Like most relationships, it is a ridiculously complicated one. Well, it used to be. I saw that a few weeks ago it was National Eating Disorder Week and I went back and forth about posting something about my own experience with the subject. I am not sure exactly why I waivered, other than it is a really sensitive subject for a lot of people, myself included. In sitting here today thinking about what I wanted my next post to be about though, I came back to this topic. I want to be as open, honest, and transparent on here with you all as I possibly can be and my relationship with food is definitely part of my story.
Before I begin, I want to be upfront about the fact that I will be talking about my struggles with eating in the following post so if that is a trigger for anyone this might be a good time to jump off this particular post! I also want to be upfront about the fact I was never diagnosed with an eating disorder, nor have I ever sought treatment for one. This is just my story that I thought I would share in case someone out there can relate and might find some hope that things can get better as they have for me!
Back when I was in my mid-twenties, I was, as they say, trying to find myself. I had graduated college, was working a super boring but steady 9-5 job, was in a relationship of 5 years that I knew I wanted out of, and was waking up each morning feeling more and more out of control of my own life. I felt stuck. I knew the life I was living wasn’t the life I wanted but I wasn’t sure exactly what I did want or how to go about getting there without disappointing people, letting people down, or taking big risks that I wasn’t sure would pay off.
Not knowing the next move to make, I stood still. I convinced myself I was being ridiculous because after all, I was checking all the boxes of what a responsible adult’s life should look like. But man, was I unhappy. Feeling like I couldn’t control the larger things in my life, I turned to “over” controlling the smaller things. It started with joining the gym. Innocent enough. I hired a personal trainer. Ok, not unusual. Then I started going to the gym two times a day, seven days a week. Problem loading.
I started waking up each morning thinking about when I was going to be getting to the gym. I beat myself up if I missed one workout. And of course, at the gym, I was primarily doing nothing but cardio. My only goal was of course to be as skinny as physically possible. I don’t think the word healthy was even in my vocabulary at the time, just skinny. I even fired my trainer because he kept trying to drag me into the weight section and I wanted nothing to do with it for the fear of getting “bulky”. Oh man, how misguided was I?!
Naturally, this obsession with working out and being skinny quickly spilled over into what I was eating. No matter that I was working out several hours a day, just about every day of the week, I began to restrict my calories like a crazy person. Back then I would have told you it was all part of my quest for the “perfect” size zero body, but in reality, it was me trying so desperately to be in control of something in my life that I was willing my make myself sick to do it.
My daily meal plan consisted of something like a handful of plain cheerios for breakfast, fat-free saltine crackers with a dollop of French’s Yellow Mustard and a stick of fat-free processed cheese product for lunch, and usually an energy drink and protein bar for dinner. Sometimes I would allow myself some plain chicken breast and on really special occasions some fat-free fro-yo for dessert.
What is even crazier, I never bought anything at the store that had over 3 grams of fat per serving in it. I didn’t pay attention to the sugar or calorie count or if there was any nutrition in these products whatsoever. As long as the total fat number came in under 3 grams it was good to go in my book. I know, I know. Utterly ridiculous and so beyond unhealthy. I am literally sitting here cringing that I am even telling you guys that.
But hey, I got myself down to about 90 lbs or so which was all I really cared about. Now I am about 5’4 which means at 90 lbs I was probably about 20 lbs underweight. I was skin and bones. I thought at the time I looked amazing. In reality, I looked sick. I looked sick enough for family and friends to start asking if I actually was sick. Wanna know the crazy part? Them asking that made me feel slightly elated and even accomplished. It actually fueled my desire to not only maintain that very unhealthy weight but maybe even lose more weight!
I “lived” like that for almost two years. Hovering right around 90lbs, feeling so weak most days it was hard to get up once I had sat down, and subconsciously resigning myself to the fact that if I couldn’t control what was going on around me, I would control what was looking back at me in the mirror. Steadily declining health, a near nervous breakdown, and a trip to the emergency room later, I finally snapped back into enough reality that I quit my job, broke up with my boyfriend, and decided to take my life back into my own hands. It wasn’t quite as quick and easy as that, but in general, that’s what ended up happening.
I also didn’t magically find myself right after I did all those things, but I did find so much happiness in living on my own terms that my obsession with my weight and what I was eating no longer had a place in my life. So what are some things I did to help turn such a negative relationship with food into the much more positive one I have today? Well, the first thing I did was…
It didn’t happen overnight, but the good news is, it did happen. It took work and not every day was perfect and honestly, I still have some days when I look in the mirror and for a brief second, I think I need to start restricting again. You know, just for a few days to drop a few pounds but I am now quickly able to banish those thoughts as unhealthy and unnecessary. My relationship with food today is on solid ground and as healthy as it has ever been. I see food as an ally or a tool I have in my arsenal that I can use every single day to live the healthiest life possible. Being able to shift this relationship into such a positive one has made my life so much better in so many ways and may have even saved it.
Stay healthy and safe everyone!!