Today I am welcoming guest Sam Gwaz otherwise known as @thesamplan to the Food Freedom Lab to share her personal story of recovering from binge eating.
Sam Gwazdauskas Bio:
Sam Gwazdauskas has a master's in nutrition and dietetics and many would describe her as a fitness enthusiast, self love advocate, and travel addict. Sam loves serving the world by coaching men and women to their best and healthiest bodies without sacrificing fun parts of life in the process.
TRIGGER WARNING: Sam is going to be sharing information regarding her personal experience of struggling with an eating disorder, if hearing about disordered eating behaviors is not supportive to your journey, please skip this episode
Hello, everybody. Welcome back to the Food Freedom Lab. I have Sam here, otherwise known as the Sam Plan, to talk about her story of just healing her relationship with food, but more than that her body. I was just telling her you know one of the reasons why I wanted her on this so badly which it's so surreal that she's here is because I know that one of the biggest hurdles that so many of you share with me when it comes to healing your relationship with food is but what happens if I gain weight and that fear of if I gain weight then my life is going to be over and I'm just going to be miserable and unhappy and that fear keeping you stuck. So she has such a great story, such a great Instagram account, and all these other things that we'll obviously filter you over to at the end. But Sam, thank you so much for taking the time to be here today.
I am so excited to be here. Thank you so much for having me on.
Of course. Okay, so I always love to start just knowing a little bit more about how you grew up, because I feel like sometimes it plays a role and sometimes it doesn't. I feel like that's always helpful to hear where it's like, wow, like that makes sense or like, wow, this can still happen even if you grew up in a really healthy home. So for you, I'm curious, like in your family, what was food and body like when you were younger?
I am so interested in psychology and I think that everything comes down to your childhood, truly, whether you remember it or not, those experiences that you have in your home, outside of your home, they shape you so, so much. And for me, I grew up very loving family, you know, never wanted for anything, very comfortable. However, I grew up in an environment where I was competitive with my sister who was older, a year older, and she was always smaller than me. So I always had I think this idea of like, we are not the same. We couldn't share clothes and we were big swimmers. So I was always in a swimsuit and in a pool. I look back at photos and this is so funny. I did synchronized swimming one summer a couple summers and I was such an outgoing kid. I love to play in my swimsuit at the beach. I was dancing. I was a very fun goofy kid. And then I think it was, I mean, ultimately nine years old, I went to the doctor and she pointed on the BMI scale, said, this is where you are, this is where you need to be.
And I think that was really the light bulb moment or the switch of activity isn't just enjoyable, it's also something that can be used to lose some weight or same thing with food. It's not just fuel, it's not just enjoyable, it's something that you can use to fit these standards that have been set for you. And ultimately, I believe that was the moment where things really started to change. And I became even more hyper-aware of my body, how I looked compared to all of my much thinner friends, the things that I used to love, like playing around at the beach, I started covering up more.
So really, a lot of things started changing once somebody said, Hey, your body isn't quote unquote right based on these standards. Yeah.
Wow. Okay. So I have to imagine that you were obviously with a parent at that time. Like how did the parent respond?
So looking back, I don't remember much of a response in the moment other than, okay, let's take this apply it. There was no questioning this health authority figure. And you know, at the time, the internet wasn't what it is today. Social media isn't what it is today. And I don't know if the response would have been different had, I mean, of course, I think you respond based on what is available to you, you know, the information you have, the experience that you have. And I was with my mom when I was presented with that information. And there was no, okay, that wasn't appropriate. There was no questioning back and forth. It was just, okay, so now as a mom or as a parent, I need to do something about my child's health because I have this doctor telling me that something is not right.
And so from then on, I had the questions of, are you sure you want to eat that? You know, emotionally, I think more than anything, it is so aggravating and hurtful to have somebody question something that feels almost personal, like it's really not. But when you're confronted with those types of questions, especially as a kid, I think you start to feel shame around food, you start to look at food as good versus bad, which ultimately is what happened to me was my entire relationship with food, my entire relationship with exercise changed from that moment on, based on that conversation that we had.
