101. A Binge Eating Recovery Story ft. Vicki Mainetti; @woahitsvickix3


Written By:


Ryann Nicole

Connect with Vicki

📲 Instagram: @woahitsvickix3

Episode Transcript


Hello, everybody, welcome back to the Food Freedom Lab. I am just so grateful today to have one of my OG clients on the podcast today to share her story, and I wanted to make sure that she came on and shared her story not only because her story just hit so much but she has a history with Weight Watchers and I know so many of you reach out to me about the numbers and the points and feeling like there’s just no way to break out of it so I knew that Vicky needed to come on and share her story. So Vicky, thank you so much for being here today and for sharing this with us.


Of course, I’m super excited to be here.


I am literally just gonna let it over to you. So from the beginning to like, when you remember everything starting, like when you remember like, just food changing, distress in your body, to where you are now, take us through it all.


Oh, bringing it way back, all right. The first time I think I distinctly remember noticing that my body was different or what I guess society would have considered flawed, I was as young as eight. My family had just moved from a different town. I had come from a neighborhood full of other kids that we were constantly running and active and rolling down the hill and riding bikes to a neighborhood where I think the median age is like 70 years old. There was nobody near me that I could play with. And obviously my food and habits didn’t change, just my being a kid, I guess, kind of changed. And I started to notice my body changing.

At the time, I was watching family members trying to constantly change their body. So that kind of just added to the fact that I was like, okay, clearly they think there’s something wrong. They’re always on and off something. They’re always doing something. They’re always on the TV doing Tybo or not eating dinner or eating a different meal than I’m eating. So I must have to do some, like I must be doing something wrong. And again, I was eight, so I didn’t make any changes or do anything, but I just became extremely cognizant of it at that early, early age. As I started to progress through middle school and high school, I continued to be very inactive and my weight just continued to go up.

As my weight went up, my confidence went down. And being at a very vulnerable age where your body’s already changing naturally for like non-weight reasons, it was a very difficult time. And you know, not going to get into the nitty gritty specifics, but this is when the family members that were constantly trying to change their body started having opinions on my body. And as anyone knows, when someone you love comments on your eating patterns, your habits, the way you look, tells you that if you continue to look the way you look, no one’s ever going to love you, no one’s ever going to want to be your friend, things like that get really difficult.

Junior year of high school in the spring, I had a few friends that were deciding to join the rowing team, and I had never done a sport in my life, and I was like, you know what, why not? I’m gonna try it. I wanna do something my friends are doing, why not? And I fell in love with rowing. So for that reason, obviously food did not change. I wasn’t micromanaging my food or thinking about food yet, but my exercise went up. I was drinking a lot more water, and naturally my body lost weight. But the individuals that were commenting on my body were now saying that I must have been binging and purging, if that’s why I was losing weight. Or I must be skipping lunch. She’s giving me lunch, she’s giving me lunch money, but how am I losing weight? I must be not eating.

So I went away to college in a pretty healthy place, but became the textbook definition of the freshman 15, but for me it was more like the freshman 35. Activity went completely out the window again because I was no longer on a sport, and having And having access to way more variety of foods, making my own food decisions, and having already a very unhealthy relationship with food, kind of opened up the floodgates. And as that year progressed and the wait came on and people started to notice and people decided to have comments about it. And my roommate and I, we both felt like there was something wrong with us. Neither of us had had boyfriends yet. Both were, you know, in slightly larger bodies and we just assumed that we don’t have boyfriends and we’re not happy because we’re in larger bodies. So at the time, one of my grandmother’s friends had been another Weight Watcher devotee.

So my grandmother got the like little points system booklet with the real old school one from her to give to me and I started counting points the next day. It was probably about two or three weeks of doing it for like two or three days and not eating real food. Like I remember eating a lot of cereal and then I would spend two days, I worked at Dairy Queen at the time, and I would spend two days just eating all the Dairy Queen I could consume. Didn’t notice this as an issue right off the bat just yet because I was like nope you know what I’m gonna make this diet work, I’m gonna lose this weight.

And then I so I was like up and down like I’d do it for a day, I would do whatever I wanted for a day. I would do it for a day I would do whatever I wanted for a day and then I was at work one day and it was really hot We didn’t have AC in the back of the Dairy Queen obviously and one of the employees comes in to help me and I’m like Oh my gosh, I’m so hot and she looked at me and she said it’s not hot Vicky. You’re just too fat and That was the day that everything changed for Weight Watchers and I was the Weight Watcher Queen from that day forward. And then when my roommate, my best friend, started in the fall, she’d seen that I’d lost a little bit of weight.

