I’ve been following Non-Diet Health Coach Krista Murias on Instagram for a while now. Her posts are so good I usually can’t help but say “YES!”…often out loud in a quiet room in public. 🙂 Her passion for anti-diet-culture advocacy is contagious, and her messaging is always on point! She was kind enough to share her story with us, and I have a feeling many of you will relate to her experiences. I also highly recommend following her on Instagram (@kristamurias)!
Iris: Let’s start with the basics: what is your history with eating disorders?
Krista: I had a fairly healthy relationship with food for most of my life, but around the age of 30, after having just had my second child, I decided that I wanted to try to lose the baby weight I had gained and started my first diet. The weight came off fast, and I was hooked on a new lifestyle of “clean eating” and fitness. I started weighing obsessively, tracking calories, eating a very low calorie diet, and exercising religiously. After about two years, the weight started to come back, despite my best efforts. So I started to become even more restrictive, eventually trying many different diets, cleanses, detoxes, and fasting. My weight continued to yo-yo, where I’d lose it quickly on any given diet, and then gain back more. About a year ago, I hit what I’d call “diet bottom,” where I just couldn’t do it anymore – I was depressed and felt like I just couldn’t handle the restriction of dieting any longer. I started to realize how disordered my relationship with food was, and I made the decision to quit dieting for good, and work on repairing my relationship with food and my body.
Iris: So is dieting what you see as the cause for your eating disorder?
Krista: Yes. It wasn’t until after having kids and putting on a significant amount of weight for the first time in my life that I started to feel uncomfortable in my body and started to diet. I received so much praise for the weight that I lost, and disordered eating is really normalized in our society, so even though I had developed some very restrictive behaviours, I didn’t realize that they were an issue.
Iris: Did the people in your life know that you were struggling with this?
Krista: At my lowest weight, I did get comments that maybe I had lost too much and that I should stop trying to lose weight, but I didn’t take them seriously. I thought that I was simply “eating clean” and working out, and that they had nothing to worry about. When I look back at those photos now, though, I can see why they were concerned. After I had gained some of the weight back, though, despite more and more restrictive behaviours, I don’t think that anyone really noticed what I was going through. I was working as a fitness coach, and many of my friends and family were also into fitness, so I don’t think my behaviours raised any red flags, once my weight wasn’t as low as it had been.
Iris: What was the turning point for you?
Krista: It was last summer, after having done one restrictive diet after another for the previous 6 months, including the Whole30, Paleo, the Keto diet, and intermittent and extended fasting, that I found myself feeling depressed and exhausted. I had fully immersed myself in learning about ketosis and fasting, and it was when I was listening to a keto diet podcast that I heard the term “intuitive eating.” I was intrigued by how it was described, and by the notion that I could actually listen to my body to know how to eat, rather than following diet rules like I had for years. This prompted me to research intuitive eating further, and it introduced me to the anti-diet community, where I started to learn a whole new paradigm that changed everything. I had been so entrenched in diet culture that it took a while for me to wrap my head around these new ideas, but something kept me wanting to learn more, and slowly my mindset started to change. A year later, I’ve completely given up dieting, I’m practicing intuitive eating and training to coach others in the principles, and I’m learning to accept my body as it is, instead of constantly feeling like I need to change it.
Iris: That is amazing! Giving up dieting and learning to listen to my body has changed my life as well. What was the hardest lesson you had to learn to overcome your ED?
Krista: It was a tough pill to swallow once I realized how far I had descended into disordered eating, all while believing that I was improving my body and my health; and how many other women I may have harmed during my time as a fitness coach. I believed I was changing lives by helping women lose weight, but I realize now that I was only perpetuating the idea that thinner is always better, and that our bodies need to be managed and our flaws fixed. It’s hard for me to think about how many women I may have hurt by teaching them to ignore their bodies and follow food rules instead, and how many I set on a path of disordered eating and weight cycling. I spent a lot of time feeling very guilty, but I’ve realized that we all do our best with what we know, and that when we know better, we do better. This is a huge reason why I’m so vocal about intuitive eating and Health at Every Size, now. I want to do better.
Iris: I’m so glad you are vocal now! Your posts are always spot-on. I’m curious: how has your view of yourself changed though the recovery process?