Yeah, and I'm sure that you've probably thought about this, like being very interested in psychology, but my brain automatically went to how maybe your mom didn't like say this right out the bat, but just that I need to focus on my child's health and connecting health to weight and you making that connection so young when it was never like, but wait a minute, like Sam is a very healthy, like the only thing that's different is she is not in this point on the chart, but what is her blood work like? Like, is there actually any health problems at hand? And it's like, oh my gosh. And now it's like, okay, I've connected these two in my brain at nine years old.
You hit the nail right on the head, because as I mentioned, I love to play. I love to play sports. I love to move. I was such an active kid. I played every sport you could possibly think of. I played water polo. I swam. I played soccer, basketball, softball. Like I played everything. I was always doing something and so it's really hard for me to imagine that I was unhealthy and I think even maybe subconsciously my mom would have had the same thought was, oh, she's not unhealthy. She's just maybe a little bit bigger than this BMI chart, you know, and it's just a guess. It's just an estimation. So how much could you really know from one number, especially saying something like that around a child, I think is really irresponsible. And then to also draw such a strong conclusion from so little information is also a really dangerous thing that I do believe parents should be aware of when they walk into a doctor's office.
You know, don't take away someone's childhood because ultimately that's what happened to me. And that's really sad to look back on and think about.
Yeah, yeah. And how also you can grow up in a home that maybe does have a healthy relationship with food and get one comment and it totally throws everything in a spiral.
Absolutely. From then on, I didn't have obviously the education to understand how to properly fuel my body, nor do I think that anyone in their teen years really is taught how to do that.
Our education system isn't really built around supporting this really basic understanding of of nutrition and how to individually apply it. But it took for me 10 plus years of studying nutrition. So I went to undergrad in nutritional science dietetics. I got my master's in kinesiology and sport nutrition. Like I really dove into the nutrition and exercise side of things purely from the selfish idea of if I can understand these things, I can control them. It was through like all of those things and it really took me so many years that I finally found a little bit more Understanding about food and my body and I just wish that you know for something so important to each individual person there was at least some shred of Education that we all got earlier on.
I totally went into psychology same thing. I was like if I can just figure out my broken brain.
And I think that's why I love psychology too so much is that I mean, you want to understand yourself like you want to understand why am I like this? You know, what happened to me? I read a book from it was Oprah and a psychiatrist, I believe. He's a childhood trauma expert. And instead of saying what's wrong with you, switching the conversation to what happened to you, right? Like what happened in your childhood that led you to this point, these decisions, these thought processes, because ultimately, those are the questions that we should be asking, not what's wrong with you, because that's not going to help us solve the actual problem.
Exactly. So you got this message. And then all of a sudden, all this activity went from play to wait a minute, this has a more intentional purpose, then what happened?
I continue to play sports. I continue to kind of observe my body, compare it to my friends, feel incredibly insecure around boys, and I still have shreds of body dysmorphia, but I believe that that really started when I was really young. A big part of that, I believe, is from this idea of, okay, this body that I'm in is not the ideal. So what is the ideal, right? And I can say all day long, like, I want to be healthy, I want to be happy. But to me, 10 years ago, and sometimes even today, I strongly associate health and happiness to a specific body type. And that's because of the media, it's because of unfortunately, sometimes our healthcare system that tells us that health and happiness sometimes is rooted in this look.
It looks a certain way. And that to me also brings up this idea that diet culture has rebranded as like health and fitness, even though it actually is more rooted in beauty standards and expectations, as opposed to what health and happiness actually looks like for each individual person, which is something that I've grown to understand just through years of opening myself up to new information, learning new things, and learning about how my body best functions, while also valuing how my mind feels, how my body feels. There's so many different parts of what makes someone happy and healthy.
