Trigger warning: Discussion of eating disorders.
You know that toxic ex? The one that you swear you’re through with to all your gal pals, but when the night gets slightly lonely, you’re calling him begging him to come over? Well, my toxic ex is food. For much of my life, my relationship with food has been defined by either the strict restriction of intake or anarchy of the kitchen (aka I ate anything and everything).
An unhealthy relationship with food is not uncommon, particularly for women being attacked by a myriad of unobtainable images. All too frequently, we feel a need to take more dangerous methods of food control. I would know. On and off through high-school, I meticulously counted calories, at times eating around 600 a day while working out two to four hours. Then, at the end of my junior year, I developed Bulimia (an eating disorder defined by binging followed by purging). I’ve since recovered due to the support of my incredible friends and family, but the psychological effects of the disorder remain.
Dieting is a tightrope walk for me and others who’ve endured an eating disorder. What may have begun with good intentions of health, can quickly divulge back into a mindset of control. Without intent, I begin tallying calories, inching closer to the threshold, devastated by guilt when I’m a calorie over. Spending evenings bitter with frustration that I ate too many carbs or too much sugar or too much. Slowly, reverting to the dangerous mindset of self-hatred that led to bulimia.
“Dieting” has an inherent connotation that one’s current body is inadequate, a mindset that I have worked too long to shirk. The choice of healthy eating for the improvement of health, as opposed to a weight loss mechanism, reorients the mindset from changing the body to caring for the body. However, I have found too much restriction in any manner can bring back old habits, so I opt to feed my body what it wants while still making healthy choices frequently.
The most important thing I can do for myself is love my body as is, and abandon any practices that alter that love. Feeling comfortable in your skin should always be the first step in creating a healthy lifestyle. Self care is an important aspect of mental and physical well being. Sometimes, something as simple as eating whatever your body craves, without remorse or guilt, can be the most radical way to love yourself. May we all be more courteous, and understanding of the lived experiences of others, when it comes to dieting, exercise, and food intake, and may we work towards a world where no one feels ashamed of their body.
(This article is in relation to my own experiences. The experiences of others who have had, or are still struggling with an eating disorder will likely differ).
Photo Source: 1, https://www.google.com/search?biw=1154&bih=694&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=RIdxWuvp... 2, https://www.google.com/search?q=eating+disorder&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=... 3, https://www.google.com/search?q=your+body+loves+you+love+it+back&source=...