So she was like, well, I want to do that too. And so we had a room of just the two of us that year, and we just became the diet room. And we weighed ourselves constantly. I didn’t really see it as an issue because I just thought it was so amazing that my body was changing. And the second my body started changing, everyone started praising me. And that just fueled the fire. So the counting of the points became more obsessive. I felt like I was doing it balanced because I was in college and like, could only control so much. But what I should have seen as the turning point back then was one of our friends came to visit us. She was like a suite mate that we were really close with her freshman year. And then she transferred to a different college.

And she came all the way from Illinois to visit us, and she wanted to cook us dinner. She had the pasta and the bread, I think that’s what it was, and I didn’t know how many points were in my plate. And I remember looking at my plate and getting really grumpy, and then I remember everyone questioning me as to why I was grumpy, and I didn’t want anyone to know that it was because I had no idea how many weight watcher points were in my dinner. And I just broke down crying and ran away. And the friend that had come to visit, she was like, Vicky, I’m worried about you. And I remember at the time being like, she just doesn’t want me to change. She’s jealous, like all these things and just kept on trucking on with my disordered habits. Over the course of that school year, I’d lost about 80 pounds. So at this point, I was at the smallest I’ve ever been in my entire life.

So obsessed with the scale that I couldn’t even get anyone to comprehend. Like every day I wanted it to go down at least 0.1. My body was like shriveling away to nothingness, but I still just felt like it wasn’t small enough. It wasn’t small enough. It wasn’t small enough. It didn’t matter what I did, what I changed, what I ate, what I wore, how many compliments I got. It still wasn’t enough. And now that I look back, that’s how I know that my body didn’t matter. I wasn’t going to be happy no matter what I did. Continued to count points through college. In my junior year I met my now husband, boyfriend at the time, and I remember finding the beginnings of dating and being the diet girl being very hard to navigate. So that was when I kind of started finding myself eating more and putting on weight, obviously, because my body needed more fuel.

And that was like kind of when the yo-yo kind of started because I wasn’t restricting as much. I just remember just the obsession, like I was happy when I got sick because I couldn’t eat food because I would lose weight, like really awful things like that. And I stayed with him, obviously, well we’re married now, so I stayed with him obviously all through college. And I came home the summer of junior year of college and I was still obsessively counting points. But at this point I didn’t need to be. And so I came home one summer and I was working at Dairy Queen. My husband and I worked at Dairy Queen every summer. And we worked a night shift and we got out at 11 and I went to go meet up with two friends at like a local diner that was 24 hours. And they were getting food. And I was like, well, I’m just not going to eat. And they were like, well, are you hungry?

And I was like, well, yeah, but it’s 11 p.m. I can’t eat at 11 p.m. And I’m out of points. And they were like, Vicki, just eat. And I was like, okay. And instead of like getting a French fry, which is probably what I was hungry for, I got like a whole meal and devoured it like I hadn’t eaten. And I remember feeling so filled with guilt that I went home. I remember opening up my pantry, turning the light on. It was like the downstairs section to our basement, sitting on the stairs, closing the door, and just eating. And that was my first binge that I distinctly remember. And I know a lot of people often ask, like, how do you know it was binge eating and not overeating? It was the hiding. It was the compulsiveness.

It was like, I felt like I blacked out. And then when I would come out of the blackout, I’m like, where all these wrappers come from? And then I had to bury all of them. And so I found myself doing that almost every night because I wasn’t eating enough during the day. I was working until midnight. So of course I’m hungry again for probably another meal because it’s like a whole nother day at that point. And I would just go home every night and eat all the snacks in the pantry, hide all the wrappers into the garbage and rinse and repeat. At the time I like knew it wasn’t right, but I didn’t know what it was. So I kind of just let the cycle continue. I would count the points, restrict the food, eat the pantry and it would just continue. Once I graduated college, I was still very much in the binge restrict cycle.

And so I started my full-time job teaching. It is not an easy career. I love it with all my heart, but it’s not easy. So that was when the binging and the restricting were still happening, but now I’m like, have no coping skills and I’m just eating my feelings too. So it was just diet, diet, diet, three days in a row, and then binge, binge, binge, three days in a row. And then it just went like that. So naturally I put on weight because I was binging a lot, and I didn’t blame it on that, I blamed it on the donuts that my principal would bring in literally once every three months or the bagels in the staff room for teacher appreciation that happened once a year and these little things that are technically things I should have been celebrating and enjoying and weren’t the cause of my weight gain, but, you know, I couldn’t see that it was the binging at the time.