And if you go too far on one side, like you're restricting, you're in a deficit, you're over exercising, well, doing all of that might help you look a certain way, but it might also be taking from your ability to, you know, have relationships with other people to do well in your job to sleep well and get quality sleep. So it's a given a take and so finding your individual balance, what helps you makes you feel your best, while also benefiting from all the other wonderful parts that life has to offer is where I'm at now. But it took me a long time to get there. And you know, all the insecurity, the body dysmorphia, some of it still creeps up and it's still something that I work on, but what's changed the most is really the actions that stimulate from that. So yeah, I can have these thoughts, I can look at myself in the mirror and be a little dissatisfied, but it's not going to change how I treat myself and that's the biggest differentiating factor between me now and me even five years ago because I was so deeply in this eating disorder that I would say had a bunch of peaks and valleys where you know it was at its worst and then it was at you know this more manageable space and then it was at a terrible level and then it was at a like more manageable space but I never until recently got to a healed environment where I really felt like my eating disorder wasn't in control of me.
And this is a little off track, but I was just thinking earlier today about, and I don't do it often, but we were having this conversation and I was like, okay, let me just think about what it was like at that time or having my eating disorder and how I was feeling. And it just reminds me of just having an addiction. And as someone who's really interested in the human mind and how I think society looks at addiction for alcoholics and says like, yeah, like that's a disease. Like I feel the same way about eating disorders. You're so in this routine in this space where you want out because at the end you feel terrible. You are executing these behaviors. They lead you to feel awful and yet you're still gonna turn around and do it over and over and over again.
And so for me that was binging and purging. And every time I would binge, I would feel awful. And then I would purge and I would still feel awful. I would be in tears. I remember being so fed up with myself. I would write in my journal. I would make notes. I would be like,
I’m never going to do this again.
Yes, how can I in this rational mind be thinking, this is it, this is the last time I'm going to do this. And then 24 hours later, I'm back in the same position, you just feel so out of control of yourself. And whether you're doing just the binging or just purging, it just feels awful to not of your actions and to feel like you are almost like at the will of this thing that you it's not even tangible. It's not even something that you can have like physically removed from yourself. It's a part of you and you just don't know how to escape it.
Yeah, and I know at this time you were fully into the fitness world and all of that. So I can only imagine the double life living where it's like on the outside I have this persona that I'm so disciplined and I'm so strict and I never eat these things and then I come home and I'm like, you know, eating everything in my pantry and that just exacerbates the shame too.
Absolutely. When I first started posting on social media, I was prepping for a bodybuilding competition and so it's classic case of, oh, I finally feel ready to show the world like what I've done and what I can do. And then at the end of my show, after, you know, these months of pure dedication of following a plan to a tee, I started to try and increase my food and I lost that control. And so I was binging, I was purging, and it was a really difficult moment in time where I'm now showing myself on social media and I'm trying to show up and be a coach and be this expert in the Nutrition and fitness field and yet I'm struggling so deeply with myself my relationship with myself my body Knowing that I need to gain weight because being competition lean is so unhealthy and unsustainable and yet I'm struggling with the additional food Even though it wasn't like the binges that I'd done previously.
Like it wasn't a crazy amount of food necessarily. It was more so just in comparison to this extreme deficit that I was in. I was now eating a normal amount of food and mentally I just could not handle it. I also didn't know how to ask for help. I didn't feel comfortable asking for help. I didn't feel like I had the financial means to ask for help. So there were a lot of barriers for me to actually get better.
So it continued to go on for a long time. And then I thought, oh, well, the solution is obviously to do another show. You know, it just continued to spiral out of control. I know now that competing just isn't in the cards for me. And never say never, but it's just not something that I feel that I need or want. So that's also a part of it, but just that extreme restriction, no flexibility is just something that I think my mind gravitates towards and will abuse. I can't look at food the way I know some people can subjectively, it's much more emotional for me.