Krista: When I lost weight at 30 and began fitness coaching, my identity revolved around my body. The praise that I got for losing weight and getting fit fuelled my self-worth. When I began gaining weight again, it was a huge blow to my self-esteem and self-worth. I spent a long time feeling like a failure for no longer being able to manage my body and keep it “under control.” It’s been a difficult journey, but I’m working on uncoupling my worth from my body, and learning to accept it as it is. It was a huge weight off my shoulders when I finally gave up that pursuit to get my thinnest body back, and decided that I would focus on listening to my body and allowing it to find the weight it’s meant to be. Some days I still grieve that smaller body and feel sad, but I have more and more days where I can look in the mirror and be okay with what I see, and I’m working on becoming more neutral towards my body – where I just don’t need to think about it so often.
Iris: I really relate to that. I think many people think we have to go from hating our bodies to loving them. Sometimes neutrality is totally OK, and a necessary first step! Has your view of others changed as well?
Krista: This journey has helped me to become so much more accepting of not only myself, but of others, too. I had fully internalized the thin ideal, believing that thinner and fitter was better, and I compared myself and others to that ideal. One of the first things I did when I quit dieting was curate my social media feed to change what kinds of bodies I was exposed to. I unfollowed all of the fitness accounts that made me feel like I had to “fix” my body, and I followed more diverse body positive accounts. It’s helped me to find beauty in myself and in others where I used to see only flaws.
Iris: Oh my goodness, yes. I had to unfollow a LOT of people for that very reason. What gave you the motivation to stay on the recovery path?
Krista: The thing that kept me the most motivated to keep going was the thought of freedom. Some days I was tempted to go on “just one more” diet, but the thought of restricting again, and likely gaining back all the weight I would lose, kept me from dieting. It was a whole new kind of freedom to be able to eat what I wanted to eat, to be able to eat satisfying foods, and to not have to feel hungry all the time. Finally being free from body shame kept me going, too. I knew that being thinner didn’t change the way I felt in my body – it was never enough and there was always something else I wanted to change. I knew that I had to work on healing my relationship with my body to truly have freedom – weight loss would never give me that freedom.
Iris: So true. What comforted you when things got really tough?
Krista: Sharing my journey on social media, while difficult, has helped a lot. When it felt like no one in my life truly understood what I was going through or why I had given up dieting and fitness coaching, finding a community of like-minded people online who “got it” really helped. And recently I started working with a body image coach, which has allowed me to work through some issues that I wasn’t able to on my own.
Iris: The community on Instagram is wonderful. I have been blown away by how open and accepting people are. I’m so glad you’ve had that experience as well! I always love to ask survivors–what can you do now that you don’t think you would if you hadn’t had an eating disorder?
Krista: My life is no longer ruled by what I can eat, what I can’t eat, when I can eat next, what I weigh, or how my body looks. I can go visit family without bringing my own food. I can eat out at a restaurant without looking up the menu and nutritional info online first. I can eat the same meals as my family without making a diet version, and without sipping tea while they eat because I’m fasting. I’m no longer waiting until I lose X pounds before shopping for new clothes – I buy clothes that fit my body, instead of changing my body to fit the clothes. I’ve freed up brain space to care about things other than food and my body, now that I’m no longer obsessed with fitness and nutrition.
Iris: Yes! That is music to my ears! Is there anything you would do differently now if you had to start recovery over again?
Krista: I think that I would have sought help earlier. I didn’t have a diagnosed eating disorder, so I felt like disordered eating was something I could overcome on my own. I was able to give up dieting and adopt intuitive eating, but I realize that the body image issues I have go much deeper, and I wasn’t going to get past them on my own.
Iris: What has your experience been sharing your story with others?
Krista: Right from the beginning, I got a lot of support and encouragement for sharing my story publicly. I know that there are some who I worked with as a fitness coach who will never understand my journey, and some friendships have ended since I pulled away from the fitness world and moved towards an anti-diet approach, but I get messages almost daily from people who can relate to my story and who thank me for sharing what I’ve been through.
Iris: So amazing. Thank you so much for being so open, and sharing your story with all of us. I know you inspire so many!
Krista: Thank you for having me on here!