So that cycle of a roller coaster just kind of continued for probably another three or four years, three years. And then in 2018, my husband and I got married and he was actually deployed through most of the wedding process because he is a Marine. So I was dealing with the love of my life being in a different country. So my first and second year of teaching plus a deployment and all of that at once was just not great. So that really sucked and took a toll on me and I found that I was traveling a lot to go see him and couldn’t control myself when I would travel. So then the binge restrict, I started to link to traveling. Like traveling was an escape. If I was on vacation, I could eat whatever I wanted because I don’t know how many points are in that cheeseburger. I’m not even gonna try.

So in these these years of my like my early years of my career is where I really remember the all or nothing thinking really coming into play. I was very aware of my binges and almost like took them as an out. Like they were they were an opportunity to not have to think for a moment and I almost was like treating them like they were a good thing for a little while there. And so vacations became planned binges and weekends with my friends became planned binges. And I never used like cheat meal terminology or anything like that but essentially it was like cheat days all the time whenever I felt like I couldn’t control. And it was just such an interesting means of thinking. And I distinctly remember going out to eat with a friend and I was staying at her house and we went to Hibachi and anyone who goes to Hibachi knows how large the servings are.

And we came home with like, you know, a huge leftover container. And it was 10pm and I’m like sitting in her living room watching TV with her and I’m like, I’m gonna go get my leftovers. And she was like, Oh, are you hungry? And I was like, no. And she’s like, what do you mean no? And I was like, I’m stuffed. And she’s like, then why are you gonna go get your leftovers? And this was the friend that did Weight Watchers with me. And I was like, well, because tomorrow we count points again. I have to get that food out of the house. Like I can’t eat it tomorrow. I don’t know how many points are in that meal. I’ve got to eat it tonight. In that moment was when I realized like she thought about it so much differently than I did. And I was like, well, this can’t, like, I know this isn’t right, the way I’m thinking about food, but it just makes sense right now.

And I don’t want to have to worry about anything else. Weight was up and down, up and down, up and down, up and down. So weight was up after the ring was put on my finger. So wedding was coming around. So obviously the weight had to go back down in my eyes because that’s what society wants, you to be skinny on your wedding day. At the time I had decided that doing Weight Watchers on my own wasn’t working, so I was going to join Weight Watchers for real. So I joined, I started going to meetings. I went to meetings every week and got weighed every week, but at the time was weighing myself every day. And this was when probably about two months into starting Weight Watcher meetings was when I decided to start moving my body. I started with, I don’t know if anybody knows, Kayla Itzinase’s bikini body program.

So I was doing that three days a week, going to the gym three days a week, and strictly, strictly counting points. And at this point I thought things were so great because I was going to meetings and I had this layer of accountability and I was gonna do it healthy this time around. And the opposite happened. The binges continued. They were less frequent because I had this other means of accountability, I called it at the time. But the binges became when I was at social events or when I would go visit Josh or like moments that I just mentally, I couldn’t figure out how to control. So I just let all control go. I started seeing my months as a black and white calendar. Like it was like this weekend’s a good weekend, this weekend’s a bad weekend, this weekend’s a good weekend, this weekend’s a bad weekend. And I was just choosing to ignore the fact that I literally couldn’t go to a wedding without freaking out.

And my brain was just, food was just all I thought about. What am I gonna eat next? Am I gonna be able to control my next meal? Is someone gonna try to feed me something that I don’t know what’s in it for my next meal? Am I going somewhere this day, like constant? So then the year between getting the ring and getting married, obviously things got crazy. My husband lived in North Carolina and I had to either choose to be long distance from my husband or move to be with him. I made the decision about halfway through the year to move. So now I had to finish out the school year as a normal teacher, apply to new teaching jobs in a completely different state that I didn’t have access to, buy a house from remote, and clothes on a house from remote, and plan a wedding all at the same time.

So I found at that time that like controlling food was really hard because my mental capacity was just full of so many other things. And I just remember at the time wanting so badly to just like eat like a normal person and to not have to count points because I was like, I don’t have time for this right now, but I know I have to do it because it’s what works for me and it’s what keeps my body the way that it needs to be and it keeps me healthy. I just remember that time in my life being so stressful because trying to control your body amongst everything else going on, it was just too much. So naturally, I couldn’t do it. So I put on a little bit of weight for my wedding. So I got married, moved to North Carolina, spent the summer with my husband, and then I started a new teaching job down there. I wasn’t really counting points at the time, but I, there was, because I wasn’t counting points, there was no thoughts about my health either. It was, it was all or nothing.