And I think that comes down to my childhood experience like with food and with my body. I don't know that I can say that it is a lifelong thing to be emotional around food or to have an emotional connection to food or even to use it as a coping mechanism, which I know a lot of people do under times of stress or anxiety, boredom even, and I don't think that it's wrong to use food in those ways. There are definitely easier, better, healthier coping mechanisms, but at the same time like you do what you can with what you have.
Yeah, food is more than fuel in some areas, like birthday cake.
Right, exactly, exactly. It's cultural, it's relationship building, like it's, you know, going to happy hour with your friends. So there's so many different aspects to food and for a long time I tried to hone in on that and make that my reality of like food is just fuel and it never resonated with me. I tried as hard as I could to make that my reality and it just, I mean, unless you grow up in that way, I think, and I don't know how you would create that for yourself to be super neutral around food, if that's something that is even possible, I don't know. But from my experience, like I couldn't force myself to just look at food as fuel. I love food. I love experiencing it in different countries. I love experiencing a great meal with friends.
I think to remove that from my life experience would be a sad thing. Just you know, for what reason right? I can't think of anything good enough to get me to remove that.
Oh my gosh, 100% Well, I would love to know a little bit more about obviously your life now. But before we go there, I think it's so important because not a lot of people talk about this. So you did the show and you got to the quote unquote body that I'm sure at one point you were like, if I looked like that, all of my problems would be solved. And I would be so happy. And that would be the life like that is, you know, everything. And then you got there. What was your life actually like?
You know, it's funny, because along the way, I was so I was in grad school at the time, so I was able to measure my body fat percentage using a bod pod, which is a pretty highly accurate machine. So to do bod pod testing, I would do DEXA, I would do, you know, all this testing on myself would measure my resting metabolic rate, my heart rate, my blood pressure.
I was at, I believe, I don't know, 10%, so a couple weeks out from my show. And I was like, I'm not ready. I'm not lean enough. Like I just was looking in the mirror and had such anxiety and stress because I just did not feel lean enough. And I can look back and see that that was my body dysmorphia really creeping in. And I do believe that that process really elevates some really toxic mental health problems, but also like body dysmorphia, which I don't know in which way you might know more than me, like how that is presented and like where that comes from, like what part of the brain is activated and like how that really manifests. I don't really know, but my body dysmorphia was so bad. I did not think I was lean enough.
I was really stressed out. I had zero boobs. Like I was telling my sister, she actually came for the show. I had a few friends come for my show. I was like, if you saw me without a shirt on, you would think I was like a teenage boy, like just running around the pool, like legit. It was a little scary. And I also like, I've genetically store a lot of weight around like my butt and that was completely gone. So I had this awakening of, okay, even though you're below 10% body fat, your body is still not what I wanted, right?
So even though I lost the weight, I still wanted bigger boobs. So I was like, oh my god, I have to get a boob job. Or, you know, I need to start building my glutes. So even though I'd accomplished this one thing, it was like, here's a laundry list of a million other things. Never enough, right? You do one thing, you want to do another, and I could see how it snowballed into a million other things, right? Looking back, that's kind of a scary thing to even be considering, right? I was so unsatisfied with my body that I was willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars to get boobs or you know, like those types of things are really scary to look back on. I'm so glad I didn't do it because it wasn't for a good enough reason, in my opinion, you know, you do you, whatever, but I'm happy with where I'm at now. And I'm really glad that I didn't go through with a surgery that I think a lot of people downplay, right? It's like such a casual thing to go under the knife, whether it's for some kind of facial procedure or anywhere else in your body. It's a really major surgery and people are so casually going in and thinking that everything's going to be great. So I'm really glad I didn't do it. But at the same time, once I let up on that pressure that I had on myself to eat these foods, do these like, you know, exercise routines, I felt so out of control. And even though I went from this high of like, wow, look what I accomplished, there was this equally strong pressure pushing the opposite direction of Yeah, you did that, but there's all these other things that you still should do to fix your body.
