My Five Year Food Fight

Trigger Warning: Eating disorders, Anorexia

I vividly remember forcing myself to not eat or drink for days when I was a teenager. I would lie in bed for hours and fight the pain in my stomach. I would look in the mirror and pinch the skin around my stomach in order to guilt trip myself whenever I felt hungry. Anorexia is an illness that haunted me for years and even after receiving a diagnosis in 2017, people continued to look at me and express that I was too skinny already to have an eating disorder.

I still recall going to family dinners and being scolded for how little I put on my plate. My mother’s line still haunts me to this day: “once on your lips, forever on your hips.” I look back now and wonder: in what world that is an okay thing to tell someone, especially a vulnerable child? I believe more so than ever before that children should not be introduced to physical compliments or any sort of critiques on their bodies until they are much older as I struggled for years as a result of her criticism.  Due to the attention that was raised towards the sexualization of my body at a young age, it has not only continued to affect my self-esteem now as a young woman but has also made me more susceptible to valuing the opinions of others over my own. Since the primary source of compliments I received as a child were based on my thin structure rather than my intellectual abilities, it was extremely difficult in my adolescent years to view myself as having any other predominant skills.

Due to often being silenced by friends and family over my body image concerns, I continued to skip lunches, measure my waist line, and enjoy when my bones showed through my skin without any kind of intervention.

My disordered eating also continued into my adult life as I struggled to maintain a healthy diet within my busy lifestyle. At the same time of my eating disorder diagnosis, I had also begun taking medicinal treatments for my mental illnesses. After trying an array of different serotonin-changing medications, I finally found one that began to alleviate some of my mental health problems. Unfortunately, the medication that provided the most relief was a known appetite suppressant. Taking it consistently caused me to lose even more weight very quickly as I no longer felt the need to eat.

As my plummeting weight became concerning, I was switched to a lower dose, but then began over-exercising. I have been athletic all my life but was never a regular gym-goer until I saw my body pack on the pounds I have previously lost. After that, I began going to the gym every day and didn’t stop until I was in physical pain. I was putting my body through so much stress that I began to see the recurrence of severe anorexia symptoms such as irregular bleeding between menstrual cycles.  Eventually, after being put on doctor’s orders not to exercise, I went back to being the young girl curled up in bed, afraid to eat, and terrified of gaining weight.

In September of 2017, something changed in me. I was out shopping for some new jeans when I put on a pair of low risers for the first time in forever (high waisted pants were the best thing to ever happen to me, to be honest) and realized my once lean body had curved out and taken the shape of a young woman. Rather than being mortified, I was inspired. I suddenly felt stronger, more empowered and less out of place. Once I began living on my own, this pattern continued: I started being able to dictate exactly what I was eating and when.

As my relationship with food began to evolve, it wasn’t until February of 2018 that I really started to embrace the full change. I woke up one day and decided I was no longer going to deny myself the things I wanted. I released the guilt I had attached to food so many years ago and started accepting my body for what it is. While on vacation over spring break, I was at the buffet filling my plate with food when I overheard the girls beside me question whether they needed any more carbs. I watched as they sadly walked over the salad bar and filled their plates with lettuce. I remember looking down at my own plate that featured a mountain of every kind of grain available and realized that everyone has their own relationship problems with food. My favourite food-related moment of that trip, however, was when a guy joined me for lunch and tried to hit on me. He said to me, “Wow, you’re so fit, do you work out?” (What a line... Am I right? *eyeroll*) To which I responded, “Nope, just eat a lot.”

Overcoming the challenges that came with changing my eating habits is something that was extremely hard to accomplish at first, however, it was evidently worth it as I feel as though it has changed my entire life. Do I still eat healthily and portion my food accordingly? Absolutely! Do I also sometimes eat an entire family sized bag of Doritos in one sitting? Undoubtedly! Learning not to judge my own eating habits or care about how other people may judge me was the hardest hurdle but had the biggest reward. Since making this change, I no longer immediately begin counting the calories in my head when I see food.

In the last five years, my relationship with food has gone from toxic to loving. I am now unafraid of ordering at restaurants, do not fear foods I once refused to eat, and allow myself to indulge as frequently as I would like. My mother’s old saying, “once on your lips, forever on your hips,” has almost lost all of its meaning in my mind and will not be a motto passed on in the future. Instead, I like to use the saying “everything in moderation.” Whether that be salads, pastas, or sugary cereals, I refuse to cut food out of my life solely to adhere to the unrealistic body image I once craved.

If you’re currently in a complicated relationship with food, first remember that help is out there, that you are in control of your body, and lastly, that you don’t need to sacrifice the things you love to feel better about yourself.

For the first time in five years, I’ve come to realize food can’t fight back. My five-year food fight was simply me against myself and thankfully, I not only won, but I came out healthier and happier too. I am unashamed to admit that it took me almost five years to overcome a severe eating disorder; however, I am glad to wholeheartedly confess that now, I not only love food but that I love the body that eats it as well.

 

If you believe you or someone you know may be struggling with an eating disorder, it is important to look for the signs and symptoms and reach out for help if needed. Some of the symptoms to be aware of include constant or repetitive dieting, excessive exercise or preoccupation with body image, isolation from friends or family, a rapid change in weight, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, avoidance of meals, low self-esteem and/or a general change in perception towards oneself. Remember, checking in with your friends and family’s well-being is never a bad thing and supporting them through the process is incredibly important.

For more information regarding eating disorders, and more specifically anorexia, as well as the supports available for those who may need help please follow the links below.

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