So I wasn’t at the gym. I wasn’t moving my body. I was barely even walking. I was eating like chocolate as a main food group and drinking zero water. So once the school year started as a Weight Watcher devotee, I always saw the beginning of the school year as like a new January for me. Like I could start the points up again, and I had routine again, and so I dove right back into points and the bikini body program. And lasted about a week before I fell flat on my face. And I was like, why is this so hard? I’m so good at this. Weight loss is my thing. Like, why can’t I do it? And I spent another year and a half yo-yoing because I’d count points for five days, and then I would be like, ugh, I’m burnt out, and then I would count points for five days, and I would binge, and it was just, it was just a wreck. Two years after I got married, I was spinning my wheels. I was like, I don’t know what to do at this point.

I need to lose weight. I’ve put on a lot of weight. I’m being, I have a lot of really unhealthy habits but Weight Watchers doesn’t seem to be working. So what do I do now? And that is when I joined Beachbody. So one thing that I will compliment Weight Watchers on and that is an air quotes for the listeners is that Weight Watchers doesn’t try to make you restrict any food groups. Realistically you’re restricting your fats a lot, but it doesn’t tell you carbs are the enemy, it doesn’t tell you proteins the enemy, like I did eat all the things. And so then when I started found myself doing the container system through Beachbody, anyone who might be familiar with the container system, you are stuffing your food in these tiny color-coded portion containers and you get a certain amount of day. Everything had to be measured.

So coming from Weight Watchers where fruit and vegetables were free, whatever the heck that means, I now had to restrict fruits and vegetables because I could only have four a day. And that was when the carb fear started to come in. And I’ve never been afraid of carbs before in my life, but the carb container I’m pretty sure on the portion control, uh, portion fix program is like a half a cup and you get two of them a day and that’s it. One slice of bread is one yellow. So if you eat two pieces of bread with your breakfast like I do every day now, you’re done. There’s no more carbs for the day. And was loving containers for a little bit because the numbers were gone, or so I thought. But I was then counting containers and putting everything into a container and like chopping up my steak to stuff it in a container and then pour it back out on my plate. And then I decided to try their other program, which is called 2B Mindset, and it was created by a dietician.

So I was like, well, obviously it’s created by a dietitian, this is going to be perfect. 2B Mindset is better in that it’s leans a little more towards intuitive eating, but you’re still not eating intuitively by any means. And now that I’m out of that world, I get very frustrated when I hear Beachbody coaches selling 2B Mindset as an intuitive eating program. Because I’m like, no, it’s not, you’re dividing your plate into certain portions, and you’re only allowed fruit a certain amount of times a day, and you’re not allowed to eat carbs with dinner. So again, the carb fear just continued to grow. And I found myself not wanting to ever eat carbs because Alana Molstein, the creator of the program, was, is very carb phobic. I was just taking in so much, so much from Beachbody, so many videos from her, so many team calls, telling me that like, if I just worked a little harder, if I just restricted a little bit more, like my body would change and it would follow and I would get the results and then everyone would join me and things would be great. And I did have some people join me, but it was all a facade.

Like, my before and afters were super fake. Sometimes they were pictures from literally before I lost weight on Weight Watchers and then like what I looked like now. Like, anything that I could do to make it seem like I was getting results. But in the meantime, I was just spinning my wheels. I would go up, I would lose 10 pounds, go up 10 pounds, lose 10 pounds, go up 10 pounds, and I just didn’t understand what was going on and in the means of it I was now wishing I could go back to Weight Watchers because it worked and I was just mentally struggling and then December of 2020 so I did that through a pandemic and I was one of those people that was like my body is gonna look amazing when I come out of the pandemic well plot twist that didn’t happen because I was binging and restricting so much and at the time, I was so stressed with school constantly.

And so those school years, while I was doing the sometimes Weight Watchers, sometimes Beachbody, I’m a coach, all that dance, the gas station binges started. And there was a gas station a good like five miles from my school. Every day, I would pull into the gas station. I would walk in there and get whatever I felt like I wanted. I would eat it all in my car on my way home. And then I would hide all the wrappers in the garbage. Now, part of this time my husband was deployed so there was literally nobody checking the garbage but I was still hiding them because it was like if I couldn’t see them it’s like it didn’t happen. So those were happening so frequently that the weight was just coming on so quickly because I was binging so much and I just remember having so many conversations with my husband being like I just I don’t understand I why can’t I figure it out I was so good at this weight loss is what I’m good at like I don’t understand why I can’t figure it out. So December of 2020 rolls around and we had, my husband and I had a close couple friend that one of the girls had just gone to visit her friend in Chicago and her friend had a Peloton.