And now you're so out of control, like reel it in. My mind was telling me that, you know, I was so out of control that I was a piece of shit for, you know, going out and enjoying food. Yeah, and I felt a lot of that same kind of conversation in my head of like when I had my eating disorder and it was really bad, of like figure it out. You know, like why don't you have the willpower to do X, Y, Z? What's wrong with you? It seemed like such a rational conversation to have in my head, but it was this collision of my actions in my mind and it was like almost like that they were at war with each other.
You almost feel like you're going crazy because on one side you can have this thought of, I know exactly what to do. I know what to eat. I know how to accomplish this goal, or I know how to take care of myself. And then an hour later, I'm doing something that's completely on the opposite end of the spectrum from that thing that I just said that I was going to do. So it's a really wild space to exist in.
And I know a lot of people do, whether it's current, past, maybe in the future, hopefully not, where your mind and your body are at war with one another, not even your body and its response and how it looks, but in your actions and the things that you do, and it feels like it's your fault, but really it's the accumulation of so many different things that are pressing down on you, and it's like it's an impulse. It's subconscious, but merging your subconscious with your conscious is what I think, and you can obviously, I'd love to hear what you think, but it's what I think got me beyond that point, understanding my subconscious desires and needs and what my body was telling me without actually telling me.
Yeah, I think we get on this mode of like, if I just fix my body to match my mind, then everything's gonna be better and missing that mindset element. So I know that you mentioned, okay, did this show fall back into old behaviors. And then I was like, okay, maybe the answer is another show. So for you, because I know it took so long for me to be like, wait, okay, I actually have a problem. This isn't me and I need help. When did you realize, okay, this is becoming not the life that I want to live and I'm ready for something different and I need to change.
So it was probably the same year, like the same 365 days after I did my second show that a bunch of things changed in my life. I decided to move to California from Seattle and I started a new job. I was in a new place. I wanted to open myself up to like new relationships and I knew that getting obviously competition lean was unhealthy. Like my rational mind knew this. You don't need to be the tiniest version of yourself possible, but I did still want to be a smaller weight. So I started with, okay, how do I create just something that's a little bit more sustainable, but also smaller. So that was like my first trial effort. So what I did was a reverse diet. I dropped my calories to around like 1,500 and then every couple of weeks I would add 100 calories.
And as I was doing it, I actually did lose a good amount of weight, but I was still tracking my food. I was still a slave to a routine. Anything outside of it still caused me to feel incredibly anxious and unwell within myself. Like if I went out to eat and I ate more than I had, you know, allotted for the day, I would feel like such a failure. So a part of me was like, okay, my intention with this was to get my body to a place that was, you know, quote unquote healthy. My calories were higher.
I was eating by the end of it, 21, 2200 calories, like my calories were high, my protein was high, like I was eating enough, I thought, but I was still again, a slave to the system and that system was not conducive to my mental health or social health too. Like I couldn't do all the things that I wanted and said that I wanted and things that I thought and knew would bring me happiness. And so I actually started dating somebody at that time and I was like okay I'm just gonna let go of the tracking it'll always be there if I need it if I really feel that I need it. But I also in the back of my mind knew like I just need to let go of all these boundaries and in a way trust That I knew what my body needed, you know, I've been tracking for years I'd gone through 10 plus lose 30 pounds gain 30 pounds Like I knew how to lose weight, but clearly I didn't know how to sustain it or create a healthy lifestyle for myself so ultimately abandoning tracking macros tracking my food, and using my body as a way to give me feedback.
