Why is it that sharing transformation pictures or a personal journey is always the hardest? Is it because we want people to think we’re perfect? Or maybe we don’t want them to look at us differently? For me, it’s because I was embarrassed of who I was. I was ashamed of the things I did and how I thought of myself. However, I realize I’m not that person any more and I want to share my story to inspire others and give them hope. It’s easy to paint a perfect picture of your life on social media and sometimes it can feel like you’re the only one going through a tough time. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with putting your best self out there for everyone to see (I do it too), just don’t forget that a lot happens behind the scenes that no one knows about.
The part of my life that I don’t usually show is my unhealthy relationship with food over the years and my disordered eating. I was never anorexic or overweight so I never wanted to admit I had a problem. I couldn’t have an unhealthy relationship with food if I was normal weight, right? Wrong.
Growing up, I was always thin. I ate relatively healthy, was active with friends and overall had a fast metabolism. I played sports in high school, worked out regularly, rarely ate fast food and didn’t worry much about my weight; however, I never had a positive self image. I wore glasses (thank God for contacts), had acne, crooked teeth, and was never very stylish. I went to a private high school and our dress code was either a polo shirt or a school issued T-shirt. Finding polo shirts that fit my tall, slender frame was always a struggle and of course when I did find a shirt that was long enough and didn’t look like a dress on me, it would always shrink in the washing machine. I would flip through magazines wishing I looked like the super models I saw on the pages and hope that one day I could be a model. Freshman year of college was when I first remember I started to gain weight. I can’t tell you how much because I didn’t have a scale but I realized I was gaining weight when my thighs touched as I walked. Obviously, I was not fat by any means but I began to worry that I would gain the “freshman 15” and decided to go on a diet before I gained even more weight. I started eating healthy and running a few times a week at the gym. Breakfast was usually a granola bar and an apple and lunch and dinner would consist of a sandwich or salad. After a few months I lost the weight I had gained plus some but still was not happy with my body and how I looked. I was now at the lowest weight I had ever been. I wouldn’t call myself anorexic but I definitely was not eating enough calories.
Fast forward to sophomore year of college. I had my first boyfriend, was pledging a co-ed business fraternity and had made some great new friends. I no longer lived in the dorms or had a buffet full of food available to me. Now I had to buy my own groceries and cook my own meals (hello adulthood!). I was busy with classes, pledging, my boyfriend and new friends and didn’t have much time to cook meals. I stopped working out and relied on pre-packaged foods, snacks and other easy meals. Over the next couple of months, I was quickly gaining the weight I had worked so hard to lose. I would “diet” throughout the day (aka not eat enough) and then come home to eat chips, ice cream, cookies and anything else that was fast, easy and full of fat and sugar. Even when I did cook dinner or heat something up in the microwave, I would always end the night overeating foods that made me feel better, i.e. cookies, chips, Cheez-Its, or my personal favorite Ben & Jerry’s. This went on for far too long and I became even more self conscious of my body. I started to turn to food for comfort even though after eating all these foods, I felt even worse about myself. When I was sad, I would eat. And then I would become sadder so I would eat more. It was a vicious cycle and I felt trapped.
I didn’t realize I had a problem until one day I had eaten so much junk food that I spent the whole night throwing up. I had gone to bed with a stomach ache only to be woken up a few hours later feeling nauseous and running to the bathroom. I spent the rest of the night throwing up every 30 minutes. At this point in my life, I had graduated college and was working my first real job. I remember being so tired and in so much pain the next morning but I didn’t want to call in sick because I had done this to myself. That’s when I decided I needed to make a change and that I didn’t ever want to feel like that again. I had struggled with binge eating long enough and I no longer wanted food to have power over me and feel this way again.
I started reading articles, doing research on health and fitness and made a plan. It wasn’t a quick fix and I continued to struggle with disordered eating for a long time but I kept telling myself that slow progress was better than no progress. It took a long time to overcome my addiction to food but 4 years later I can finally say that I no longer have binge eating disorder and have a healthier relationship with food. Sure, I overeat sometimes but it is nowhere as much as before and my attitude has totally changed when I do overeat. It took a lot longer than I thought it would to overcome but I love eating healthy and feeling good about my body. I no longer eat because of my emotions; I eat to fuel my body. I no longer workout because I hate my body and want to burn off the food I ate; I workout because I love my body and I love the feeling of getting stronger. I love fueling my body with healthy foods and pushing myself physically and I love living a healthy lifestyle.
The truth is, it doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside, anyone can have an unhealthy relationship with food. It’s not easy to change your habits and lifestyle, but if you’re consistent and put in the work, anything is possible.