She’s like, Vicky, oh my god, I’m gonna get a Peloton. Like it is the most amazing thing in the entire world, like you should get one too. And at the time I was like very actively beach body coaching. We didn’t have money laying around for me to now get a Peloton. And I couldn’t stop thinking about the Peloton bike. Like I was like, when I’m done with Beachbody in like two years, then we’ll get a Peloton. And I just couldn’t stop thinking about the Peloton. So eventually my husband and I sat down and he was like, if you step away from Beachbody, because I can see that you’re not happy with Beachbody. And I was like, well, how do you know that I’m not happy? And he’s like, you’re anxious all the time. You’re, you know, telling me that you’re binge, at this point I was aware that I was binging, and then I knew I had an eating disorder and that it was an issue, but I thought beach body was going to be the way I was going to heal my binge eating disorder.

And he’s like, you’re still binging, Vic. He’s like, you’re still binging. If you want a Peloton bike, he’s like, we can do that. He’s like, but we need to, something’s got to give. So I don’t know why I was so obsessed with that Peloton bike, but we ordered a Peloton bike that night, and I canceled my coach account a couple days later. Once I started doing the Peloton workouts, I just absolutely fell in love. There was just something so positive about the way the instructors handled things and had conversations about stuff. And it was just refreshing to do a workout and not be told, don’t have any donuts. And they would talk about like donuts and stuff like that. And it was so refreshing to hear like a different perspective. So now I’m no longer Beachbody and I’m still not doing Weight Watchers again. So now I’m like, well, now what do I do?

So I joined a dietician in this like group coaching thing, similar to your group coaching, but she was a dietician, but she is a calorie counting focused dietician. So then I was going to start calorie counting. Calories felt great for a while because I was able to eat more than I could on Weight Watchers and then the binges continued. And so the year that we lived in New Jersey, I was teaching virtually for North Carolina. So I was teaching North Carolina students from a New Jersey home. And at that time, at that point, I had completely faded Beachbody out. I was exclusively doing Peloton workouts and riding my bike and was, you know, still doing the dance with food. And then I rejoined Weight Watchers because that’s what works for me. So we were back to the app, back to the points, back to what I knew best, but still found myself hungry all the time and I didn’t understand why.

And apparently 21-year-old me was really good at fighting back the hunger and 28-year-old me, 29-year-old me, just wasn’t. So I just was burnt out and the binges were just constant and I just was so, I was crying all the time, I was frustrated all the time. It was like two days of being good and then two days of feeling lost and I was just all over the place. So July of 2021 comes around and I had really only joined Weight Watchers like in the beginning of June. We had just started paying for Weight Watchers again. And at the time, I don’t know how this happened, but my feed started, my Instagram feed, I like to believe it’s fate from the universe, I don’t know, but started like slowly showing me like anti-diet stuff and I don’t know if it was because I was consuming less beach body content that like more of that was able to kind of pick through and so I found myself counting points but like sharing a lot of like posts that were like anti-diet like I remember sharing one from Colleen Christensen that was like this is a hamburger on a bun and this was a handheld salad with like the tomatoes and so like anti-diet was like intriguing to me at the time, and so I was like, I’m gonna do Weight Watchers from an anti-diet perspective.

So then I started like trying to act like I was gonna bring in more like whole foods, and if I wanted to go somewhere, I was gonna let myself go somewhere, but with points, I just couldn’t do that. I was incapable of doing that. So that was the month of June, so then when July rolled around, I hadn’t really been doing that for that long, but I was just consuming more and more anti-diet content. And that was when one of your pictures came up on my Instagram. And I remember like looking at your profile and being like, oh, this girl like seems cool. Like, I feel like I could like connect with her. And then I was like, yeah, but like, she’s got a program I can’t pay for and your girl is not gonna stop dieting because I’m gonna gain weight. And I just kind of like X out of it.

And then two days later, I was on TikTok, just mindlessly scrolling. And one of your TikToks came up.


Oh, I’m everywhere.


Literally, and it was the one that was like, what happened to me once I broke free from binge eating? And I, like, this is gonna sound really cheesy, but like, I watched your TikTok, I think three or four times, saved it on my phone, sent it to my husband, sent it to my mother-in-law, almost started crying and was like, this is what I want.


You’ve never told me this.


And I don’t know, at that time I was like, I’m gonna book a discovery call, maybe this is a sign that this girl keeps coming up on my feed, I don’t know. And so then you and I talked, and I started my recovery journey the next day, and I’ve been officially in recovery now for a year. Haven’t tracked a point in a year, and it’s been amazing. Haven’t tracked a calorie in a year, haven’t stuffed anything in a colored container in a year. And it’s been an interesting year. I’ve had personally a lot going on this year so it made recovery very interesting but I think it all was the right time. And with all of the stress that I felt this year, similar to like when I was doing the moving, wedding planning, house buying thing, like I didn’t have the capacity to freak out about food.