Not the way that it looked, but the way that it felt. And so at first it was like balls to the wall, I'm going to eat whatever I want, and I did. You know, when you're in a new relationship too, you're out here enjoying stuff, and food is a big part of that. And so, you know, my partner and I, we both loved food. So it was like an easy thing for me to lean into. I didn't want to be that psycho girl that was, you know, oh, I have to eat this or I can't eat that or thanks for buying me cookies, but I can't eat them. You know, I didn't want that for myself. And so I went completely on the opposite end of the spectrum. So I guess the idea that would correlate with that is I'm sure you've heard of it. It's not on the tip of my tongue.
All in. Yeah. Yep. So essentially, that's what it was was removing all of the requirements that I have for myself, whether it's food related, exercise related, and I just let myself live. And I did gain a lot of weight, I wouldn't even say a lot, I gained weight, I did feel uncomfortable in my skin. But for the first time in my life, I was prioritizing other things than just the way that I looked. My life didn't revolve around the way that I looked and eating or exercising in order to accomplish that.
So it was a really transformative period where I was like, okay, I'm eating these things. I don't feel great in my body, but I also am experiencing like freedom and fun. So like I knew I didn't want to sacrifice that. However, at a certain point I was like, okay, I actually don't want this burger. I'd much prefer a salad because a salad makes me feel a little bit better, you know, at least on an everyday basis.
After a while, I would say a year, I started craving fruits and vegetables more. So it was really like just listening to my body, what it wanted, and also being like, okay, reflectively, when did I feel the best? You know, when I was doing all these things, when I was doing what, and it wasn't tracking necessarily, but it was having, you know, a balanced breakfast. It was having protein at every meal. It was having fiber throughout the day. So there are all these habits that I was so much correlating with numbers. So once I removed the numbers, I was like, these are just habits. And these are just things that I did. I don't have to control the measurements. I don't have to weigh everything. It doesn't have to be perfect, but I can reintroduce some of these habits that I actually felt really good doing, whether it was having a higher carbohydrate-dense meal before a workout, having a post-workout shift after, focusing on recovery and enjoying my workouts again.
So there are all these things, all these habits that I just started incorporating without needing the validation of tracking and the numbers. And so that was kind of the transition into what I would say is like a healthier lifestyle because I almost had to go super balls to the wall and enjoy the things that I had removed from my life for so long and the foods that I had feared and negative associations that I had with certain foods and restaurants. And like I had this huge fear that if I ordered Diet Coke or like even a Starbucks drink and I asked for sugar-free that they would give me the real one. I wouldn't go. I would like double check everything. I'd be like, but you're sure this is a diet Coke. So, yeah, like I had like no trust in other people.
I just had so much anxiety around like eating out and doing things. And so through the experience of quote unquote going all in and then also on the end of it being like, OK, like here's some things actually help me feel better than just eating burgers for dinner or you know not eating and that it just allowed me to re-prioritize and reframe how I choose to nourish my body, how I choose to exercise and it all started I think from like going all in just removing all the restriction, all the mandated workouts that I was like requiring of myself and just letting go and then once I let go, I was like, Okay, wait, pull back a second. I actually really liked those other things that I was doing before, because it gave me great energy, I felt really good. And that's a huge part of it, too. I think when you only focus on numbers, it removes you from your in body experience. So if you're saying, Oh, I have to eat this certain number of calories, this certain number of grams of protein, and you're never checking in with yourself physically, how do you feel, energy, fullness, satiety, then it doesn't matter, right? Because all that matters are those numbers.
But a big part of listening to your body, so this idea of intuitive eating, which I a little bit subscribe to. When I went to treatment for my eating disorder, they gave me the book, I've never read it today. But to me, like, and it was almost insulting at the time when I was given that book, because at the time I just had a really poor understanding of what my body needed. So if you told me to eat intuitively, I would have been like, oh, so like almonds for lunch? Or a latte as a snack? What do you mean?
