, like, could it even get worse? No. So you might as well give it a shot.
Right, right. Oh, Elsie, thank you so much. In honor of the Food Freedom Lab, what does food freedom mean to you?
Food freedom means being able to choose things that make me feel good and that support the life that I want. I would say it’s not heavy. No longer, like food does not feel heavy to me anymore. And having that off of me, like that burden lifted, totally will change your quality of life. I think that’s food freedom in a big, big picture.
So powerful. Thank you so much for sharing your story and being so vulnerable. Elsie, if people want to connect with you and chat with you more, where can they find you?
Yeah, thanks for having me. I’m on Instagram at Elsie underscore Seberg and you can also find me on Spotify and I believe Apple Podcasts at the Wholehearted Health Podcast.
Perfect, I’ll have those links below. Thank you so much again. It was so fun to have you.
Disclaimer: If you have or suspect that you have an eating disorder, please contact a qualified health care professional immediately. If you are located in the United States and are experiencing a medical or health emergency, please call 911 or call for appropriate emergency medical help.
Licensed Therapist, Certified Nutritionist, and Virtual Wellness Coach
Ryann is a licensed therapist and virtual wellness coach who has assisted individuals worldwide in establishing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies.
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