I blogged previously about my eating disorder and my experience through it all here, but I felt compelled to write more on this topic. I should forewarn everyone that it does get a little graphic and might be considered "TMI" for some.
When I was 20 years old, I fell in love for the very first time. He was my first love, and I was crazy about him – unhealthily so, I’m sure. When our relationship ended, I thought I’d never get over it. I went to extremes to try and win him back, always putting my body and soul through emotional distress and physical turmoil. We broke up and got back together too many times to count, and every time we did, I resorted to this type of behavior. I made a huge effort to lose weight each and every time because I was convinced that he would want me back if I looked different—better in some way. My self-worth was completely wrapped up in my body and its shape. So any time we broke up, I immediately tried to lose weight because I thought that if I lost weight, he would be want to be with me. Of course that wasn’t true, and even if it were true, why would I want to be with someone like that anyways? So I’d work hard to lose the weight, always resorting to starving myself, and I’d succeed. I’d lose the weight, and we’d get back together…but never for long. We’d break up, and I’d begin the cycle all over again. I don’t know why we kept getting back together, and I guess I’ll never know now, but looking back on things, I highly doubt it was because I lost a few pounds. So then my narrative became, if I could manipulate my weight, I could control my circumstances. Right? Wrong. This behavior bled over into other relationships as well. Anytime I was rejected, I’d resort to starving myself in an attempt to redeem the relationship. All of this landed me with severe body dysmorphia and an eating disorder by the time I was 22 years old. It took me a long time to understand that changing the way you look, especially when done for another person, is never the way to fill the void in your heart.
My early adult life revolved around two things: my weight and food. I was quite literally obsessed in every sense of the word. I felt completely out of control yet I had no desire to change. I just wanted to be smaller. I weighed myself every morning. If I didn’t like the number I saw, I just wouldn’t eat that day. I avoided social situations where I knew there would be food or alcohol. If I did allow myself to go out with friends, I would eat and drink until I made myself sick. I couldn’t fly or travel without feelings of extreme anxiety. I couldn’t exercise without feeling like I was going to pass out. I would sleep 12-14 hours at a time. I’d do this because 1) I had no energy, and 2) the more I slept, the less I felt I needed to eat. My hair started falling out in handfuls. I couldn’t go to the bathroom because I had nothing in my system to expel. I’d throw food out, dig it out of the garbage, and eat it. Yes, you read that right. Until one day, I just literally couldn’t do it anymore. I hated who I had become, and I was just so. dang. hungry. I needed something to change. I didn’t want to continue living how I was living. I didn’t want to be tired or anxious or on edge any longer. I just wanted to live my life… and I honestly had no idea how to do that.
First things first: I started going to therapy, but more importantly I started eating again. I remember watching the scale go up and up and up and up and just crying. I had just become a CrossFit coach, and I didn’t look anything like what I thought I was “supposed” to look like. I wanted so badly to go back to my old way. I remember my friend Bree gently asking me if I genuinely wanted to get better. I told her that I did, more than anything. I’ll never forget what she said. She said, “Then, you’re going to have to eat.” So I did… and I did gain weight, quite a bit of it if we’re being honest. My body was so starved for food and nutrients that I would literally gain weight from anything and everything I ate. It didn’t matter if it was a salad or a burger. I had been hungry for so long that my body just held onto everything. Once my body finally felt happy and fueled again, I stopped gaining weight. I just leveled off and stayed there, and for the first time ever, I didn’t try to alter my weight in any way. I just let my body rest for a while.
I wish that I could pin my disorder on one person or one event, but the truth is, I have always had a distorted image of my body. Even now, I sometimes can’t see that I’m perfectly healthy the way I am. It’s unfortunate that I cannot think of one time in my life where I genuinely felt love for my body. This is crazy! Our bodies literally are the things that keep us alive. Why are we this way? Isn’t it the society we live in? I mean, just look around. Food is labeled as “good” or “bad,” and diets and “beach bodies” are marketed to us like they are the answer to life’s problems. It is ludicrous that by eating a salad, we are considered “good” whereas eating a burger or pizza or a cookie is seen as “being bad.” This is simply not true. Food cannot make you a “good” or “bad” person, and the food you eat or don’t eat does not make you a better or lesser person for it. This labeling of food is harmful to us. Also, why do we keep glorifying weight loss like it is the greatest thing a person could ever accomplish? It’s really not.
We are responsible for our kids and their views on food, nutrition, fitness, and health. These kids are like sponges, and they are watching everything we do. They watch what we eat and how we eat, and they listen to how we talk to and about ourselves. They are watching when we diet, when we weigh ourselves, when we say derogatory things about ourselves (and other women, too!). They learn what is acceptable and normal through what we demonstrate to be acceptable and normal. If we are dieting off and on our entire lives, refusing to eat certain foods because we are constantly trying to “be good,” weighing ourselves every day, saying mean things about ourselves, this becomes normal and acceptable behavior. Whether we think our kids are watching or not, they are noticing. I’m not pretending to know what it is like to have kids, but I do have a little experience being a kid :)
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying it’s wrong to take care of yourself or that you shouldn’t be proud of your body. I love to exercise because it makes me feel good. I love feeling healthy and fit and strong, and I also love eating pizza. What if I told you that you could eat pizza AND be healthy and fit and strong all at the same time? You don’t have to have one and not the other. I love fitness. I love food. They are big parts of my life, yet they are not my whole life. That is the difference. They do not consume me, and they won’t ever again.
So let’s flip the script! We've got kids looking up to us now. Let's get off the scale. Let's enjoy our food again, guilt-free! Let’s exercise because we love our bodies. Let’s appreciate our bodies for their uniqueness and for what they are capable of accomplishing. I know it seems like such a foreign concept to grasp because we have been taught the opposite, that we should hate our bodies because they don’t measure up to a specific beauty standard. But what if for once, we didn’t listen?