Trigger Warning: In this post, I’m going to describe my personal experience with disordered eating. If that may be a trigger for you, go ahead and skip this post! I’ll be back next week with another.
This post is a little bit different than some of my others. Why you may ask? Because I’m getting a little vulnerable with y’all. I’ve thought about writing on this topic for awhile, but I needed a little kick in the tush to put it out there. Reading Christin Morgan’s recent post about her journey to intuitive eating & diet rebellion inspired me to go ahead and get real with you!
Growing up, I never really dealt with too much diet talk nor did I feel the need to restrict or over-exercise, and I feel really lucky for that. I remember others around me doing it, but I never put too much thought into changing my body – at the time I remember thinking, “Welp, this is just how my body is. That’s it.” Granted, I didn’t love it. It was a larger body, and that made me uncomfortable because I felt like an odd woman out at times. But I accepted it and it didn’t consume my thoughts.
Then, one day during my first year of college, I had the thought, “Hmm, maybe I could change my body if I tried?” Sounds sort of juvenile, but I really had never truly considered attempting to lose weight before then. If only I had stopped there before going down the rabbit hole that is dieting.
My method of choice was calorie counting via a phone app. I allowed it to dictate how much food I needed in a day, and I’ll be honest, I found it really easy at first. I never loved exercise, so I didn’t add any movement to my routine. Like most dieters, it felt exciting to begin a new restrictive journey.
My weight was always a shameful thing to me. I didn’t want to broadcast that I was doing anything to try to lose weight because, to me, that meant I was admitting that I was larger to begin with. I was embarrassed! So I counted + restricted without telling anyone. I would sneak into my parents’ bathroom to use the scale when no one was around.
Fast forward a few months, and it started to become evident that my body was changing. I remember my mom + sister being some of the first to say anything about it. It was the typical positive reinforcement you get when someone loses weight. “Wow! You’re looking great! What are you doing?” That continued to fuel my fire + keep me going.
Eventually, I needed to eat less + less to continue to lose weight, especially since I wasn’t wanting to add exercise. Overall, I lost way too much weight way too fast, but I got so many compliments. At this time, I was also a nursing major. I realized that I loved nutrition after having my own weight loss experience + taking a basic course in undergrad. I finally decided to switch my major to dietetics around the same time I realized I had a problem.
My anxiety was through the roof around food. I was obsessed with counting, measuring, weighing, etc. I lost my period. But I also loved feeling so in control during a time in my life when lots of changes were happening outside of my control. I described myself as a type A perfectionist.
Through counseling + medication, I was able to learn to manage my anxiety, however, I still needed to eat more. Little by little, I increased my calories in the app. I still counted, but I allowed myself more. I learned how important it was to eat enough + gain weight to regain my period, but I was NERVOUS. I still wanted control, like, “Fine, I’ll gain some weight, but not too much”. I was a pretty dang disordered thinker.
That year of restriction led me to swing to the other side of the spectrum – binge eating. Which, I now know, just makes physiological sense. If we are starving, whether it be self-induced or not, our body is going to make us eat all the food any time we have the chance.
the turning point.
Through my nutrition courses + my own research, I discovered a more flexible way of thinking + eating. In addition, the book Intuitive Eating was a big eye opener to me. It was such a relief to learn that we don’t have to live a life constantly counting calories or thinking about food!
Since then, it hasn’t been all sunshine + rainbows. I’ve had ups + downs. I’ve had periods where I wanted to restrict again. I’ve had times where I binged. I’ve experienced a period of depression while living apart from my husband. I’ve gained weight. This all has rocked the boat many times, but I’m grateful that I can say now, that I’ve learned more + more about myself from those experiences.
But overall, thinking back on the life when I was restricting food to maintain a smaller body, I truly wasn’t happier. I am happier + healthier now than I ever was at my lowest weight, both mentally + physically.
So why do I tell you my story? First of all, just to get to know the girl behind the computer a little better. To know where I’m coming from + that I can truly say I understand how hard dealing with food + body image can be. And to let you know that if you’re struggling, there’s hope + healing still to be had!
While I wouldn’t wish disordered eating on anyone, I’m grateful for this experience to help me empathize with patients struggling with similar problems. I’m also thrilled that I now am on the other side and am able to help others find their way back to normal eating.
Also, keep in mind that we are always learning + growing, including in our relationships with food + our bodies. Some days are trickier than others to fight the diet mentality, but we can continue to support one another + hone our skills to stay above water in this sea that is diet culture.