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Our Personal Journeys of Body Image and Nutrition

Updated: Aug 25, 2023


Episode 3 of the Fuel the Fire Podcast hosted by Shanon Safi, RD, LDN.



In this episode, Shanon and Cat get real about their personal struggles through self image, nutrition, and how they overcame to get to where they are now.

In this episode, they talk about:

• Shanon growing up as a child of immigrants (01:25)

• Cat’s upbringing and self image into her teens (05:20)

• Shanon’s challenges through college & competition (10:36)

• Cat’s experience with competing (18:32)

• Shanon’s struggle with self image, binge eating and healing (28:17)

• The current goals (37:10)

• How to reflect on your own journey (39:45)

If you’re ready to break through all the barriers holding you back from being the best version of yourself, click the follow button and prepare to transform in a way you never imagined to be possible.




Episode Transcript:


You don't always need to be in a weight loss phase. You don't always need to be on a diet like it doesn't always need to be perfect

Hello, hello, welcome to episode three of the fuel fire soul podcast. You're here with me Shanon Safi and me cat Grimes. I noticed we did that last time we said me is that weird? Me? Me Hey. But like we said, we already put out the disclaimer that we're awkward. So don't listen, if you don't love awkwardness. It's an endearing awkward. That's how I like to see it. Exactly. So today, we wanted to talk a little bit about our journeys with self image and nutrition. And kind of like how again, we got to this point in our lives in regards to food and how we view ourselves. Alright, so I think we want to throw it way back to our childhoods, because I feel like a lot of our ideas and thoughts about ourselves and our families kind of starts from that cat is dying, because we can't seem to figure out how to not be this awkward. There's so much that's going to be edited out of this episode. So shout out to Jamie, our superstar over here that deals with our shenanigans and makes our podcast sound phenomenal. Yes. But yeah, so I guess I'll throw back to baby SHAN I think a lot of you that already know me personally. And for those of you that are tuning in for the first time or have never met me, I am the child of two immigrants. So I think I have a little bit of a different background in terms of like how we viewed food to like the standard typical American life if there is such a thing. But with my family, they both came here from overseas. And so where they came from, they were super poor, like food was just kind of like whatever we can afford to eat. So they kind of grew up more vegetarian because meat was kind of like seen as a delicacy. But by no means was I a vegetarian growing up, I think when I was born here in America, so when they came over, they adopted a lot of different things in terms of like, what was available and the foods that they could get. But we still ate a lot of like traditional Syrian food, types of things I ate, I would say it's like a very typical, like Mediterranean diet, I guess what you could say, my parents weren't really big on eating out. So I would say most meals were cooked at home. And I guess I'm thankful for that, in a sense, but I definitely was, like really jealous of kids who would like go out to you and their parents did not do that at all. Like everything was cooked at home, which now from a health standpoint, really thankful for that. But as a child, I was like, Yo, I really want a happy meal and look at the toys that cousin Jason got and his happy meal. And here I am eating some like rice and beans. This sucks burger. Like every child is like I'm in it for the Happy Meal and the fun zone or whatever it was the place that whatever that thing was called whatever it was called. But yeah. Anyhow, back to my life, I guess. So. Yeah, it was it was nice, because we always had home cooked stuff. And my mom was really big on cooking for us. And she did I would say like a majority of the cooking in the household. Mornings, I think we kind of got used to just like eating some cereal and whatever was like quick before school, and then my mom was always like cooking a dinner. I think sometimes I was that weird kid because my mom would pack me Syrian food and people would be like, What are you eating? What is this? And I would like tell them in Arabic and they would just look at me like strange but cool. That's yeah, I remember eating like a lot of like healthy I guess like stereotypically healthy food, like lots of chicken and meats and veggies and rice was like a pretty big staple. Yeah, my that's basically how I ate all the time, like always cereal, food, always the whole meal. And we didn't really like talk about food a whole lot in my household. And like whatever we wanted was always around to like, my mom was like a big healthy eater. Again, like she never really used the word healthy. It just kind of like was what food was to us. Like it just was what we had around. And then my dad, he did indulge in some junk foods because he spent a little bit more time in America in his childhood than my mom did. My mom didn't spend any of her childhood here, but my dad had a little bit more time because he moved here first. And so he got into like the Twinkies and like all that stuff that was real cool back in like 70s 80s and stuff. And so we always had junk food around too. So it was never like our parents didn't really restrict us. Well, my parents ever really restricted me in any sense where they were like, Oh, you have to eat this first before you can eat that. It was just kind of like we whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted and I think in a lot of ways cuz that was good because we just like naturally regulated. Because we're also like, all athletes, like my brother played sports. My sister played sports, I played sports. So I do think we were like conscious enough that we would like eat what would feel good, but at the same time we were kids, so you get away with eating like a lot of junk food too. And it just like didn't really faze us. So yeah, I want one cat to kind of give you a background on like, the environment she was in now to.

