The Ups and Downs and Tips Along the Way
Right now, I don’t want to write this. I want to turn the lights off in my room with a whole box of sour gummies and chips from our pantry and devour them like an animal. Eating in secret to hide the quantity. This urge is nothing new to me and comes from my history with food.
Instead, this time I am being honest with myself writing with a handful of gummies, accompanied by a big bottle of water. My relationship with food is what has brought me from a state of mistrust in myself and what I can bring home from the store to understanding what has landed me here.
At this point in my life, if I love a certain food that I have history with, it’s best that I not have it in the house. I usually choose to enjoy my sweets, salts, chocolates and chips with my friends and family outside instead.
This is because one minute I may say to myself, no food is good or bad if control it in moderation. The next minute I am quoting the latest TGIF commercial and screaming “TGI….F IT!” Another thought that pops through my head often is, I need to get it out of the house, once it’s gone, I can start fresh.
These thoughts are all an internal battle with my history of food driving the wheel.
This story is not about weight gain or weight loss, or exercise. The gym is not my problem!
No, this piece is about food, simply food and our complicated history together.
From a young age, my parents kept me active, we ate healthy as far as I could remember. Dinners together at the table, some snacks during movies and long long long walks and bike rides.
It wasn’t until later in elementary school that I actually started thinking about what I was eating. I specifically remember being in the car on the way to a Saturday hike scarfing down a bag potato chips (still my favorite).
“Eat those while you’re still lucky, some day it will catch up to you!” I don’t remember who said it in the van that day, but that quote was burned into my mind. At the time I thought I was invincible, I ate every last crumb, didn’t give it a second thought. My super active kid metabolism would take care of the rest.
But the comment lingered like memories of a nightmare, and I started to notice my body in comparison to the girls in my grade. I wasn’t overweight (though I thought I was), just structurally larger and more mature than those around me. The lovely stage of puberty didn’t help.
I started to limit myself to one fruit cup for lunch, leaving the rest that was so lovingly packed for me hidden in the school garbage can. I hardly ate anything for a long period of time and remember hearing somewhere on TV that, “Hunger is your friend.” My teacher called my parents and all three were concerned. I went through a phase of eating only fruit, and wearing a horribly large blue hoodie.
High school and food were complicated. I went away for high school, far from home. We had dorms and a cafeteria with vegetarian meals planned for us. My friends would have food parties at night to revolt against the healthy food we were forced to eat. We would exercise together and smuggle in chocolate to eat at night. For a while, all my insecurities melted. Then I started dating. Again, I compared myself to other girls who were dating and dieting, for some reason those went hand-in-hand.
I went on another extreme diet. I only ate raw broccoli and a bowl of raisins with cereal. Now skipping our mini food revolt parties, I missed my chips, chocolate and even healthy proteins. But the weight I thought I needed to lose dropped fast and people noticed. Compliments flooded my confidence and need to continue with my malnourished routine.
During home leaves, my family would celebrate my once a month homecoming with food. LOTS of food. All my favorites: KFC, chips, nachos, oh so many unhealthy binges for four days straight. I always thought, If I can make it to home leave, all this hunger is worth it.
College and food became even more complicated. I studied abroad after saving every penny for two years. I had just enough each month for rent, tuition and one grocery expedition (which was nowhere near enough food for the month). Resorting to eating a can of tuna a day with lettuce and water instead of the pricey cafeteria food started me on a path of eating alone. Again, drastic weight loss.
My relationship with food changed during college. No longer avoiding food, I simply could not afford it. I wanted it. Separated from my family, I was very lonely. I turned to super cheap junk food as a comfort. I traded my lettuce and tuna for one junk food binge meal every night. It became a way to bring back good memories or feel satisfied. Weight didn’t come back and I continued to shrink.
My binge eating in secret started when I got back to the states and that is where my weight started climbing. I had a job, food was available and I grew accustomed to eating alone abroad. Weight has gone up, weight has gone down, but there has never been consistency and a love for myself to stabilize my health.
As I am older and looking back on my history of food, I want to be as healthy and strong as possible as we attempt to start our own family. I don’t want food to be a “big deal” for my children. I want them to see me proud, happy and healthy, not obsessing over weight or calories. But, if I am truly honest with myself, food is always something I will have a history with. It’s not an ex that you can cut ties with, you need it to survive.
Instead of focusing so much on weight or avoiding binges, I have turned to loving myself and listening to my thoughts compared to my bodies needs.
Some Tips Picked Up Along the Way
- Love yourself in whatever stage you are in (Don’t be so fast to change. Quick change is quick to rebound)
- Understand that you will want to revert to old eating habits. Food has no control over your arms and legs, it can’t force you to eat it, neither should you starve yourself. Be aware of your old habits and triggers.
- Be honest with yourself, log your food on good days and bad days (like on Myfitnesspal- I just logged my sour gummies by the way).
- If you fall and binge, don’t hate yourself. Grab a big glass of water, go for a walk and own your choices.
- Macro counting has helped me understand that there are no “good” and “bad” foods. You can eat too much of a good thing and also fitting in your favorites won’t blow your health. If you haven’t heard of macro counting, check it out here.
- Exercise is not a tool to combat bad decisions in the kitchen. The moment you use the gym as punishment for overeating, it turns the gym into a chore and not an engaging challenge. Use the gym as a time to make healthy choices for yourself. You are there for you.
- This last one might not be for everyone- Know your emotional state. If you know you want to eat because you are hormonal, avoid bringing in trigger foods to the home for a while. If you know stepping on the scale daily and seeing +.02 or -.02 defeats you, consider weighing yourself monthly and focus on the daily choices instead. Know your emotions.
This is where I am at now. I am desperately trying to be comfortable and love myself as I am and as I change. We never “REACH” a finish line. There isn’t one…well unless you want to be morbid and consider death. I feel life is too short to be so focused on outward appearances. Yes, I like to look good in skinny jeans, but is that all that should consume my thoughts?
I want to pass on to my future daughter a confidence in herself that she is fueling her body with healthy food and sprinkling it with treats of celebration with those she loves. I want to eat responsible amounts taking into consideration the fact that not everyone is financially able to eat an adequate amount of nutrition. And I desire to combat loneliness with family, not sugar.
I don’t want to live a shallow and superficial life, only concerned about outward appearances. Simply put, being a healthy person that can offer the world more than just a mind focused on weight loss or calories is a good goal. That said, being comfortable with your body image can do a lot to help you be successful.
If you are struggling with body image or eating in general, here are two great reads suggested to me by a friend that have helped immensely:
It Was Me All Along- By Andie Mitchell
Food: The Good Girl’s Drug– By Sunny Sea Gold
Jotting down your own personal history with food may provide some understanding into why you have developed your own eating habits and cravings. Try thinking back to your own upbringing with food and any major events that happened in your life that changed your views on what you put into your body. Then, instead of feeling alike a failure the next time you fall, you can understand, cut yourself some slack and do better next time. Life is too short not to love yourself and those around you.