My Journey With Food, Health, and Body Image

My journey with food has been an interesting one. As a kid, I was a very picky eater. The only things I would eat without a struggle for the first five years or so of my life were corn, frozen pizza, spaghetti, and McDonald’s french fries. At one point my mother was physically shoving broccoli into my mouth just so I was eating a real vegetable. 

Throughout middle school, I was extremely self-conscious about my body and suffered horrible digestive problems. As a means of controlling my weight, I underate and over-exercised. I never starved myself but I always ate just enough for me to be a little hungry, but to not look suspicious. I ate a lot of very plain, poorly flavored salads. I also drank a lot of lemon water for reasons I do not remember. There was a sense of shame in how I felt about what I was doing. I felt embarrassed to have been undereating to control my size because I wasn’t “the right size” on my own. I saw food as an enemy that I had to face three times a day like clock-work and I developed a very poor relationship with food because of it.

In my freshman year of high school I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is defined by the American Heart Association as when “the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels, is consistently too high.” High blood pressure can cause irreversible damage to your arteries, heart, and kidneys so the idea of being diagnosed with high blood pressure at the age of fourteen was confusing and overwhelming, especially since the nephrologist I had at the time pretty much told me that I was going to be on medication for the rest of my life and there was nothing I could do about it. In my stubbornness and desperation, I again turned to food. Slowly I started looking at what I ate not through the lens of weight-loss, but through a lens that allowed me to realize that I wasn’t eating as “healthy” as I thought I was. Though I was no longer living exclusively off of frozen pizza and McDonald’s french fries, I was still eating a lot of processed food, red meat, and salt. On top of that, I wasn’t sleeping as much as I should have been and I was often stressed out, which are both factors that can negatively impact your blood pressure. 

    In 2017 I became a vegetarian and started cooking my own meals in hopes that paying a little more attention to what I ate would help me get off my medication. Within two years I was able to get off of my blood pressure medication, but my relationship with food improved drastically. I had a new appreciation for my food once I had to make it myself. Cooking my own food helped me see food as a creation of love and thanks to my body rather than an enemy. I’m not a doctor, psychiatrist, or expert in anything but my own experiences but I would like to offer a mere morsel of guidance to anyone struggling with their relationship with food: Food is not your enemy and it is not a reward for how many steps you’ve taken that day or how long you’ve worked out. Food is a necessity and a right required of your body to allow you to live the life you live. Nourish your body to the best of your ability and don’t feel guilty about indulging. Your body loves you so do your best to treat it with love, kindness, and tenderness.