Yeah, so mine was definitely different. You know, my parents and my sister, we were all like, we grew up together. You know, it was always like family dinners, that kind of thing. Like it. We had that pretty frequently. I mean, I can't like think back to not eating around the dinner table. But we definitely went out on the weekends. Like, I feel like, every Friday, we kind of went out to eat at least. And at that point, I don't know. I guess I was. I don't know what kinds of foods I really ate. I know. I was definitely like, if we went out to eat, I would get potato skins and that would be like dinner with like cheddar cheese and bacon and sour cream. And like I call that dinner with some chicken tenders. So I loved like that kind of food when I was growing up. I still do. But yeah, I don't know. Like, I think I grew up a little bit more in a household. Like, there was just always something going on in terms of like someone's diet or like, personally, I think my body image like thinking back on it probably started at a really young age and like the foods I ate I definitely over ate when I was little. And I would definitely hide food from my parents. I think I think like I'm trying to think back. Like I was saying to Shannon earlier, I think I would come home from like, middle school or high school and no one was home. So I like went to the pantry and we had ramen noodles in our house. I don't know why like that is never going to be called at my parents house again, I don't think but I would literally make a whole pot of like ramen noodles. I'd bake like banana bread muffins, and like, make my own cream cheese, like icing. And I just eat everything because no one was home. Like, I think that's what I did when I was little because I don't know, I don't know if it was like a restriction thing if they were restricting me necessarily or not. But I definitely would overeat on those foods. And I definitely was a little bit bigger, chunkier than some of my other family members, I guess you could say. So it's like a comparison type of thing. I think really, from really a young age, at least I felt that way that I was being like compared to other family members that were my similar age. And that still like kind of sticks to this day, like looking back like that probably is where a lot of like body image and like comparison came into play. But yeah, from like a food standpoint, like I think I did have not a bad relationship. But I didn't know what I was doing with food until probably high school age. And I don't know what your if yours was any different in high school. But that's when I started to kind of like care a little bit more about my body image and wanting to do something in my relationship with food. And at that point, is kind of when I got into working out and I did that was my mom. So we were actually going to the gym together. And that was like kind of a bonding thing. But I think I hated it. I think I hated going to the gym. And I hated like doing things I did not want to do at the gym. Like I really love strength training now, but I did not like it when I was younger. And I felt like it was very not forced. But it was nothing I really wanted to be doing with my time. And then yeah, that kind of got me interested. I think the trip my trainer then at the time, got me into like the food aspect of things. And I think she did this test. I really don't know what it was called. I don't know what it was. But I got like a 50 page printout of like, this is my body type. And I can eat 1000 calories a day and be fine and like, I can't have these fruits, but I can have these fruits and I can have these proteins but not those proteins. So I think that's probably then more so when like the bad and good foods came into play for me. And then I was like, huh, this is interesting. Like, I'm changing my body right now. I'm changing my food. Maybe like I will go to college for this. Because then if I do that, like my thought process was like I have to be healthy if I'm telling people what to eat, you know? So it's like Alright, that seems like a way to go. I guess control, like, what I was eating and what I looked like, because it's like, Alright, you're a dietician, you're a nutrition major, like you have to look good. You know, you have to be like a picture of health if you're doing that. And that might not be the right reason of going to college for that. But I definitely think that had a big influence on getting me into college and going for, like Nutrition and Dietetics. So that's yeah, that's pretty much. That's a loaded story coming up to the point of college at least. Yeah, yeah.

