How my love affair with healthy food helped me learn to love myself

Rebekah Allerton: Sales Manager at Real Meal Revolution

Becca’s story shows how quickly a diet of processed carbs can ravage one’s body and cause long term damage, even in someone so young.

“If you begin from a state of dysfunction, almost anything will bring you back into balance” – James Fitzgerald; OPEX Fitness.

I compare my Banting journey to a love affair. I desperately wished to be swept off my feet and for all my pain and despair to be taken away. Through Banting, I wanted my heart to be filled with a new passion for life as I had never known before.

I wasn’t always overweight. I started ballet when I was five years old, and was always the fun-spirited girl looking forward to sports days. I took part in almost all the sports offered at school and enjoyed rounders, tennis, hockey, water polo, cricket and even touch rugby. You name it, I did it; without question, and always with a smile on my face.

I was happy, and my weight was the furthest thought from my mind. But, this all changed when I turned 17, and I met my ex-boyfriend.

I’m not sure if the problem was that I had romanticised the idea of falling in love with someone early in life, and then ‘growing’ together, or, if my opinion of myself and my own worth was already skewed. Nevertheless, within a month of knowing him, we moved in together. I fell into his routine and started eating what he ate. This was largely fast-food, processed carbohydrates and refined seed oils! My ‘normal’ eating habits went out the window, and I very quickly began to eat more and more of the wrong foods as my body started to crave them.

At the same time as being carbohydrate dependent, my body was becoming carbohydrate intolerant.

The more the romantic story I had imagined in my head came crashing down, the more I ate to fill the void I was feeling. I started comfort eating. The more love I craved, the more carbs I craved, and the fatter I became. I was so emotionally drained that the easier food was to obtain, the better. Ordering in and drive-thrus became my life.

I remember seeing a photo of myself about eight or nine months after meeting him. Instantly, my heart sank, and I became angry. I was enormous! I had put on 30kgs without noticing! How did I get this way? Did I just ignore my reflection every time I took a selfie, had I repositioned my face so I didn’t look fat? Was I that oblivious? Were people trying to save me the humiliation by not telling me I had gained weight? Did he do this to me and watch me sink into this hole and not tell me? Was it his way of controlling me or was he also protecting me from heartache? The latter, by that stage in our relationship, seemed unlikely.

My daily outfits depicted my emotional state. No more glamour, just stretch jeans or leggings and his hoodie thrown on top. The day I realised I had put on all this weight frightened me, and still frightens me. I agonise that one day I will wake up and notice that I have once again gained over 30kg, without even realising it was happening.

When Banting became popular, I was 18 years old and in a very bad way. I was overweight, obese on the charts, had metabolic syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and I was deeply depressed. No one should have to deal with these physical challenges, especially not at the age of 18! I should have been at my peak at that age. Being active, going out with friends and enjoying life!

But I wasn’t ready to fall in love with Banting just yet.

Instead, I was stuck, in a tiny flat, in a small town, in a relationship that sucked all the energy from my soul, and I was suffocating in a body that I no longer recognised as my own. I lacked all hope for my future. I would lie in bed at night with tears rolling down my cheeks, disappointed at the person I had become. I had had such big dreams and aspirations for myself. My situation baffled and angered me. I felt like a failure and was devastated by the reality of my ‘life.' It was hard looking at myself in the mirror and hating the person who looked back at me. I felt like my reflection judged me too. As if a stranger was looking at me from the mirror’s reflection.  But, it was actually me.

I was in a bad place. I would look at pictures of myself as a little girl and feel broken hearted. I’d weep while wondering to myself, “Where did it all go so wrong?” I had no friends to talk through things with because I had lost all of my friends over the time I had spent with him. They gave up trying to help me and stopped telling me to leave him. They got tired of my excuses for why I stayed. My family, as much as they loved me and supported me, struggled with this too. The ‘hell’ that engulfed me affected all of those who cared about me, and at the end of the day, they could do nothing but watch.

Over this period, I tried so many fad diets, even a three-day Marine Diet! I’d lose a tiny bit of weight, after putting myself through absolute agony, only to put all the weight back on, and some, a few days later. I was exhausted and disheartened. So what would I do to fill the void? I would eat. I would eat because food was my comforter. I was in control, and I felt safe in knowing that.

So what changed?

My dad, a very skeptical orthopaedic surgeon, started Banting. Why? Because he too was desperate. He had been diagnosed with a form of Polymyalgia Rheumatica, an inflammatory disorder that causes muscle pain and stiffness in various parts of the body. He had always been a healthy man and an advocate of the ‘Traditional diet, ’ but he was advised by Prof. Tim Noakes, a friend from medical school, to try Banting. My dad, having nothing to lose, decided to try it. His condition improved dramatically in less than a month, and a few months later he ran his best time in the Medical 10 (a 10km race).

