Good morning, lovely friends!
It’s Monday morning, and I got back from Santa Monica last night. It was a wonderful week of fun, sun, beaches, and mountains. I kind of fell in love with it.
For three of the days I was there, Shane was busy working, which meant I had the entire day to myself. It doesn’t happen often, so I like to take advantage of this solo time. I spent a LOT of it walking – around downtown Santa Monica, along the beach, shopping, etc.
While I walked, I did a lot of people-watching. And I while I people-watched, I noticed there’s a lot of beautiful people in Hollywood. And while I noticed there’s a lot of beautiful people, I smiled to myself when I noticed that I wasn’t comparing myself to them at all.
Ten years ago, I would have spent the rest of the day thinking about how I could restrict my food to be able to fit in a size 2. Ten years ago I would have shamed myself for indulging in beer the night before and bacon that morning. Ten years ago, I had an obsessive, bad relationship with food.
I’ve talked about comparing yourself to others before, but today I want to talk about comparing myself from ten years ago to myself today, free from obsessive thoughts about eating, and a good relationship with food and my body.
I don’t speak about it often, but when I was a sophomore in high school, I stopped eating for a while. My weight plummeted from 150 lbs to 108 lbs, which looked skeletal on my nearly 5’10 frame. I wrecked my metabolism, lost my cycle, suffered in volleyball, and started getting heart palpitations. I was ruining myself. Although I was only in the deep throws of anorexia for about 6 months, I continued to have disordered thoughts about food for about 4 or 5 years after. It wasn’t until I was 21 that I finally broke free from my obsessive thoughts about food.
Disclaimer: What I’m about to share is very personal, and I debated whether I should write about it for a while. I mean, every day I write about how to live a healthy, fit life – so sharing such a deep struggle is tough for me. But it happened, and I sometimes get emails about how I have such a positive body image and relationship with food now. So if this helps one person who doesn’t have a good relationship with food, then it was worth it. And please, if you think this might be triggering for you, STOP reading right now. Please.
How it Started
It started innocently enough. I wanted to lose a couple pounds and look better in my jeans. I’m pretty sure I was obsessed with Britney Spears a la Baby One More Time and Christina Aguilera. They looked so good! I wanted to look good, too. So I threw out anything and everything in our house that would “make me fat” and started counting calories. No one really ever told me how important it was to eat enough, so as I was eating 900 calories a day and seeing the pounds go down, I thought wow! This is great! If I eat even less, I’ll lose even more! I was SO incredibly uneducated. I started losing weight, and I became obsessed. It was something I could control, and I couldn’t stop.
I was also going to the gym and doing cardio, just to see that rewarding number on the screen: calories burned. In my extremely uneducated state, I thought that my calories burned from exercise and calories consumed from food should equal a net amount of 0 for the day. And then I also started taking fat burners, because I thought at the time, why not? I remember those little red pills – Fat Predator, I think – so well. They made my heart feel weird and my ears feel clogged, but they were helping that scale go down, so in my mind, they were worth it.
I wouldn’t hang out with friends if I had to go to the gym. I started getting weird looks at the lunch table as I ate and peeled my orange – my lunch for the day. My muscles were being eaten away, and I could no longer jump and powerfully spike a volleyball into my opponent’s court. My friends were concerned, going to my school counselor and my parents, who were already concerned themselves. But I didn’t listen to anyone – no one could get through to me.
How I Stopped
It was getting harder and harder to convince others that I was eating and healthy as I continued to look sickly skinny. I remember I was in church one morning with my friends, and my mom had decided to come to my church that day, too. We were singing, and I had to leave the service and rush into the bathroom because I was going to faint. I literally didn’t have enough energy to stand and sing. Call it an act of God, but my mom saw me, rushed into the bathroom, and told me then and there that I had 2 choices: start eating or go into treatment. Treatment apparently scared me more than eating did, so I decided to start eating again. I still remember that first meal – a minute steak and mashed potatoes. I didn’t eat all of it, but I ate some, and that was the start of my eating again.
How I Recovered
It wasn’t an easy journey to recover, but I continued to eat, and gain weight. I remember going to buy jeans, and telling the sales associates that I needed my pants a little baggy- they wouldn’t be baggy for long. That first year I started eating again, it wasn’t without disordered thoughts. I still counted every calorie I ate, and obsessed about food. The obsession lessened over the years, but it took a good 6 years to be completely free from disordered thoughts any time I ate. And I did it on my own. Looking back, I think I probably should have seen someone to work through my issues, and perhaps make the process a little less painful.
But I did it on my own. I feel I’m one of the lucky ones who didn’t relapse back into my eating disorder, but I never did Basically, some things happened in my life throughout those years that I wouldn’t have predicted in a million years. There were a few upsets that made me realize I needed to treat my body with the utmost care, and that meant not stressing out about what I ate, as well as not depriving it from the nutrients it needed. So I worked to make eating not a stressful event for me by enjoying food – the process of cooking it, enjoying it with friends, and choosing nourishing ingredients that were both pleasing to my taste buds and my body.
Where I am Now
I know some people think that those who have had eating disorders in the past will always have an impact on them (mentally, emotionally,) but I now consider myself to have a 100% completely healthy relationship with food. Ninety percent of the time I choose meals and snacks that I know will make me feel good while and after I’m eating them. But I also enjoy myself when the time presents itself. For example, the other day, I enjoyed a healthy breakfast of turkey sausage patties, peppers, onions, and potatoes. Then that night I enjoyed a beer tasting with Shane and his co-workers. The main point in breaking free from these thoughts can be boiled down to one factor: guilt, or rather, the lack of it, when I choose to enjoy or indulge. Get rid of the guilt!
Without the guilt and obsessive thoughts, I can now put that energy toward productive things – like love, life, and work. And I couldn’t be happier.
Have you ever dealt with disordered or obsessive thoughts about food? How are you working/did you work to overcome them?