So yeah, I mean, that's pretty cool. I would say that's another, like difference, our trajectories kind of like, we're at different paces. Because I mean, don't you worry, it sounded like I had a perfect childhood. I can't promise that was true. I think my challenges with nutrition didn't come until college I think is when I first started to experience some challenges just because my environment and my world was so different, because I moved away for college. And I got so used to having like, everything kind of set up for me. And like, I didn't really have to think about anything. And one thing I just want to throw this out there for anyone that was friends with me in high school and hung out with me, we were notorious my house was just known for like being the hangout spot, because we had an entire closet, like, not just like a little cupboard of snacks. Like we had a whole closet. Oh my gosh, I love snacks. Yes, like people loved coming over, because we sit like, I mean, even in my house now. Dedicated to snacks. And I think that will just be my forever thing. Because to me now like having a nice relationship with food involves just like being able to access whatever I want, whenever I want. Because as we talk about it, you kind of see through the restrictive free phases that Kat and I go through. I think that's kind of what created a lot of the challenges that we had in our journey with food and how we viewed ourselves. Honestly, it was like the more restriction I put in and you might agree cat, it was just like the worst we felt about how we looked. So I think they kind of go hand in hand. Like the more restrictions like the more pressure you put on yourself. But yeah, I'm like jumping forward a little bit. So go back to college now. All right, so the story gets spicy for me guys. Strap in. So when I was in college, every like things changed. Like I said, I was a competitive athlete in high school. And then I went into college my first year, I wasn't playing any sports. And then I just felt like something was missing from my life, because that was just like a big part of my identity. So I think I was just like a little lost and confused. And I could see my body was like changing freshman year. I was like, This is not what I'm used to. And I don't really know what to do about it. And again, like it wasn't like a super conscious thought freshman year. Like at the end of my freshman year, I got a job at GNC because it was like on campus. And it was the only place I saw myself fitting in. It was also telling Kat before we recorded this, like I awkwardly tried to get a job at Ann Taylor. And if you know me, I'm I'm just not an anti Taylor girl, like, whatever you would picture when you see in Taylor. It's the opposite of how I exist. Yes. It's just not I don't know what I was thinking. Obviously, that didn't work out the universe knew that that was not a good option for me. But she didn't see was like my perfect little home. And so yeah, when I was there, and I was at the University of Pittsburgh, so Pittsburgh's like a big place for bodybuilding. My boss was a bodybuilder, and he kind of like got me into lifting. So that's when I really started getting more into lifting. And I've always kind of had an athletic build naturally, like I have broad shoulders and narrow hips, which like he was just like, oh, yeah, you're destined to do figure competitions. And I was like, oh, yeah, I believe you, I'm gonna do it. I was like, all in because you know, someone sees something in you, and you kind of get excited about it. And he kind of like, took me under his wing and like, put me on this diet plan. And that's when I really started to see my body shift in terms of like, building more muscle and getting leaner. My boobs absolutely disappeared at that point in my life, which is like a sad part of my past that I'll probably never get back. But, you know, I was I was really happy with how things are shifting in that time. Then I did a figure competition, which for those of you that aren't familiar, there's like different divisions more or less like I was getting on a stage in a very tiny bikini. Yes. And