What pasta taught me after years of diets, calorie counting, carb avoiding and disorderly eating

The other night I had the most delicious plate of carbonara, with no thoughts on carbs, calories or guilt. I know… it’s a miracle.

Carbonara has fast become one of my most favourite meals, and before you start thinking of your bottled carbonara sauce… or the recipe where you add cream, peas and mushrooms… this is not the carbonara I am talking about, maybe that is more like carbon-alia (not Australia’s carbon footprint… but hey it also sadly makes sense). 

I am talking about the typical Roman dish. With just a few ingredients, pasta, egg, pecorino, guanciale (yes this is important, not bacon), and pepper, together create one of the most fantastic meals.

And of all the delicious kinds of pasta Damiano has made me… I have to say Carbonara is in fact my most favourite (in saying that, “this is my favourite” is probably said after every plate of pasta haha.)

Here’s a photo, it was simply taken for my food memories and to send to my family group chat. But I had to add this poorly photographed but delicious plate of pasta… obviously. Also, the feature image is actually of Carla and not me, she is eating Bucatini All’Amatriciana (no, I can not pronounce) and look how happy she is.  You’ll also see a photo below of Damiano and me, making pasta, I recommend doing this… you will feel quite proud of yourself. 

Back to last night.

Damiano made me, Carla, and Joel carbonara. We drank wine, we laughed, we spoke of trivial things and deeper more important topics. We relished in the tastes, the mouth-watering kind where you’re lost for words and sound effects are very much welcomed “mmmmmmm….mmmmm”. These kinds of conversations around a dinner table are so good… no words just sound effects. 

Although we spoke of hardships during dinner… the heaviness of our personal and worldwide problems disappear for a little while. Everything feels light and a little brighter. There’s more joy.

To me this is freedom. To enjoy dinner and all that comes with it, with no guilt, a dinner with pasta (WITH PASTA!!!!!), with carbs, with cheese, with wine and even with bread. 

For me to eat all this and simply enjoy it, with zero anxiety, zero guilt, zero thoughts of the double workout I need to do in the morning, no counting of carbs or calories, no changing of the menu, no filling up on salad while everyone else enjoyed the pasta (nothing against salad, I love salad)… 

… I am talking, hand on the heart… I enjoyed this food and felt no guilt…. 

Not only is this freedom, really, this feels like a complete miracle for me.

To you, it may sound insignificant. To you, the person who has never thought twice about the food you eat, except that it’s delicious and except that it sustains you… well, all of this would sound like a bunch of BS.

But no doubt, if you clicked on this article I am going to take a wild guess that you’ve probably felt guilt and anxiety around food.

Maybe you too have been on and off dieting for as long as you can remember. Maybe you have worked out in the past to ‘burn off the calories’ (and punish) yourself for last nights dinner and dessert.

Maybe you’ve looked at your body and thought… too fat, not right, disgusting. 

Maybe you too are sick of this never-ending cycle of thoughts.

You’re coming to realise that it’s a complete waste of time, a waste of this one precious life. Maybe you want to do it for your kids, lead by example, to show them that it’s ok to enjoy food and not be OBSESSED with your external body (because so often it seems everything else around them is teaching this). 

Or maybe similar to me, food has had rule over your life and mind for years. It’s stolen away joy. It’s made you live in your head. It’s led you to unhealthy behaviours. 

And I KNOW… such a privileged problem to have. And only NOW I am truly aware of this… because I have the space and clarity in my mind to realise it. 

These food issues consumed my mind, body, and soul. They took control of my life, my thoughts, my present and my future. 

And the world of diet culture… even well-being therapeutic diets… play a part in all this. 

You see, my obsession with being skinny started young. 

I remember in high school, my Mum would pack my lunch (thanks Mum I love you) but I’d always give half away. I gathered eat half the food, I won’t get fat. I remember at ages 13-15 we’d have pizza night every Friday after swimming (after swimming 3-5km!) and I’d still only eat 2 of the smallest pieces of pizza I could find.

I remember having this feeling of fear for putting weight on. Like it was the worst thing that could ever happen to me.

I remember I would measure the thickness of my thighs as I sat down, just to check they weren’t getting bigger. Helloooo… I was a growing teenager! Of course, they were going to get bigger.

I remember when I was at swimming training, people would make comments on how thin I was. And I loved it. 

I remember when my pants felt loser, they’d fall down slightly lower, I’d feel proud of myself. 

I’ve never thought or spoken about these things since then. Upon reflection, this seems outrageous. This was all in high school! And I was never fat. I was thin. I was completely fatphobic (for myself, but no doubt I had internal judgements of others too). I was innately frightened of putting on weight. 

And by now you might be thinking… well where did you get these beliefs from?!

It didn’t come from my Mum, not my Dad or any other family member, not from my friends, not from anyone in particular. There is no one to blame, not even myself!

I got these beliefs from the world I grew up in. I got them because I was a teenager reading 99% fat-free on every food product. I got them because of Kate Moss’ famous quote “nothing tastes better than skinny”. I got them because the media applauded celebrities (mostly, if not always women) who lost weight and annihilated those who put on weight. I got them from watching those bloody plastic surgery reality TV shows (WTAF!). 

It’s quite obvious why so many people become obsessed with external looks and have extremely deluded views of what “beauty” and “health” actually is.

We live in a world of diet culture and fatphobia.

And of course, 16/17 year old me put weight on. I was still growing after all!

I also quit my 5 day a week swim training. I started going to more parties and drinking alcohol. My hips grew, my breasts grew. 

Of course, I naturally put on weight.

All of it healthy… minus the typical Australian teenage binge drinking (not healthy at all).  

And with this weight gain, I remember constantly googling things like…

  • How to lose weight.
  • The quickest way to lose weight.
  • How many calories should I eat to lose weight? 

I think back to this and I am furious.

I spent my time Googling THIS in my spare time instead of reading great literature, learning the difference between shooting stars and comets, realising the potential of the internet. Ahhh, simply taking extra interest in SOMETHING, anything besides calories and my weight.

I’ll admit I still thoroughly enjoyed my teenage years. More likely this Googling stole time away from my studies and not my social life. And this is why I am only now learning about shooting stars (haha)!

Food became my enemy. Food either made me fat or skinny. Ugly or beautiful. I spent years restricting my food intake and then binging and vomiting it. 

It’s been a long road to finally, wholeheartedly having a healthy, loving relationship with food. A long road to feeling acceptance of my body. And not just accepting, now celebrating my body.

And not just MY BODY but EVERY body.

It’s been a long road to realise that FAT is not ugly and does not mean unhealthy. And that THIN does not equate to beauty and health. A whole lot of unlearning and learning. 

A long road… but worth every single step. And every single plate of pasta!

If you feel stuck on a similar path or if you can relate in any way, please let my story help you realise that you might not actually be stuck.

That you too can create a healthy and loving relationship with food, exercise, your body image, and yourself. 

I don’t have the exact answer but I have the proof that it is possible to make a change. 

We talk more about this inside out MerryBody Online Studio. If you’d like to check it out, sign up to our free 7 Day Trial. It’s Yoga, Pilates, and Meditation Classes driven by self-acceptance, self-respect and joy. SIGN UP HERE.

Always merrymaking,

Emma (+ Carla)

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