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Arianna Tucker / Her Campus

Her Story: My Journey to Intuitive Eating & Body Positivity

Let me preface this by giving a trigger warning – I’m about to share the very real and rocky road with food, health, and body image that has led me to where I am today. But don’t be discouraged; there is light at the end of the tunnel. All the hardships that I’ve faced and things I’ve put myself through has inspired me to promote body positivity – and for that, I’m grateful. So let’s get into it.

I grew up with a lot of insecurities, tendencies to compare, and a poor body image.

I think I was in third grade when I first began to feel negatively about my body. I noticed that I was taller than most girls and all the boys. And I overall bigger too. I envied the girls who seemed to get most of the attention. I started wearing different clothes, changed my hairstyle (terrible decision), and did anything I could to “fit in” with the “pretty girls.” Nothing I changed about myself made me feel even better. Of course, I didn’t know anything about nutrition at this age, but I do remember thinking I was too fat. And when I went grocery shopping with my mom, I asked for snacks that had healthy advertisements marketed on them. All of this at 8 years old.

My family’s eating habits rubbed off on me.

My unhealthy relationship with food started early on. My family ate A LOT, and I followed along with the trend. My parents always encouraged me to finish the food on my plate, which can be a good thing, but when you find yourself eating “just to eat” after feeling that you’re full, it can become a problem. I would eat a full lunch at school and come home to eat an entire box of Little Debbie Cosmo Brownies or two fried bologna sandwiches or a whole bag of pizza rolls or whatever else I had available to me. It’s almost like I drowned out the terrible feelings I had about my body with food.

It got so bad that I avoided looking at myself in the mirror.

By the time I was a freshman in college, I hated looking at myself unclothed. When I got out the shower, I avoided looking in the bathroom mirror and immediately wrapped a towel around me. At that point, I knew I had to make a change. *Disclaimer: You do NOT have to change anything about your body to be confident. All bodies are beautiful. These were just my thoughts at the time. I began researching all kinds of diets and the quickest way to lose weight. I began to follow a low-carb diet, what seemed to be the trendiest at the time. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone.

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I fell into the trap of diet culture.

With the low-carb diet I followed, I wouldn’t allow myself to eat any more than 40 net carbs a day. And the worst part was – I LOVE carbs! I worked out twice a day for 4 days throughout the week, hitting it hard with cardio after cardio after cardio. My family would want to order fast food or go out to dinner, and I remember I would get so sad and frustrated because I wasn’t craving anything that I “could” eat. And I would allow myself one “cheat day” (I hate that term) per week to eat whatever I wanted, and because I restricted myself so badly throughout the rest of the week, I really took it overboard on that day. That was unhealthy, too. It took a toll on my mental health, and Lord bless my poor boyfriend for dealing with me during that time. Admittedly, I did lose nearly 30 pounds, but every time I would hit my “goal” weight, I just pushed myself even further. After months of eating low-carb, I decided I wanted to slowly add more carbs to my diet. Like I said earlier, I LOVE CARBS. I thought I was doing myself a favor, but I ended up becoming just as obsessed with other diets. I tracked my macros religiously and counted every single calorie for everything I ate or drank. And once again, I had to look up the nutrition facts for any food at restaurants before I would order. I weighed myself every morning, scared that I would gain even a tenth of a pound. All I would think about in the day was what I would allow myself to eat for my next meal or snack or how I could lose more weight. It controlled my life.

I recognized that I was possibly developing an eating disorder.

I don’t know what exactly got me to this point, but I began to realize that I needed to help myself. I read a few articles and saw a few posts and decided to try to change the way I looked at food. I deleted all the calorie tracking apps on my phone and read A LOT of body-positive and anti-diet culture blogs. This was not an easy process, and I am still going through it. I still struggle with foods that I’m scared of eating. I still struggle with checking the nutrition label before I buy anything, but I know that I am in a better place now because I am TRYING. I have recognized that I need help and I am doing what I can to restore a healthy relationship with food and with my body.

TikTok helped me. Weird, right?

A few body-positive videos began to pop up on my For You page on TikTok. I saw a few “What I Eat In A Day in Recovery From an Eating Disorder” videos, and I was like – WOW. This is powerful. This is something I can get behind. There are so many creators out there now that are creating body positive content. I follow a bunch of them now, and it is so refreshing for my social media feeds to be flooded with things that make me feel good about myself and not things that make me compare.

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As I said, I still struggle with food sometimes. It's not a linear process. There are a lot of trials and errors, but I am so much more comfortable in my own skin now. I have gained weight and I feel HEALTHIER. I have begun to listen to how my body feels and not the number on the scale. I let myself eat ice cream and cookies and chicken tenders and enjoy cook-outs with my family. I've become way less focused on my next meal and take more time throughout the day to just be happy and enjoy the little things in life. It's been a long time coming, but I can finally say that I am on the road to a better me. It feels so good. 

If you take anything away from my experience, consider this.

If you have or think you may have an eating disorder, or just feel bad about yourself some days, know that you are not alone. So many others go through this, and you have the power to take control of your life. I believe in you.

Reach out to your support system. Talk about your feelings. It’s hard, but the people who care for you will make such a positive impact in your journey. If you are a friend or loved one of someone who struggles with body image or disordered eating, let them know that you are there for support. Do not pressure them but encourage them to take recovery at their own pace.

Listen to your body. Eat. Food is fuel. If you want a burger, eat a burger. If you want a salad, eat a salad. Honor your cravings. If you’re hungry, eat, and if you’re full, stop eating. Allow yourself to enjoy your favorite foods. Go to dinner with your friends and family and order what you want! Eat the dinner rolls with honey butter. Live your life, girl.

Take a break from social media. Or at least fill your feed with positivity. Social media can be so toxic. Open up Instagram to see beautiful photos of queens of ALL sizes rather than posts that lead you to compare yourself to societies standards.

And most importantly, you are beautifully and wonderfully made. Your size does not define you. Life is more than losing (or gaining) weight. Please always know that. You are special. You are worthy. You are LOVED.

If you don’t feel like you have anyone to talk to, my DMs are always open. My Instagram is linked in my bio below. We’re in this together.

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