trying to look super muscular and super Tam. And that's when I think I started to view food really differently. So with these competitions, like you have to like really strictly diet for like 20 weeks, a lot of the times at least for females, guys, I think depends. I mean, I guess it really depends where you're starting Point is, but where I was at I needed a solid 20 weeks maybe if not more, just because I was so new to it and it was my first time. So it just like, and yeah, I was never like a naturally lean person like I'm, that's not my metabolic type in the slightest. I've always been like, again, like I've mentioned before come back logically built, and also just like not naturally lean. So during that process that was pretty crazy because I was going to school and with that kind of diet you are getting down to like eating minimal calories. Like before you're stepping on stage, I think I was eating like 800 calories and it was all in tilapia and asparagus. But I never eat asparagus and I never eat tilapia that's like ruin Dadlani never be on the meal prep menu, literally never, ever. So yeah, at that point. I mean, I'm gonna be honest, like I admitted this to maybe like other people that were competing with me because it became like the norm. But I would do wild things like go to food and spit it out just to like, get the taste of it. Like I was going insane, like eating this bland food. And like my mental capacity was so low. That was probably like my worst semester of grades because I just like like, when you're depriving yourself that much, especially like of carbs, like your brain needs glucose to function. So the fact that I like wasn't taking in and I'm taking like 18 credits a semester, I just was like, I don't even know how I function. Honestly glad I'm still like, I my brain didn't just like fry itself at that point in my life. Yeah. But yeah, so then I just started to see myself really weird, because coming out of that, you know, it's like, I got, like, I loved my look when I was like stepping on stage. And then I didn't want to let that go. But that's not sustainable. Like, I was not going to eat 800 calories for the rest of my life. And like you, it would just lead to lots of health complications and problems. So I was also at the gym for like, three hours a day. And like he just, it was just not a sustainable way to live. So coming out of it, I just had like, major issues with how I saw myself because like everything after that show, then I was just like, I look horrible. And now it's funny, because I look back to that year after my show when I thought I looked horrible. And I'm like, Oh, God, if I thought I looked horrible, then I'm actually what I would have said in my look like now. So that's like, you know, major, major shift throughout my lifetime. But yeah, that's when things started to get weird. And I just was like, trying to use my food to like, control how I felt about myself. And I just like, tied my looks into, like my self esteem a lot more at that point. And definitely, like in an unhealthy way. Like I think there's like a degree which it's like a, you know, good to be aware of yourself and like, know, how you feel is going to influence or like know how you're eating is going to influence how you feel. But at that point, like, it was definitely super unhealthy, like the way I was seeing it. So I kind of like internally struggled with that, even though maybe like externally, it didn't look that way. Because again, like going back to being someone that studies nutrition, like after I graduated, I'm going to become a dietitian, it's kind of like, there's this expectation that you're supposed to look a certain way people are going to take you seriously. But I was like I can tell people that I hate myself and try to convince other people to love themselves. Like it was just like, it was not good. When I first started grad school, like I was just mentally like, not feeling great about myself. So I know like cat recently did a show. So we're just going to jump into that part because I think Kat can kind of relate and kind of like, talk about how she felt