Even after my dad’s tremendous results, I still wasn’t ready to fall in love with Banting. Instead, ours was a long courtship. I was too busy wallowing in my own self-hate to even bother trying. I was terrified I would fail - again.

When I was 21, I decided to move to England. Out of the blue, I made up my mind to step out of my comfort zone and to give myself a chance to find whatever it was that I was really looking for. It could have been a sense of adventure, an escape out of my increasingly bad relationship or a way to reconnect with myself again through the fog and chaos I had somehow created in my life.

Yes, I was petrified, but somehow I found the inner strength and I made the decision. I booked my ticket and not even a week later I was on an aeroplane to England.

Cape Town was beneath me, then behind me, then gone…

In my failed relationship I had given my all, but I had felt terrible about myself. I made it easy for him to take full advantage of this and treat me the way I thought I deserved to be treated.

I was exhausted and daunted by the challenge of starting again, but I knew I had to try.

When I landed at London Heathrow airport, I remember thinking to myself that this was now my time. I had no one else to blame for my weight or my utter inertia. I made a conscious decision then and there to give Banting my all. And I finally allowed Banting into my life – the courting was over. We were now in a relationship.

I was strict on myself. I was 89kg at 5’2, so I knew I had to be. I kept my daily carbohydrate intake to 25-30g. I was working hard, so I was busy, and when I wasn’t working, I was developing new friendships. I was not going to wallow in a flat, gorging myself on KFC.

Within six months I had lost 36kg.

I did not just lose weight; I lost the hate I had for myself, the burdens and hardships "life had handed me" and the feeling of despair that had hovered over me for years.

I had my ‘life’ back, and I was free. Banting helped me fall in love with myself.

For the first time in my adult life, I felt invincible. My worries were behind me, and I could just live a normal life. I thought I could go back to the way things were – so, I made the decision to start eating carbohydrates again - bad carbohydrates. I gave into my cravings like an addict.

One night, after a night out with friends and a bite from a burger from the local ‘chippie,' I felt sick to my stomach and disappeared to bed early.

I was lying on my bed in St Albans, Hertfordshire, and I experienced the most excruciating pain on my right side just below my rib cage. I was rushed off in an ambulance to the nearest hospital, where I stayed for two nights. Normally I am the type to suffer in silence, but this pain was unbearable. I was pale, vomiting and my face had swollen up. I was placed on a hospital bed in a dark room in A&E. I remember clearly whispering for someone to help me and then unapologetically screaming in the ward “Someone, PLEASE help me.” I thought I was going to die. Away from my family – I was going to die; this was the end of my story. The nurse on duty pumped me with morphine and the next two days were merely a distorted memory of pain and being wheeled around the hospital having tests done, nausea, weeping, and darkness.   

It was after this ordeal that I was diagnosed with gallstones as a result of years of abusing my body with carbohydrates.

This was when I realised Banting was not just a diet – It was a lifestyle. I owed Banting my life.

A few months later, I felt absolutely fine, and I was browsing on the Real Meal Revolution website to find some more delicious recipes. I stumbled across the Certified Banting Coach Training Course.

I knew immediately that this was what I wanted to do. I wanted to learn as much as I could about Banting, and I wanted to inspire people to believe in themselves again.

I signed up, and five weeks later I was certified!

I then decided to move back to Cape Town, and so I contacted Kathy Cassells from RMR to see if there were any available vacancies at the Real Meal Revolution Head Office.

I arrived back in Cape Town at the end of 2016. I was interviewed by Jonno Proudfoot who was definitely on the top of my ‘hero’ list. Within a week I had a job.

My job doesn’t feel like work. It feels like an opportunity, every day, to inspire, to advise and to connect with others. I hear amazing testimonies, I speak to incredible people who have embarked on, or have just found the strength to embark on, journeys of rediscovering themselves just as I had, and I continue to do.

What is my goal now?

I want to create awareness about Banting; I want to be a part of the growth of our International Banting community. I also want to always strive to be the best version of myself and to continue to inspire people to do the same.

Banting has been my love affair. I gave it my all, and it reciprocated all of the love I gave. It has transformed my life, nurtured me and has given me hope for my future.

I realise that if I put love into the food I make, and it is “good food” it will, in turn, look after me.

If you’d like to be like Becca and change your life for the better, start your Banting journey and sign up to the Online Program today, or find a coach in your area.

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