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Her Campus / Megan Charles
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mich chapter.

Food is said to nourish the soul, and so many of the best conversations and memories happen around the dinner table. But for some, this is the most terrifying event that could happen. For some, the idea of having to eat in front of other people, or at all, is absolutely petrifying, and the hardest part is that it seems no one really gets it until it is happening to them.

I can still remember the first time I walked into the dining hall in the fall of 2019. I was with my roommate I had just met for the first time and our new college friends. I had always struggled with social anxiety related to eating in front of people. The sheer panic that I felt when I had to eat food in front of others was something that I had dealt with for a long time. No matter how irrational this fear was, for me, the only thing I could think of when sitting in a restaurant was how people were judging everything I ate. I thought that they were looking at my food and my body and were disgusted by me. I knew that the reality was, no one cared but me, but as many people know, the hardest person to win an argument with is yourself. So, for the past couple of years of my life, I barely ate food in restaurants, and if I did, it was a bland salad with the lowest calorie count on the menu. Because of this, the only thing I could think about the summer leading up to college was how was I going to survive this massive change when my only choice was to eat in a dining hall.

Flash forward to my first time walking into the dining hall: and I knew my confidence was going to deteriorate quickly. It felt like I was frozen in place while everything else was rushing past me. How was I supposed to eat every meal in a place that made me want to crawl out of my skin and disappear? I thought that I could force myself to snap out of it, but instead, I started training myself to survive by visiting as seldom as possible. I was lucky if I made it there once a day for dinner with my friends;When I did go, my meal consisted of the same salad or wrap every day. Occasionally I would get some yogurt and granola for breakfast or a bowl of veggies after class as a snack, but most days, it was a granola bar on the way to class and the worst headaches of my life. I was always tired and sick because my body needed so much more but I refused to listen to it.

Christin Urso / Spoon

Getting sent home for quarantine was a blessing in disguise for me. Living in Michigan, our lives were very shut down. We were not supposed to leave our homes unless it was for essential purposes. Due to being home for so long, I finally fell back into a rhythm of eating with my family. In the comfort of my own house my eating habits were returning to normal, but soon my summer job started again, and things became the worst they had ever been. I was self-destructing, and the worst part was that I knew the stress of moving back to school would send me further out of control. The battle between my body and my own mind was raging on and everyone around me was trying to help, but the reality was the only person that could stop it was me. The first couple weeks of school were the hardest and I was watching myself waste away, but I soon realized I could no longer function if things did not change. My anxiety was high from classwork, and not getting the nutrients I needed was causing such great fatigue that it was hard to make it through the day. I had started listening to some podcasts such as Approachable that offered encouraging words about the struggles of eating. The advice from my podcast “friends” coupled with the support of my friends led me to start eating regular meals little by little. Dinner has become a time I look forward to now because I have been using cooking as a way to deal with my stress. I have found that cooking is a fun distraction that encourages healthy eating habits, and so it has been extremely helpful.

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Photo by Jon Tyson from Unsplash

The hardest part about all of this for me was trying to explain just how hard it was for me to eat. It was not just as simple as sitting down to eat, because I simply no longer felt hungry. I was to the point that my body recognized it was not going to get the food it needed. All of this is to say that no matter what you are going through, you are not alone. It was so hard for me to come to terms with the fact that I had a problem, but the moment that I finally realized how harmful I was being to my body, was the day I decided to choose to fight back. I would be lying if I said that my issues are gone, because it will be something that I may struggle with for years to come. My point is that no matter how lost you feel at the moment, it is always possible to get back on track, and it is okay to ask for help. When I finally opened up to those around me, I was able to come to terms with what was happening within me and eventually begin my journey back to health.

Alexandra Kingma is currently a sophomore studying business at the University of Michigan. In her free time she loves watching sports. She and her friend currently run an Instagram (@corporateblondes) posting empowering content and fun day to day life tips.