with her shell. Yeah, yeah. So definitely, you know, competing. I competed in April of 2021 21. Yes, this year. And I actually, I decided I was going to do a show. I don't know my college experience. I think once I got to my senior year, I was very over the college life. I was over gaining weight every single semester going home, beating myself at the gym, losing some weight and like that was my kind of cycle with college. And my senior year of college I kind of fell out of that cycle, I think and I took the gym a little bit more seriously. And I actually kind of rewinding a little bit more. I went to the Arnold Classic with my mom and my trainer that I was working with for when I was in high school. We all took a trip out to the Arnold Classic and that was in Ohio obviously that's an Ohio every year so we went out there and I saw what people were doing on stage and mind you like these people have been doing for years like this is what you see advertised like people really big in the body building industry like that. Just have them kind of performing in front of you. So they're all up on stage. And I like looked at my mom, I was like, I can do that. And she's like, Yeah, go for it. And I was like, I had it in my mind for a while. That was probably 2019 I think, yeah, the year before COVID. So then I was like, alright, like, I'm gonna think about it. And I was kind of just toying in my mind. And then I decided to go for it and 2020 and I was training from I think, November, November 2019, to march 2020. So I did my whole entire prep, I was maybe three or four weeks from my show, I was there, I was on the 600 calories like, and then COVID canceled my first show. So like, I that's the whole backstory, I was in crap. I was there, I was lean, I was good. And then all the gyms closed. And I was like, I'm doing three to four hours of workouts every single day. I was like, oh my god, what am I gonna do? So that like, I very luckily, somehow I reversed myself pretty, pretty good to get to a good point. And then, you know, I like maintained and I found a new coach. And I worked with him. And that was like, another November to April timeframe of prepping. And that was a lot like mentally, like, socially, every aspect of your life is changed when you're in prep and like, not to talk badly about it. Like it was definitely a good experience for me to do. But I almost did it. Like, I feel like looking back, I almost did it to prove to myself like you can never look like this, like this ideal image of yourself that you think like you're trying to get to, this is what you're gonna have to do three hours in the gym six days a week. You're gonna have to eat chicken and asparagus. And like talk about Yeah, like restriction. The crazy things you do. I am not Yeah, Shannon said it too. Like, I was chewing food. Like I'd eat a cookie and spit it into the garbage. Because I was like, oh my god, like, Give me something else. And I was like, at a point. I'm not kidding. I thought I was like going crazy portion. And I would bring my food in and be like, Look what I'm eating. And I would literally puree my chicken and asparagus together with some like chicken broth. I probably wasn't even allowed to drink that. But I did. And I drank my food like six times a day. My like my friends, my family were like, What are you doing to yourself? So like, talk about restriction. That was six, six weeks of that, really? And it was like, All right, like coming out of that. It's just like, Yeah, you look awesome. For like, that stage look and like, eat but even at that point, like I think I've said this before, but even at that ideal image that I had in my mind, like the day before the day of even like I was pulling at my stomach, like picking out like the littlest things like, oh my god, like, I still have this body fat or like, my shoulders aren't nice enough. And like, you still like if that isn't fixed, like beforehand, like it's not gonna get better just because you change your look for a day. Like you're still gonna have that self doubt in your mind. So I learned that the hard way. But yeah, and then, like reversing from that. I mean, that was in April, I did good. Up until like July this past year, I had to get surgery for a hernia that was in my like an umbilical hernia. So I was down for the count so I went from like three hours to like two hours maybe to no hours of training at the gym. And literally just lying on my couch for probably I think it was six weeks I couldn't really do anything except walk obviously your body changes just from that itself. And then I had some like post surgery issues with out of all things my job so and that's still bothering me to this day, which is affecting like my neck and affecting all of my training. So it's just like that's getting off a whole nother tangent but yeah, I don't know now I'm at a point like fast forward to now from April to now it's what is it? What are we in November? But yeah, so I'm not feeling that great about myself right now. And it's like kind of the imposter syndrome of like, All right, well, you're talking to all these people like trying to help them through these situations where they feel like crap about themselves. And you can't even like step on the scale or look in the mirror because you feel like crap about your own himself. So right now like that very much up to this day is where I'm at, in my journey, it's like, alright, that kind of made me very aware like, Alright, one, how how, and what it would take to look to like that lean body image that you're seeing these people post on Instagram, and you're seeing probably people doing these shows, but you don't know what it takes to get to that point. So like, kind of experiencing that, to now like, my weight obviously has gone up probably, like 20 or 30 pounds since that. And it's a lot, like that's a lot over a span of time. And like, just mentally, it messes with your head and your body image on yourself. So that is kind of where I'm at right now. But I'm working working through it, and we're trying to get through it. And just trying not to fall into like the old pattern because it's like, alright, well two hours of cardio and an hour of lifting worked before, so why won't it work? Now? Let's try it again. And it's like, Alright, no, we're not doing that. So, you know, just trying to like, switch up the mindset now. Like, it's like, Alright, you got that out of your system. And let's like focus on the mental piece now a little bit more. And even after that I was tracking macros, probably this whole summer up to up to like, a month ago, I was like, this is not nope, I'm not doing this anymore. I'm not tracking anything. I'm gonna just kind of go on, you know, getting protein at all my meals, all my snacks and getting like a nice balance and not feeling like I need to track every single thing that's being put in my body. And I literally have not stepped on a scale for like four weeks now. So I'm like, I'm not doing it. I don't want to like, put the mindset negatively. I'm just trying to think like, other ways to track your health. And your health is not about being lean, which is like what I'm trying to tell myself and work on personally. So that's where I'm at.

