I was 15 when I decided I wanted to lose some weight. Nothing drastic - I had always been a pretty athletic kid. But I had just finished my Freshman year of High School and I was realizing I might need to work a little harder to look the way I thought I "should" look. I was away at sleepaway camp for the summer, so I cut out the junk food (read: no sneaking Twizzlers on the rafters of our bunk) and started jogging. It worked. And people noticed. I started that school year on cloud 9. But it wasn't long before I had lost the reins. Breakfast was coffee, lunch a small fat free yogurt and an apple, and dinner a large veggie salad with fat free cheese (i.e. plastic) and half of a piece of pita bread. Every single day. And I ran. And ran. Outings involving food now riddled me with anxiety. Would I HAVE to eat? Would they have plain vegetables? The very possibility of having to eat something outside of my 3 safe food categories was terrifying. My parents took me to see a therapist and a nutritionist but it fell on deaf ears. I was really good at not eating...
Until I wasn't. After years of starvation, not getting my period, bad skin, and faking that all was great, I couldn't do it anymore. My body needed nourishment. But my mind wasn't ready to accept that "failure". So, instead of learning to feed my body with good foods, I began a treacherous cycle of restricting and bingeing. A few days of not allowing myself any food were followed by a day (or 3) of hiding food under my bed, hiding food wrappers, and eating until I was physically sick. By the beginning of my sophomore year of college - which I had worked my whole life for - I had gained 50 pounds and was deeply depressed. Many days I could not get out of bed, I contemplated suicide. I was trapped in a body I detested. I loathed myself and prayed for a disease - anything to end this misery.
After a weekend visiting my sister, I couldn't deny that I was at a dangerous point and needed help. Three days later I took a leave of absence from college and entered an inpatient eating disorder treatment facility. It was the first step in a very long road to recovery; one which I will probably always be on.
I spent all of my teenage and most of my adult life to date obsessed with my body and what I would or would not eat that day. It took 15 years for me to learn that my self worth does not equate to what I eat, that a day can only be "bad" based on what I've eaten if I allow it to be. The truth is, there are days when I forget that. At times it's easier to fall back into what I call the "dieter's mindset" - a self-fulfilling roller coaster of following and breaking rules, emotional highs and lows, feelings of self-worth followed by guilt and punishment crashing down on us.
And on those days I remind myself that I deserve better. I am more than the sum of my meals. My experience is what prompted me to launch the Sustainable Body Project. That is my story. It's made me who I am today, and for that I am grateful. What's your story? I'd love to hear from you. Comment here and follow me on Facebook and Instagram.