I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve been battling an eating disorder for the past three years.
And it’s hard. I still have days when I wonder how I’m going to make it to my next meal, but I have to give myself credit. Over the years I’ve developed a deeper understanding of how to track my emotional connection to my body and look out for warning signs that can set me back.
But there was a time when I was not so adept with my food knowledge. I thought that dieting was an unhealthy combination of starving yourself, then eating a few calories at the end of the day to make it to morning. I even figured that the more time I spent at the gym, the more worthy I’d become.
And the problem wasn’t that I didn’t feel accomplished. I’d stand in front of a mirror and pluck at all the spots on my body where I knew I’d lost weight, congratulating myself. I knew from the moment I stepped off the treadmill that I was one step closer to being the optimal me.
Eventually and inevitably I broke down. I was tired and hungry, and desperate for a body I knew I’d never have.
I knew I had to seek help immediately, and the first step was seeking help from a dietician.
Three sessions later, Kelly had equipped me with a notebook, a pen and everything I needed to know about living a healthy, balanced life. She taught me the value of looking at my food like a story and a process rather than something to be restricted and feared.
Kelly taught me how to food journal.
At first, I thought it would be a simple process of writing down everything I ate. In the back of my book, she told me that I’d need to keep track of my meals, making sure that I followed her advice on what a clean and full meal was.
But it didn’t end there. She turned to the front of my book and told me to write down the emotional side of my eating, the side I’d only ever spoken about in deleted Twitter rants. I’d never taken the time to process my emotions in a way that involved the one thing I’d always found solace: writing.
I should’ve thought of that, right?
So I started. At first, it was difficult to think of my weight as anything other than a number. But I took my mind away from the scale and what I believed I wanted, and instead focused on unveiling everything I had been through and how that had affected my emotional connection to my body.
I remember paragraphs where that “Aha!” moment catapulted me into a frenzy of tears. Not because I felt trapped and alone, unable to take control of my mind and body, but rather because I finally felt free to speak about everything I’d been keeping inside in order to appear like the calm, self-assured Instagram fitness models we see on our smartphone screens.
Now, I’m not sure of anything other than wanting to live a healthy but authentic life.
There are days when I eat Krispy Kreme, knowing that it’s not the healthiest choice in the world, but I don’t feel bad about it anymore. Instead of bottling everything up and punishing myself for it later by restricting calories and gymming for 2 or 3 hours straight, I just write.
I write about how difficult it is to navigate a society that tells you to love pizza unconditionally but hates you for the extra weight it adds. I write about how I feel watching my friends eat whatever they want and stay thin while I can eat a bag of fries and have immediately bigger thighs. I write about my past as a thin high schooler and how all of it is affecting the way I process my eating habits today.
So no, this isn’t some manifesto on how perfect I am with my eating and exercising.
I still have an eating disorder, and I still have days when it gets the best of me.
But more than that, I am trying. I spend every day making sure that I am doing what is best for my body.
And there’s the slightest bit of irony around the fact that writing would end up being that remedy.