Like at this point I was in recovery so that helped but I found myself in the kind of like honeymoon phase for too long. Like I started recovery and didn’t have a honeymoon phase right away and was like the queen of like listening to my satiety cues and like being like really observant on my hunger and fullness and like was so proud of myself. And then my focus was just not there anymore. And I went into my honeymoon phase kind of delayed. And I honestly, I’m very thankful for that honeymoon phase because I think if I didn’t have it, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today.

And I think anyone who goes into recovery should know that like, you’re gonna have that phase. It might not come right away. It might come two months later, but it’s gonna come. It was just so nice to be able to go to the grocery store and have whatever I wanted in the house again. And I didn’t find myself binging, but there was no gentle nutrition at all at the time. It was just, I was just eating to live really because I couldn’t focus on anything else. So by the time I moved to Connecticut, I was like feeling kind of, kind of yuck and not from a, I wish I could change my body perspective.

Cause again, I was in recovery, but from just a, all right, I’m treating my body like a trash can kind of perspective and decided that now that I was no longer in a toxic job situation and had the mental capacity to focus on my recovery again, that I was going to dive back in. And that was back in February. So I’ve been very keenly focused on mindfulness and my recovery and listening to hunger and fullness. And if I’m eating dessert, listening for a satiety cue, even if it means throwing the ice cream cone away halfway. And I’m now in a place now, a year in, where food is easy. Now it feels like. Like there are some days when I’m like, ooh, I should put a little nutrition in. But it’s just not a big deal. It’s, I’m going to go get myself some veg. Like it’s not, you messed up today, it’s a bad day, you’re done. That’s been incredible, and so that’s kind of where I’m at now. Since working with you, obviously. I work with you twice a year almost.


I so appreciate everything that you say because there is so much of it that I know that I relate to, and I know that when you’re in it, right, it feels like I’m the only one who does this. But then when you talk about the hiding of the rappers, and the gas station binges and the feeling like I’m only in control during this and then not during this and then the repeated, this is the only thing that works for me and being like if it worked, wouldn’t it have worked?

And all of the different like rationalizations of it can’t be what I’m doing with food, it has to be the donuts, it has to be the vacations, it has to be the whatever. So much of that I relate to. I would love to know, how long has it been since you’ve binged?


Last August, I think.


And do you ever still get the urge?


Sometimes, but not as often as when I first started recovery. And I feel like now it’s less of like, oh my gosh, let’s go binge now. And more of like a, I don’t know if it’s been a brain shift for me, but I can almost interpret the cues as like, feed me now. And it was like, I need donuts. You know? And I feel like in the past I used to plan binges and it was like my dopamine spike.

Like I would be driving home from school, like excited to go home and binge. And like, that’s kind of when I knew that there was an issue. And I haven’t had that feeling where like, oh, if I just go binge right now, it’s gonna make me feel better. But I do get like the moments where it’s like, my brain’s like, we wanna eat a lot of food right now, but I feel like I can now interpret it as like, okay, I haven’t eaten in X amount of hours, my body needs fuel, and I just go and make myself a snack or whatever it is. But the traditional urge is not really anymore, no.


I think that’s so important to hear because I know in the beginning, it can feel like those are never gonna go away. And it’s very reassuring to hear that they do. When you say food is easy, you just got back from an epic vacation and you had experiences there where you were able to enjoy your time there and enjoy this experience with your husband where food wasn’t the whole focus. Tell me about that.


So my husband and I got married in 2018, but as I said in my very long-winded story, he was deployed pretty shortly after, so we were never able to take a honeymoon. And he being military, was just away all the time. We were apart all the time. We’ve never taken a vacation together before. So I was like pretty persistent that I was going to get my honeymoon. I didn’t know when it was going to happen, where it was gonna be too, but I was gonna get it. And so last year we finally booked a 10 day European vacation with a layover in Finland and seven days in Greece. Just got back from that vacation on Sunday. And I was a little bit nervous about having that feeling that like, oh my God, I can’t get this food again and feeling like I would have to eat it.

And so I went into it telling myself, like I am going to enjoy the things, but I’m also going to treat my body well. Which is not, never an interpretation that I would have had on a vacation. And it wasn’t from a, I want to come back 10 pounds lighter perspective. It was a, I want to be able to go on that hike. I want to wake up in the morning and want to go on that excursion to Santorini and not be like in a food coma and a hangover coma and all of those things. So the trip started for us in Finland and I was insistent upon, we were only in Finland for like 24 hours, insistent upon getting something local to Finland. So we found this like adorable little restaurant and like one of the things that I told myself that I was going to do being a person in recovery on a honeymoon was I was going to eat the things I can’t eat over here and I was going to thoroughly enjoy them.

