Food and eating is a prominent occurrence in our human lives. We come across it daily and is an unavoidable force behind life, human and otherwise. Food has held not only this inevitable prominent position in the course of my life, but a highly controversial one. For many years the kitchen symbolized more of a war zone than a place for nourishment, the path to the fridge more of a green mile than an eternal spring.
My relationship with food has covered the spectrum. I’ve been secretive, obsessive, compulsive, binged, purged, avoided, starved, refused, feared, indulged, dismissed, misunderstood, and then learned, appreciated, valued…
A very powerful realization comes when seeing the circle complete itself. For years I had an ED NOS- eating disorder not otherwise specified. I did it all. The anorexia, bulimia, over-exercising, excessive diet pills, diuretics, laxatives, even poison to make myself vomit, and more, all wrapped up into one person. I was addicted to eating, I was addicted to not eating, I was terrified of food, and I couldn’t stop.
Then I got better. I recovered. And I realized I loved food. It tasted good and I could eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted with no guilt or shame or a single care in the world really. I finished my meals and didn’t think anything of it until the next time I was hungry and would eat whatever I wanted all over again. I didn’t really think much of nutrition, because hey, I was young and didn’t feel any urgency to worry about it yet. I just wanted to enjoy the freedom.
The problem was, I gained a lot of weight. And ironically I didn’t even realize it because I was happier with my body and more comfortable in my skin than I could ever remember. As my mind recovered and the mental illness dissipated, I started to see my body without the skewed image distortion in the mirror, and I after gaining all that weight, I saw my reflection as smaller than what I saw with an eating disorder. When I was sick, a private session with a body image therapist in residential treatment revealed that I saw myself as 150 lbs. heavier than I actually was. I gained a ton of weight, but I hadn’t gained 150 lbs. About half that, in fact. So in the mirror, my brain processed my image as smaller than I had been for years, now that I finally saw myself clearly.
I didn’t even realize how much weight I had gained, since I hadn’t stepped on a scale since recovery, and stepped on backwards at the doctor’s office because I didn’t want to know, nor care. I figured, what good would it do? But after accidentally seeing my weight and vitals written on a printed invoice after leaving a regular check-up one day a few years ago, I realized if I didn’t change things, I’d be headed for big trouble with my health. I had no idea it had gotten so bad.
I started paying a little bit of attention when I ate, and stopped getting fast food every single day, and things slowly started reversing. But it still took a few years for me to really commit mentally and find the motivation to dig in and do better.
Reaching that point is amazing. Granted, it’s an imperfect process, but so what? That’s what this is all about. Learning and improving and just enjoying taking care of oneself. I can’t believe the passion I am gaining for good, whole food. I can’t stop reading about the effects of sugar on the body, and the science behind it, or the same with gluten, or what is really driving heart disease and cancer and how badly we Americans lack omega 3’s in our diet to help fight these problems.
This is full circle. Finding the place where I am happy and comfortable in my skin, and also aware. Where I can check my weight without any emotional attachment, to track progress along the way to figuring out true health. I try to get in extra exercise most days (about 30 mins.) to keep my heart and muscles strong, but beyond that I am not a slave to the treadmill or a gym rat, and I have an active job where I walk all day long so that’s enough. I know when to lay on the couch and veg out and that it’s okay to do that too. I don’t need miracle formulas or calorie counting, but rather the understanding of real food vs. processed food, of what my body needs in a day, and the eye to estimate portion sizes. I’m finding simplicity in lowering refined sugar and refined flour and multiplying vegetables in my diet. I’ve found a passion for cooking and planting and creating nourishment with my own hands, and am excited at learning more about what these creations actually do after they are put in my mouth. Most importantly, I can tell that even doing this imperfectly, while I’m still learning, I have so much more energy and a better mood. I just plain feel better. Food is supposed to give you energy and make you feel good, not make you feel like you need to take a nap or give you headaches.
I love my life. I really do. And this is just the next step in learning how to take care of myself, learning to thrive, and giving myself my best chance each day.
**If you struggle with food and your body, an eating disorder, or just aren’t very happy with yourself… just know that doesn’t have to last forever. Change is possible, freedom is possible. You, too, can find peace from the inside out, a truce and partnership with your body in place of war. But it starts within, it starts with knowing your worth-something no scale can measure.