So you said it's like you're up to date, like full journey. That's my

full Yeah. Like to right now. You know, that's where I am. Yeah, I

love that. Yeah. I mean, I think it's good for people to be aware that, you know, it's not like a perfect system, like you don't like I think sometimes we have this idea where like, we're gonna figure it out. And then like, never make mistakes, again, with our nutrition or health. Yeah, I don't think it's like that. And, you know, the reason that we teach this is because we've made it our own personal agenda to figure out how to overcome it in our own lives. And like, we want to share that with other people. Because it's not easy to navigate, especially with like, all the stuff that's thrown out you in the media and just, I don't know, it's like this word self love. That's, like thrown out all the time and stuff. I think sometimes it's really hard to figure out what that actually looks like. So yeah, I think it's, it's good. Just so you guys know where we came from. And hopefully, you know, I think a lot of people can relate to a lot of the things that you shared in your story so far cat and maybe some of mine. Yeah, we're just gonna keep getting spicier and spicier with my life, my love. Yeah, I think. I think I've caught you guys up to like me my life and like, to 2015 Yeah, I

went on a tangent there. So now you're fully up to date on me. Now, Shannon?

Yeah, so let's jump back into my little fire. So I think, yeah, I mean, we were also talking about this earlier. I need to stop saying that phrase, we talked about this earlier. No, I'm telling you. Yeah. But yeah, so I think like things in my life just got really weird. And just like, I mean, like, I think a lot of things that threw me off with this after competing. Yeah, so this was after competing. So like I had competed. And then I decided that I like probably was never going to do that again, because I felt like the behaviors that led me to were like, not healthy. So I didn't want to do that anymore. Because I felt like it made me look at myself in such a negative way. And I really was just like, objectifying my body in a way that I just like, I didn't want to be looking at myself in that lens. I think that some people are mentally balanced enough to handle that. But I'm not one of those people. Like I can't look at my body and separate it from how I see myself like the way people can be like, oh, yeah, you're telling me I need to grow my glutes. Okay, yeah, I'll go do that. And I'll feel sad that you just told me about but small but small still hurts my feelings a little bit and oh, you know, I just like I mentally can't handle it. So I was just like, I don't want to be tied to this. So yeah, I got away from that. And so I moved into to competing in powerlifting, and then into CrossFit. And during those times I got, I think it was like those two sports, it's like I could afford to eat more. Because bodybuilding, you can't eat as much the way I could with powerlifting, and CrossFit. And so I kind of was able to go back to like my old eating habits and still be able to, like, feel happy about how I looked during that time of competing. And so this was like, I think, probably like 2015 till 2018 2019 that I had a shoulder injury and like that just again, like these injuries, like they really tend to throw you off when you're an athlete, because again, like, I just tied my identity to who I was as like an athlete and stuff and like, you losing that it was just like, who am I like, I don't know who I am anymore, because like, I've just always known myself as an athlete. So it was like, Okay, well, like, now that I'm not an athlete, like, how do I eat? What do I do with my time? Like, how are people going to see me? Are people still going to come to me for nutrition, if I no longer look like the face of strength and excellence in the perfect physique, and all that stuff. So I was having like a major identity crisis. And then I think I also like, was in a series of toxic relationships, I would consider them that really did not help how I viewed myself as an individual, which, even though that's like not directly related to food, it directly affected how I ate and like, that's when like, some of the binging stuff started was like, probably after I got injured. So like, I probably spent like a year or two of just like, really struggling with binging because it was kind of like a way to make myself feel better. Like I would just kind of like, still try to be that like, Oh, look at me, like I'm eating so healthy during the day. And then when I get home, and I could finally like sit with my feelings. I'm like, I'm so sad. Like, I just want to eat because that makes me feel better. So it's kind of like in a cycle of, like, sure, like, I think a lot of us do it, like we eat perfect during the day, and then come home and then just like eat everything our heart desires, because it's soothing. So I realized, you know, trying to build from that it took a lot of like, personal inner work, which is why the programs that we do now are so focus on that, because I realized the only way I was ever going to get out of that was like changing the way I saw myself like before, I almost think like the competing, which is like why I walked away from it. It was kind of like my mask for issues like internal issues that I was dealing with. So it was like, I felt really insecure about myself. But like, when I was an athlete is like I felt so confident like I would like fight girls during sports. Like I just felt so strong. You made me feel good, like to be like strong and powerful. But like, in real life, everyone. Like I would say most people meet me and they're like, you're so shy and so quiet. But like, you know, if you saw me doing any kind of like competition, you're like, I don't even want to mess with this girl, she will rip my head. I will never forget my friend literally said that. To me. She's like, I'm so afraid of you. And like, I didn't think I could be your friend because you scare me. You're just like this girl with a big bond and all these tattoos with lots of muscle, and you just look like you're just ready to kill somebody. Like Wow, thank you. That was exactly the energy I tried it.

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