So that dinner we had reindeer, bear, and my husband and I shared that. And I can say what one thing that’s beautiful about recovery and vacationing that I’ve found in the last week is that like as an intuitive eater, like in a mindful eater, like you just, I just appreciate food and flavor so much more. And there’s just nothing better than like savoring the taste of something you’ll probably never get to eat again in your mouth. And so it was just so cool to like mindfully eat reindeer. Like I’m never gonna eat reindeer again. We were, we were um right off the bat trying some interesting things but I don’t know it just it didn’t phase me.

So when we got into Greece and Greece obviously could have very quickly become a trigger because we were at an all-inclusive resort. So at an all-inclusive resort the food and the drinks are flowing all day long and I just felt like it was so cool. I found myself like naturally filling like half my plate with vegetables and it wasn’t because I felt like I needed to it was because they were just so fresh and delicious and you could just please just bury me in tzatziki. It was so good. I swear by the time I left, I was 99.9% feta cheese. That is so good.


Oh, that sounds so good.


But the amount of like Greek salads that I had, and like that is such a specific delicacy to Greece. Like, what I can tell you right now that Weight Watcher Vicky wouldn’t have touched a Greek salad because it wasn’t time to be healthy. Maybe I would have picked the feta out of it, but I would not, you wouldn’t have seen me in a vegetable, you just wouldn’t have. And when I was in the height of my eating disorder, my friends and I did a 25th birthday trip to Cancun at an all-inclusive resort, and I just remember feeling sluggish and sick that entire trip, because I like started my day with donuts, and ended my day with donuts, and just ate and drank whatever I wanted, and there was just no, because I couldn’t count points, so throw all the caution to the wind, and this trip just didn’t feel like that. So I feel like a lot of my meals incorporated gentle nutrition without really even trying just because I wanted to eat a vegetable because I know I feel better when I eat a vegetable and some meals I didn’t eat a vegetable but that’s just kind of how it happened.

I think recovery for me too has developed a very interesting relationship with alcohol. Like I’ve never been a big drinker but like in the past I feel like before I started recovery like I would like drink a lot with my friends and I would just accept that the next day was just destroyed and there was no way to like really get around that. And it was like few and far between. It’s not like it was like worrisome, but I feel like I learned a lot about alcohol too in recovery and like how to intuitively drink alcohol and that like it’s okay to like, you know, feel a little good with it, but not have to wake up and be dead. I don’t know, like it was a very healthy vacation, but not because we chose for it to be like just naturally like we ate things that made us feel good we moved our bodies in a way that made us feel good and we just experienced the heck out of everything and if I could go back I wouldn’t change a thing and now I look back on it and I was supposed to have my honeymoon four years late because I was supposed to be on my honeymoon and I’m like a strong believer in that and the last night we were there, I found myself making my like last dinner plate at the buffet. And this was the thing that I messaged you about.

But the buffet, I didn’t change all that much throughout the week. So like by the end of the week, I found myself getting a little burnt out on it. But they had just took the pizza out of like the brick oven. So I was like, all right, I want to get a piece of pizza because it just came out and it’s hot because the pizza like just kind of sits out all day most of the time. So it’s like cold, not so great. And as I like walked the perimeter, they had what I thought was a stuffed pepper, but it turned out being a stuffed tomato. So I had a piece of chicken, a slice of pizza and a stuffed tomato on my plate. And I ended up eating the stuffed tomato and was like drooling, it was so good. I was like, this tomato is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever had in my life.

And my husband was like, I’m gonna go get seconds. Do you want me to get you anything? I was like, get me another one of those tomatoes. And I’m like plowing my way through the second tomato. And he goes, Vic, you haven’t even touched your pizza. And I was like, oh my God, I haven’t. And like, I did end up eating the pizza, but it was, I, so he went to go get a drink and he came back and I had tears in my eyes and he’s like, why are you crying? And I was like, I’m just so damn proud of myself. Like, I’m really overwhelmed with pride right now. Like the fact that everything on my plate felt equal. Like it wasn’t, there was nothing, no thought process went into the fact that the pizza and the chicken hadn’t been touched yet.

