By Alyce Collins
THIS YO-YO dieter went from eating a RAW VEGAN diet to becoming a carnivorous BODYBUILDER before she noticed the toll it was taking on her body and stopped.
Holistic health and life coach Julianne Vaccaro (27) from New York, USA, found herself immersed in fad diets from a young age after enrolling to a fashion school, but hindsight has shown her the damage all those years have done to her body.
After years of punishing her body first through being vegan, phases of purging and trying her hand at bodybuilding, Julianne has now reached a point where she understands the importance of taking care of her body through intuitive nutrition.
In 2012, Julianne became vegan and sustained that for the following three years, even maintaining a fully raw vegan diet. Having already tried the Atkins and the paleo diet, Julianne found a real passion in veganism as she loved reconnecting with natural flavours.
Despite this, Julianne was undernourished because although she was eating healthy foods, they were not right for her body and she began losing her hair, blacking out and struggling to stand up. Before long, Julianne began gaining her weight back after seeing muscular people with figures at the opposite end of the spectrum to hers, which introduced her to bodybuilding, before taking part in five competitions.
Julianne gained over two stone, going from 8st 2lbs while vegan to weighing 10st 5lbs as a bikini competitor, but she wasn’t happy inside. Julianne was aware of how all the restricted dieting was impacting her body and it was time to let herself heal rather than pushing her body to the extreme.
“I started out with all the fad diets like Atkins, vegetarian, vegan, raw vegan and paleo,” said Julianne.
“I was extremely restrictive and always followed some kind of tracking method. I was vegan for three years and it was revolutionary. It really showed me the power of plants.
“I originally went to school for fashion and I wanted to look like the models –skinny with bones protruding. But I have an athletic build, so I had to develop disordered eating. That’s what first made me go vegan, wanting to be small.
“We tend to make things so complicated and because of our food supply and the way we’ve been trained to crave sugar and salty foods, we’ve truly been stripped of the amazing natural flavours from fruit and vegetables.
“Being vegan helped me reconnect with mother Earth and find fulfilment in simplicity.
“Although I was raw vegan and healthy, I wasn’t eating right according to my body type. I’m definitely a carnivore at heart, so I began to add meat back into my diet and then I discovered bodybuilding when I was 22.
“When I found it, I was laser focused on it. I knew I wanted that body and level of discipline, no matter what. I had my eyes set on the prize, but it came from a place of insecurity.
“I was chasing the specific body because I felt inadequate. So, once I started, I didn’t stop. I started getting really strict and began to over train from very early on.
“On the outside I looked great and I felt good. But I only felt good when I looked good. As soon as any of it changed, my happiness would sink.
“I felt out of control, but I also felt a sense of pride that I was able to restrict and control my eating. It was only because I looked good and because I tied so much of my worthiness to that.
“As I continued to stay in the game longer I started to feel extremely deprived and it got worse. In my prep phases, I would have cheat meals which became more frequent when I would binge, and then I would purge it all out.
“I would go to the supermarket ‘just to see’ what food I wanted to buy after my competition. Problem was that I’d buy the food and convince myself that I’d stash it away until after the competition.
“I left the shop with peanut butter and a packet of Oreos and ended up eating both before getting out of my car. That was the moment I decided enough was enough.
“I knew then that I had to stop competing because it’s so extreme. I got lost in the extremity of dieting and prepping and I lost my sense of normality. I was gaining weight and binging what I ate, and I felt unhappy with the combination.
“I did one bikini fitness show and I knew I was done because I couldn’t make sense of the sacrifices I was making. None of it was healthy anymore and none of it felt good to me.”
After putting her body through so many extreme diets and exercise regimes, Julianne wanted to allow her body to heal and nurture it.
Now, Julianne weight trains up to five days a week with at least two rest days a week, and she eats intuitively rather than restricting herself of whole food groups.
“I wanted to be able to live again and I wanted freedom and to be in control of my own body,” said Julianne.
“I’m grateful for the knowledge and experience because I learned a lot about myself, the human body and extreme dieting.
“I tell others to give themselves compassion and work on their self-worth. You are worthy and once you start recognising that you can pour so much love into your journey rather than hate.
“I’ve taken everything I’ve learned over the last six years and put it into my program called Balanced Body Method. It takes you from food fear to freedom, and from body obsession to body confidence.
“If I had a program like BBM in my life back then, it would have saved me a lot of heartache and shame. It would have given me so much clarity and purpose.”
You can follow Julianne’s journey by visiting @juliannevaccaro.