My body does great on so little. Or the 2000 calorie diet is the standard recommendation. And I'm like, well, I'm not the average sized person, I'm 5'4″. So if you're saying 2000 calories is the average recommendation for a very large population, then certainly I should be eating closer to 12 to 1500, which is very much far from reality. Like I've done so much metabolic testing, I know that my body needs over 2000 calories to function optimally. But I was just creating this narrative in my head of what must be true for myself. And I think that actually tracking and all the nutrition education through that has given me a lot of insight as to what my body needs and given me a foundation to do more what I call like mindful eating, as opposed to intuitive. Because again, I think I just feel like that word is a little I don't know, it doesn't buy well with me. The word intuitive.
Yeah, I feel like I just don't love the label of it, but I also don't feel like we need to put ourselves in another box. Like why is it I am an intuitive eater? Like there are elements of it that I really appreciate, but I don't feel like I need to call it like I just eat, like I just eat. I don't need another label.
Right. Sometimes food is just food. Yeah, we can call it a million other things. We can call it high protein. We can say that it's low calorie. And at the end of the day, like it is just food. And you give it a label, you cannot give it a label.
You know, you don't have to eat one way either. Like sometimes I post like a high protein recipe and people are like, but just eat the regular thing. And it's like, can I have both? Like, does it have to be one or the other? Like, can I have, you know, like why are you the food police on social media is absolutely out of control. But yeah, it's like, you know, why can't we enjoy all things? It doesn't have to be one way or the other. And I think that that's just something that I've learned over time that like best suits my mental health, my physical health, and you know, hopefully it helps other people too. But if that's not what floats your boat, then please understand that not everything on social media is meant for you. You know, I didn't put this on the internet for you necessarily. So if you don't like it, that's okay.
Yeah, yeah, totally. I mean, that's a whole other conversation we could spend forever chatting about. But Sam, I would love to know just kind of wrapping things up as you obviously started to go all in and body changes happen. I love how you said, you know, I was feeling uncomfortable at the same time, like this freedom meant so much more. For anybody who is listening that is on this journey, and their body is maybe starting to change, and they're having this like, I don't know if this is worth it, or if I want to keep going, like, what words would you have for them?
Trust the process. It's really hard to trust a process that you don't know the end result for. However, there's got to be some level of faith in what you're doing and where it's leading you, right? Whether it's listening to me talk about my experience or somebody else, really just hearing about what could be if you invest in this process of really letting go of those food rules, restrictions, whether it's, you know, maybe keto is not good for you mentally, or maybe it's intermittent fasting, or maybe it's paleo, like whatever it is, whatever is kind of holding you back from living your fullest life. And you want to go all in and you want to just, hey, focus on your relationship with food, your relationship with exercise, trusting that this process is not quick, it's going to absolutely lead you to question what you're doing, why you're doing it, but trusting the process and reflecting on how you felt when you decided to do this.
Because for me, it was a buildup of this, you know, 30, 40 pound cycle, gain, lose, gain, lose, and ultimately something that I've been pursuing my almost entire life. So for like 20 years, I was pursuing weight loss. I just hit my breaking point. So for me, that was the point where I would reflect on and say, I'm doing this for this reason. And I think having a good reason to do something is really powerful. So you have to be able to remind yourself of that reason, whether it's a better relationship with your family, teaching your kids how to have a good relationship with food, setting a good example, and, you know, really enjoying life a little bit more full, as opposed to contributing your life experience to an outward way that you look. It's really powerful. So for me, it was just reflecting on what was my driving force, which was also a partly, I want to have a healthy relationship. How can I have a healthy relationship with somebody else if I don't even have a healthy relationship with food or with my body? Like how can I expect somebody else to love and appreciate me if I can't even do that for myself? So I would just remind myself over and over of why I was doing this and I allowed and trusted that, okay, if I invest in my mental health, then everything else down the road will be in a much better place because ultimately that was my barrier to creating sustainability in any diet that I was doing or in anything that I was doing like nothing was sustainable because my mental health was not a priority. I was always ready to abandon it at the cost of a smaller body.
