TW: disordered eating
Recently, I put a program together called Beyond Eating, that launches in June. It’s a dive into all the things that impact our relationship with food, our self, our body image and more. The reason I’m so passionate about it, is because my relationship with food for the first three decades of my life was a challenging one.
I used to be the little kid who, if I got too hungry, I would have a complete meltdown. Be totally unable to make any decision around food. It was the most extreme form of analysis paralysis I’ve experienced. I couldn’t say yes, I couldn’t say no, all I could do was sit on the floor and cry because making that decision seemed impossible. It was often remedied by an exhausted parent, who would literally grab something - anything they knew I ate, and handing it to me. Then I would eat it, and return to being a (semi) normal kid.
When I was a bit older, and had the freedom to choose from almost whatever I wanted at school, I always could be found with something sweet in my hand. High school consisted of me chomping on Big Red gum and eating three candy bars out of the vending machine. That’s right. Three. On days I didn’t eat from the vending machine, I had a Hostess honeybun or Hostess cupcakes (sans the filling) in front of me. On days when the Nestle cookie machine was on, I had one of those huge, melty delicious cookies on my plate.
In college, the first two years I was on a meal plan, as most of us were. That meal plan came with buffet everything. Including dessert. I ate dessert at least once a day (but probably more like twice). It was almost like I approached every meal like it was my last day on death row, viewing the experience as if it wouldn’t be available to me literally the next time I stepped into the dining hall.
After college, I became more restrictive, sort of. The things I purchased were “clean” and healthy, but that didn’t stop me from eating Fro-Yo multiple times a week or purchasing a muffin on my way to work. It certainly didn’t stop me from eating my feelings, it just meant I had to go out of my way to get those foods. But keeping those “forbidden” foods from being in my house didn’t reduce the Siren like hold they had over me - nope, it just lead to binge eating. I once ate an entire birthday cake my best friend made for me in a 24 hour period.
In my mid-twenties, the toxic cycle of binge-shame-restrict was beginning to get out of control. If I was triggered emotionally, I had tunnel vision to find something sweet to alleviate it. I could go days, maybe weeks, eating “perfectly” all to end up sitting on the kitchen floor with a package of pre-made cookie dough, a quart of ice-cream, cookies, Hershey wrappers surrounding me. I would eat until the point of physical pain (the volume coupled with a sensitivity to some gluten really did me in on occasion); sometimes I could make myself throw up, but other times I would just lie down - consumed by such intense self loathing, shame, disgust - you name it, I was feeling it.
You see, I didn’t realize that was a problem for a couple of years. I lived in that obsessive cycle thinking it was normal. On the outside, people didn’t see a problem because in public I would eat “clean,” and my weight and physical appearance really didn’t noticeably change. All I could see on the outside was a person who I didn’t like looking at. I didn’t like what I looked like on the outside because I didn’t have the body I wanted, even though I had the body a lot of people work towards, and I didn’t like what was on the inside because the person on the inside felt really empty, unsure of her purpose and absolutely zero self-worth.
All of these experiences share one common thing, they were a symptom. They were a symptom of a deeper issue, my self worth, well, I guess the lack thereof. As a kid, I couldn’t speak my needs which made decision making next to impossible (also, I was Highly Sensitive and didn’t know it). As a kid and beyond, my scarcity and lack mentality was SO strong that I overcompensated by eating in excess. In my teenage years, comparison took over and ruled my life. And as a young adult who at the time had suffered through her first and only break up, my identity was completely shattered and I was searching for validation and anything to fill the gaping void I felt.
Perhaps you can relate to this, or at least, some parts of this. If you can, I hope you know you are not alone in your experience. If you still have struggles, know that while it might not feel like it, there is light at the end of the tunnel and it is possible to live differently. If you visit my website, sign up for my (weekly) email, where you’ll start to learn about mind-body nutrition, the perspective on nutrition that views you and your life experiences as a whole person instead of a machine that needs to be fed a certain number of calories everyday. I promise not to spam you, or sell you anything.