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Finding My Strength: One Slice at a Time

Trigger Warning: Eating Disorders

A slice of chocolate cake. Should I just lick the frosting? How many calories is it? What if I become overweight? 

In 9th grade, I blindly developed the incorrect idea that by eating less, I would achieve a skinny physique. I restricted my food intake, over-exercised, and distanced myself from any meal that could potentially make me gain weight. This mindset suddenly turned into inescapable, unhealthy habits that morphed into eating disorders: anorexia nervosa and bulimia. 

Around this time, my grandmother became severely ill. At the hospital, I saw her bony body covered in a web of IV lines. My body almost mirrored her frail one, just differing in age. I realized the great harm my impulsive actions caused me: brittle hair, dizziness, and chills. While my grandmother did not have the ability to improve her chances of recovery, I did. I had to reconsider my idea of a perfect body and seek help. In order to do so, I slowly embraced perfection as something ridden with flaws.

I consulted my doctors to improve my knowledge about diet, exercise, and yoga. Rather than focusing on calories and serving sizes, I saw food as nourishment and strength. With each new meal, I began appreciating the power in taking control and building the confidence to tackle future challenges. 

This new growth mindset carried into my academics and trained me to fight my negative thought processes. For instance, when I first entered my 10th grade AP Computer Science Principles class, C++ programming flooded me with worries. Would my teacher disapprove of my work? What if I can’t code? However, I reminded myself that I am the girl who fought two eating disorders by leveraging her resources and seeking concrete facts before acting. A few data structures could not scare me. Hexadecimal to binary conversions became second nature. Endless coding lines flowed from my fingertips to the computer screen. This dexterity, this adrenaline drove me to pursue courses beyond my comfort zone without letting self-doubt hold me back.

Now, I am a fighter who easily confronts setbacks with resilience. It’s a piece of cake.

Smriti Panchal

UC Berkeley '24

Smriti is a freshman at UC Berkeley double majoring in Nutritional Science with emphasis on Physiology & Metabolism and Anthropology. She is a passionate, driven leader who enjoys public speaking, creating art, networking with her community. Her goals are to provide the maximum happiness to the maximum number of people through her work.
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