So because I was so invested in looking a certain way I didn't care about my mental health I wasn't doing things that took that into consideration. And so by simply investing in my mental health relationship with food, with my body, I was able to actually, you know, turn the corner and find something that is sustainable. I no longer have 30, 40 pound fluctuations in my weight. My weight maybe fluctuates 10 pounds in the winter when I'm inside and the sun's going down at 5pm and I'm not exercising out as much or like I'm eating more cookies. So it is a much more sustainable lifestyle, much healthier lifestyle. I'm allowing my body to be what it needs to be to be happy and healthy and having that be the focal point of my actions. You know, they ask myself, can I be happy with whatever body is the healthiest?
Not what society thinks health looks like, but like if my body is at its absolute healthiest, can I be happy with that? And I just would ask myself that question over and over again. And every time I just thought to myself, yes, like I can be happy with the healthiest version of me because I'm pretty sure that I would be okay with that body, right? Because ultimately like body fat does play a role in your health.
So if I'm at a healthy weight, then why would I not be happy with that? Right? It might not be society's version of what we associate health with, which is unfortunately sometimes having, you know, visible abs and, you know, really lean figures. But yeah, just coming to terms, like what I would be happy with, like what would actually bring me happiness and joy. And my health was really at the forefront of that mental, physical, so long-winded way of kind of answering the question, trust the process, but also set some really realistic expectations for yourself and, you know, a purpose for why you're doing what you're doing.
I love that. It kind of brings it back to what is my definition of health? And if what I'm doing to be healthy is affecting all these other elements of my health, is it really healthy?
Yeah. Yeah. This is such a full circle moment back to your BMI is not the defining factor in your health and whether or not you need to be in a caloric deficit or you need to exercise more your BMI your weight. I mean, I'm 5'4 and I think on the BMI chart, I should be like 150 pounds.
I haven't weighed that for like 10 years. So and I think I started weighing that when I was like in middle school. So it just is such an irrelevant number. But I also think that it is powerful to hear some people share their way. Because if I can normalize being 175 pounds at five, four, then maybe somebody else will look at their way and be like, Okay, there's actually nothing wrong with this weight. And one of my biggest hurdles with weight was like, as a woman, you think like, Oh, I have to be smaller than men or I have to be under 150 pounds or as close to 100 pounds as possible and it really just doesn't matter. And it's unfortunate that it's a metric that is so strongly associated with like your worth and your femininity because nobody cares. No one's going to look at me and be like, oh, you look like you weigh this much. And if they That's weird.
And that's on them. That's on them. That says more about them, 100%. Sam, in honor of the Food Freedom Lab, what does food freedom mean to you?
Food freedom means enjoying food without guilt. It means going over to someone's house and just enjoying what they cooked for dinner. It means healthier relationships, being better at my job, enjoying food, enjoying exercise, just a much more healthy, happy and fulfilled life.
I love it. For anybody who wants to connect with you, find you, learn from you, where can they find you?
I am on Instagram and TikTok @thesamplan. And my DMs are always open. So shoot me a message. And I'm always happy to help. That's what I believe we're all here for, is just to help one another. And coming from someone who has been through some dark shit in my life and I've kind of gotten to the other side of it, that's really what I want to contribute to other people is to help them kind of figure out how to get past the dark stuff and find a little bit more light.
Yeah. And Sam does reply. I remember messaging you like in COVID when I was just beginning my account and I was like, Oh my God, she replied.
I do. I'm in there.
Thank you so much for taking the time, Sam. This was amazing. And I appreciate your vulnerability. And I just think it's so important to continue chatting about, but also being realistic and what is health and what is healthiest for me and what is truly living. And I think that when you go to your Instagram, like that's what I get from it. Like this is living and that's what I love so much about everything that you share and post.
Well, thank you. I really appreciate you giving me a platform to share and listening to me talk on and on and on and on for like an hour. So thank you so much.