When I went abroad in the fall of my junior year, I fell extremely ill. I couldn’t eat without getting sick (TMI? Sorry not sorry…) and it literally changed the way my trip panned out because I couldn’t leave the house because of my anxiety around food. My friends would go to these awesome dinners and explore the city but I knew I’d only end up in the bathroom crying so I never went. A trip to Melbourne ended with me exhausted because I wasn’t putting anything into my body and my travel buddy Amy exploring the city on her own. I lost around fifteen pounds over two months… and I hate to say it, but as much as I hated it, I loved it. I was finally skinny!! I bought a new bathing suit to show off my new body and finally felt like I was comfortable in my own body but let’s be honest, I still totally edited every picture I put online to make my boobs smaller, my butt bigger, and my tummy skinnier so how comfortable was I really?
(I made my stomach smaller and shrank my butt and thighs because GOD FORBID my cellulite shows!)
Regaining some confidence in myself was nice, but it didn’t last long. I wasn’t eating anything because my body was stuck in this horrid cycle of rejecting everything but applesauce, toast, and rice. As my boyfriend recently put it, “your body is a car. If you aren’t taking care of it: filling it with gas, changing the oil, etc., your car is going to die on the side of the road.” Maybe that analogy is a little harsh, but my body was slowly puttering to a stop in the middle of a busy intersection. I had no energy, I was depressed, but at least I was skinny, right? WRONG, Y’ALL. WRONG. As soon as I got back to New Orleans for the spring semester, I put the weight RIGHT back on. It took a few months, but with each cherry screwdriver, each plate of Rum House nachos, each cup of Petit Four ice cream from Creole, the number on the scale climbed back up to my weight pre-abroad and I was right back to where I started: disappointed in myself, flubbery, without clothes that fit, and depressed… And hungry. Always hungry.
So after a summer of #treatingmyself in New Orleans (and by that I mean I ate so many snoballs I practically became a snoball) I have decided to embark upon a journey of actually getting comfortable in my body the healthy way. I want to change my relationship with food, my relationship with exercise, my relationship with my body, my relationship with the way I think about my health… Some of you may say, “But Melissa, you’re beautiful just the way you are! You should work on your self-confidence, not fitting into the societal expectations of your body.” You would be right on many accounts: I am beautiful just the way I am. I can always work on building confidence in myself, and if you knew me, you’d know I am a huge proponent staying mentally healthy. But you guys––I can’t afford to keep buying new jeans. I hate that my back and my knees hurt whenever I stand for more than 20 minutes at a time. I hate that I wear yoga pants and sports bras but literally had never set foot in a gym and stayed for more than five minutes before this past month.
I don’t see this as a diet––diets may get you to lose the weight quickly but they aren’t realistic if you want to keep it off. I needed to make a lifestyle change, I needed to eat a vegetable, I needed to learn how to lift a weight and work a treadmill! So I started and I lost 4 pounds in the first two weeks! And then someone offered me a District Donut and I believe it’s sacrilegious to deny yourself a District Donut if you are offered one. So I ate it, because duh. Then I ate half of another one… And just like that, I was wrecked. My days started at 8 AM for work and ended at 9 PM with me flopping on the bed and passing out, leaving me feeling like I had no time to work out during the day. I called my mom in hysterics, saying “I just don’t have time to be healthy!” which she laughed at because it’s honestly comical. For me, being healthy means being more conscious of the choices I’m making: instead of eating one and a half District Donuts, I’ll split one with someone. I actually LOOK at and CONSIDER the salads at restaurants now! I will go for a walk, even if it’s just for twenty minutes, while I do my daily catch-up with my mom on the phone every day and if she’s busy, I use it as my time to call someone else I love and catch up with them. It’s about carving extra moments into my day to cook my favorite dinner (sweet potatoes, chicken, and brussels sprouts) instead of just eating noodles and a banana and calling it healthy because I make the serving size of pasta and not any extra (because seriously who ever cooks the right amount of pasta? NO ONE AND IF YOU DO, YOU ARE A LIAR!!!!)
(Being healthy doesn't mean your boyfriend has to stop feeding you french fries!!)
Let’s make one thing very clear: I am not an expert on this topic. Not even close. But I am slowly learning, I’m committed, and writing this article and putting it out into the universe holds me accountable. Maybe I’ll write an update some day soon. Maybe I’ll keep my body to myself because it’s mine and I can do whatever I want. But I’m going to do this because 1. I love myself and, 2. I think I’ll love myself even more when I feel good about myself and can walk for more than a mile without wheezing like a fish out of water. Wish me luck––I’m off.