Content warning: Disordered eating, calorie counting and weight
Every day, I would wake up and immediately think about what my meals were going to look like. Questions included anything and everything from when I was going to eat my meals, how many calories they had or who was going to be present. I was forced under an overwhelming, dark cloud I could not get rid of. If I was to go eat at a restaurant, I would have to know hours before leaving so that I could choose exactly what I was going to order. Even after placing the order, I triple-checked to ensure that the calories didn’t go over my daily limit.
I told myself that I wasn’t allowed to enjoy a burger and fries even though that was exactly what I was craving. If I did end up eating it, my mind would fill up with negative thoughts, and I told myself that the morning after would be dedicated to burning off those calories. My methods involved an extra-long run or sometimes what I thought was the easier route — to completely restrict myself from eating as a form of punishment.
I let fear foods take over the majority of my time in high school and college years, and it soon became the basis of how I approached every social interaction, how long I spent working out and how I viewed my relationship with food in general. It was almost as if I had to ask permission to my fears in order to live my life. I still struggle with disordered eating as I, like many other college students, moved back to campus after living at home and adjusting to a new routine. Vulnerable conversations with my friends and parents allowed me to grow out of the scary relationship I had with eating certain foods.
Allowing myself to follow people on social media who struggled with the same things also showed me a community I never even knew existed. It was liberating to see that I was not alone and that disordered eating can lie on a spectrum.
After surrounding myself with a positive and helpful community, I started to eat intuitively and work out only when I knew my body wanted to rather than use it as a form of punishment. I focused on fueling my body with fresh fruits and vegetables, experimented with new recipes depending on what products were in season and — my biggest accomplishment yet — tried out a new bakery with my friends without the need to burn any of it off. When I stopped checking the nutrition labels, my priority became creating lifelong memories with those closest to me.
Confronting my fear foods and conquering my disordered eating mindset has been, and continues to be, a bumpy road to recovery. I still fall back into feelings of guilt midway through my meal, which already took a great deal of courage to order. But, reminding myself in those moments that it’s okay to feel that way and shifting my thoughts to the memories I’m making with my roommates or conversations I have with my parents is worth it. Letting go of a fear that has held me back from enjoying the present moment is still a huge goal I am working on. Skipping a workout to let my body fully recover or honoring my true cravings has helped me overcome my food fears and celebrate the small victories, even if that means ordering a burger instead of a salad or eating before noon.