Like it was like the tomato and the pizza were equivalent, you know? Like they were just food on my plate that we’re gonna get eaten and it was that was like a like a was it hit me like a ton of bricks moment and so I guess that’s what I mean when I mean food is easy and that’s just I just eat to feel my body now and I don’t overthink it and


Yeah bills. I don’t even think that you realize you said this but this just shows how far you’ve come in your recovery you said You said, throughout the vacation, I wasn’t phased by food, instead of saying I was in control of food. And that’s the goal right there, where it’s just like, everything is equal. And you were just unfazed, because it’s not about the food. Oh, it just makes me so happy to hear. So for anybody that is listening right now, that is sucked into the numbers, the counting, the calories, and truly feel like this is the only thing that works for them and feel so scared to let go of the numbers in fear of losing control. What do you have to say to them?


The short and sweet version, stop counting right now. The not short and sweet version, I feel like I’ve been advocating a lot for this on social media lately because I do have a few friends in my life that are still very entrenched in diet culture and still very much think that it’s what works for them and I mean everybody do you but if you’re thinking about food more than half of your day it’s not working like food is supposed to enhance your day not be everything that you think about and when I was a counter, I would be eating, thinking about what was going to go in my mouth next. And everything was a number. Food wasn’t food. It was, you know, when I was doing containers, it was a colored container. When I was doing Weight Watchers, it was a point value.

And I just, I couldn’t see anything for its value. Like yes, food is enjoyment. Food is social fuel. It’s emotional fuel. It’s physical fuel. But I couldn’t see any of that. All I could see was numbers. And I eat some things now that are like incredibly healthy that I don’t eat them because they’re healthy. I eat them because I like them, but wouldn’t have touched them with a 10 foot pole when on Weight Watchers, just because I need to fill my points with other things. Or, you know, like I’d find myself eating low point candy instead of eating an avocado when I really probably my body needed an avocado, but it was like, I’m gonna, I don’t get candy. So I need to use my points on candy. So what I would say is don’t be afraid to trust your body.

And I can say myself, I am a person in recovery whose body maybe didn’t necessarily change in the way I would have liked it to with recovery, but I don’t care. My body is very smart and I trust it and it’s gonna do what it needs to do. Just trust your body. It’s smart. It’s not gonna let you eat mac and cheese all day long. It might in the beginning, but then it’s gonna be like, hard stop, give me a vegetable. Like, and that was what kept me for so long because I was like, there’s no way my body’s gonna tell me to eat the right things. And that’s what a lot of my friends will say. They’re like, I would eat Kraft Mac and cheese for all my meals if I was an intuitive eater.

And I’m like, for a week, yeah, you probably would. And I was like, but then guess what would happen? You wouldn’t want them anymore. Like Oreos were that for me. I didn’t think I would ever be that person because I was the person that would eat an entire package of Oreos in a sitting anytime they were in my house. Bag of Doritos couldn’t be in my house or it’d be gone in a day. Trust your body. It’s smarter than you think. And I think a lot of times too, devoted counters like me, it’s hard to see health holistically. I don’t know if that’s the right word, but like health is mental health, health is physical health, health is emotional health.

Like if your mental capacity is full of numbers and food and anxiety, and I don’t want to go to my friend’s wedding because the cheese board is going to talk to me, then it’s time to stop counting and to trust yourself. And your body is probably going to change, maybe in a societally negative way, maybe in a societally positive way, but your mental health will be so much better and it’ll be worth it. And like I said, I thought I was going to be the girl who was going to lose weight in recovery and I have not. And I still would go back to last year and do recovery all over again and all over again and all over again and all over again because it’s just worth it to not think about food all the time. Like I think about food when I’m hungry and that is about it.


So freaking powerful. I so appreciate you. In honor of the Food Freedom Lab, to wrap things up, what does food freedom mean to you?


Freedom! I’m just kidding. It just means honoring every part of you and not just your body. Like, it means freedom from food thoughts and body thoughts. It means freedom from fearing that you’re going to overeat every time you grab a fork. It means freedom to enjoy your life again and to look forward to those trips to the beach and those vacations and those date nights with your husband or wife or whomever, it really it’s freedom from the thoughts. Like I was just so, my brain was just in jail to food for so long and it’s just so nice to not have that issue anymore.

Like I, it’s freedom to get back into your life. Like it’s freedom to still very much love food and, but just enjoy it in a different way like food tastes different now because I I can thoroughly enjoy it and it’s not just a number that I’m throwing into my mouth so food freedom is getting your life back for me honestly.


I want to cry because I remember our first conversation and I wish that I could just teleport and like give this audio to old you, but I mean, and I always say this to everybody, I give you all the information, but you’re here because you did the work. And it is so empowering and you offer so much hope. And I just thank you for sharing that with us.


Thank you for having me.

Ryann Nicole

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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Ryann is a licensed therapist and virtual wellness coach who has assisted individuals worldwide in establishing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies.