My Journey to Food Freedom and Intuitive Living
The face of Life with Brig, Brigitte Legallet is on a mission to live a life full of good food and meaningful movement. She just graduated from college and moved back to California where she spends time writing, baking, eating, cycling, adventuring, drinking beer with friends and sharing it transparently on her gram and website.
I used to think I peaked senior year of high school. During first semester I was playing volleyball and I was in incredible shape and for the first time ever, truly understanding what being "in shape" kind of meant. Our practices were dynamic and the high intensity short burst circuits plus a combination of my high school metabolism put me at my lowest weight I had been at since 8th grade. I was 165 going into freshman year of high school and just over 5 foot, then, my good friend puberty hit me like a truck and I shot up 10 inches and lost 30 pounds. This was a shock to many, especially myself. My favorite part was I wasn’t putting in any effort, I hated salad, I drank bubble tea milkshakes and venti caramel macchiatos (with extra caramel) and ate Chipotle burritos weekly without a worry. I had was dating this guy and we ate a lot together, I would get frustrated because of his ability to consume 108923741093287 calories and never gain a pound and tried to shove the insecurities aside acknowledging it is just a boy thing. Though I was thin, I struggled with the way I looked in the mirror because I still saw (and still sometimes see) myself as that chubby little eighth grader. After volleyball season my workouts consisted mainly of cardio because I was 17 and didn't know what else to do at a gym with big scary men in the weight room. At the end of my senior year I had gained some weight back, but I honestly didn't care. I was on some kind of high just because I was so happy with life itself.
Then, I left for college and my world flipped. A mix of high stress, missing home and familiar faces on top of being thrown into the landlocked Midwest had me turning to food for comfort. I was quickly pegged by my dorm mates as the California girl who was obsessed with working out and avocados. I ate low fat and low calorie EVERYTHING because that’s what the media said was best. I aimed to keep up the façade of being #healthy and #fit but I had my demons. I started this new habit of binging every time I had a little bit of alcohol in me or when I was feeling badly for myself because I was so focused on “clean” eating during the day. I would put down a whole pizza, an order of Insomnia cookies and pints of ice cream, scraping the bottom of the container, multiple times a week. I often found myself hanging my head over the toilet hoping maybe I could make myself throw up, I was never successful, and instead was overwhelmed with guilt and anxiety. This horrible cycle was usually done secret or after the bars because I didn't want to seem like I ate anything deemed “unhealthy”. I had lost all control. It was a new life and it was uncomfortable, so food was there for me to fill the emptiness of missing everything back home.
I came home for my six weeks break ready to shed the freshman 15 I had gained from all the late-night binges. With the decrease in stress and the access to good food at home, the extra fluff seemed to fall off my body without even trying. I liked that feeling. So, I decided maybe I should put in some effort and I could be even thinner. I discovered Kayla Itsines bikini body guide and became addicted. I did not miss a workout of the 24-week program and I ate two meals a day. Breakfast consisting of non-fat yogurt and berries and an early dinner, a small salad with no meat, and low-fat raspberry vinaigrette. I allowed myself a cheat meal once a week and I would rarely go out with friends and drink in fear of the extra calories or the binges that would follow with my alcohol weakened willpower. There went 10 more pounds... and then 10 more. Social media (at this point) was a terrible influence on the way I perceived myself. I was following a plethora of fitness bloggers who told me to cut carbs and to only eat protein always posting photos of their perfectly defined six packs. I would stalk Itsines' page daily to make sure my progress photos were up to par with those on her feed, if they weren't, I'd try harder to make sure they were. I stepped on the scale every morning, which would determine how I would take on the day. A lower number and I was elated, a higher number and I hated myself. I defined myself by that number.
Though it may not look so bad, it was not a natural place for my body. People would ask if I had lost weight and it fed the devil caught within me. I used to text my friend’s photos of me and my new fat lacking body to see their response. "You're so thin" and "Your ribs are sticking out :/" were some of my favorites at the time. It makes me sick to think about how much I loved it. I vividly remember hyperventilating in my room because I told myself I would rest one day instead of workout, and I ended up at the gym twice in one day instead of my planned zero. I would scroll on Pinterest for hours, looking at food I would never would ever eat and finding workouts to give me a "thigh gap" even though Pinterest clearly had a warning that this search could be triggering for those with disordered eating and exercising.
Coming home for summer break after freshman year and my boyfriend at the time was the first one to take note of my hip bones that poked him if we hugged. I loved the term bony and thin because according to the magazines that is what made me beautiful. At my annual check-up, my doctor made it clear she was not a huge fan of my weight loss off my already normal sized frame. I was then due in for weight checks every couple week where I made more of an effort to lose weight every time I stepped on that scale just, so I could hear the doctor confirm my thinness and to tell me I needed help. My mom, did not like my new habits of spraying olive oil on lettuce for lunch and my constant shivering in the 80-degree weather, locked me in with this health coach, Darby Jackson (what a gal) to connect weekly and get me out of this hell where I had been trapped.
Darby preached high fat... What!? Fat is healthy?! I became more intrigued by health foods. But it was different this time, I learned I could eat more... and keep my new thin frame and even keep losing weight. I was 125 lbs. at 5'10" and was determined to be 120. It was all just a game. The summer was painful. It focused around my meals and my exercise. I'd have anxiety attacks if I ate something unhealthily or missed a workout, but that usually occurred in a ball on my bathroom floor with the shower running so no one would know. I avoided certain events where my friends or family were getting together so I wouldn't have to eat whatever was being served. I would take pride in baking obsessively and then not enjoying any of the final product. Darby helped me understand rest is good and food is healing and opened my mind to the road to recovery. But, I didn't want to make the effort to fully understand because I still wanted to be thin like the models in the magazines. I knew was a mess.
Sophomore year flew by. I loosened up and gained a couple pounds back (honestly it was the beer), but still was very focused on what was going into my body. Though my carbs, fats and proteins were balanced and clean, my life wasn't. It was dirty, and I was still very broken. I was still binging late night and having "cheat days" where I allowed myself a pint of ice cream or pizza. I thought I was starting to enter the healing process during second semester, something I was very scared of, but tried to embrace. I chopped my hair off and bought some new clothes. I pressed restart. I got an awesome internship in San Francisco for my second summer of college, all on my own. I was surrounded by amazing food in the city and I had access to my gym at home. I stepped on the scale weekly instead of daily. Yet, my food and exercise anxiety were still through the roof and at this point I figured it was part of who I was.
Junior year of college was the turning point into something better. I studied abroad in Prague, where ice cream and beer were abundant and cheap. I didn't have a scale. I ate minimally processed food from all over the world and I walked everywhere. The amazing people and food living in the land of beer made me forget about the little extra layer of fluff on my body. It was incredible. Then I came home and BAM, my trashed immune system failed me, and I got pneumonia... and then lost 10 lbs. which I had gained abroad. In my mind all I could think was- Perfect. It was easy, and I didn't have to work for it. After I healed from being so sick I gained the weight back quickly but for the first time in forever, I was somewhat okay with it. Second semester of this school year was amazing. I lived with 7 girls who taught me that life was more fun when you made McDonalds runs hungover every once and a while and spent time with friends instead of squeezing in that extra workout or revolving my day around what I was going to eat next. I jumped back into the health and wellness Instagram community and found comfort in likeminded women who had similar stories as myself. All of a sudden, I didn’t feel so alone or embarrassed for what I had been through in the past. I finally was on the road to recovery.
Finally, it has been five or so years of never truly understanding what is good for my body and I have made the decision to jump on the intuitive eating band wagon. I ditched the scale going into my last year of college. Actually, this past week marks exactly one year of having no fricken clue how many pounds my body weighs, and damn does it feel good. It feels incredible to acknowledge how my body is feeling in different ways besides the number of pounds it weighs. Senior year, I lived with my three best friends at school where we spent time cooking and drinking wine together most nights of the week. These friendships have mostly cured me and taught me to look at life differently. I learned balanced exercise and how to slow down when needed, I began practicing a little bit of yoga, I learned to be mindful in most aspects of life and most importantly, I learned to love my body. My body is incredible and capable of so many things and I am so blessed to have two legs that enjoying running, jumping, stretching and relaxing. I learned that cutting carbs or sugar out of your diet will not fix any problems or make people like you more. I learned that following any eating or exercise plan will not make me a better person.
Just like anything, my progress isn’t linear. I still have my down days. I still wake up and look at myself in the mirror and squeeze my “problem areas” or see a picture of myself and think that if I eat less I can look like I did sophomore year of college. Senior year took a toll on my body. I partied all the time and ate out all the time and I felt like crap… all the time. But, it was the most fun experience and I will (most likely, hopefully) never live like that again, so I am glad I enjoyed it to the fullest. I am proud of the way I allow myself to tackle the disordered thoughts that creep back into my head every once and a while. I am proud of being able to dress in ways that make me feel my best (love myself a good high waisted swimsuit). I am proud of myself and my ability to understand that when people make comments about my past, what I am wearing, what I am eating or what I am doing in general, I know it isn’t my problem but their own insecurities. I am proud of the person I have become over the past 21 years.
I started my blog, @lifewithbrig because of my obsession with searching through content and decided to add my own to the health and wellness sphere instead of being a passive consumer. I love how people come to me for support or advice about food, exercise and just life in general. I love, even more, the number of women I have connected with who continue to support and inspire me every day.
My health journey hasn't been easy. I am incredibly lucky that I started to figure out that what I was doing was not sustainable for a healthy life and that I could have hurt myself a lot more than I did. I'm constantly trying out new fads that are sparking the health and wellness community and trying to figure out that what works best for me, might not be the same as other people. Health to me is no longer being thin, bony and shredded. Health to me is relationships that build me up, food that fuels my body and doing things that make me happy. If health is happiness, the old me thought happiness would only be derived from affirmation from other people on my appearance and being thin enough. If health is happiness, then the new me believes that happiness is good laughs with good friends, making sure to treat my body with the respect it deserves, fueling with nourishing foods and knowing I AM enough. Life is a journey, something we constantly work at to become stronger and more aware of our body's and we should be constantly practicing. It is not something we will master but we can constantly work to enjoy.