Food is fuel, but it’s also meant to be enjoyed.
My relationship with food has been through some rough times, but those times helped me put certain things into perspective. Blogging has played a huge role in shaping that perspective, and continues to do so.
On my previous blog, I detailed my relationship with food and how it morphed into an eating disorder when I was in my late high school/early college years. It is good to look to the past in order to understand why certain things happened, and to help guide you in the future, but I do not want to rewrite those posts here on this blog, since my focus has changed.
But I don’t mind giving a (somewhat) brief history.
Body image and accepting my body was a tough concept to grasp when I was growing up. I was nowhere near being overweight or obese, but I wasn’t exactly a stick either. My “problem spot” was my thighs, which became my spot reduction focus my sophomore year of high school.
I decided to look into calorie counting my junior year of high school, but I did not seriously restrict until half way through my senior year of high school. I was undergoing a lot of stress at the time (college applications, rejection letters, etc.) and subconsciously felt that if I could control how much I eat, I would feel better about myself.
I restricted to about 1200-1300 calories a day, with a 1200 day being a good day. I usually had 600 calories for breakfast and lunch, a very light 200 calorie or less snack after school, and a plate of steamed veggies for dinner. Needless to say, I was cranky, moody, and hangry all of the time. The symptoms of caloric deprivation came very quickly. I felt a new sense of exhaustion, wanted to nap every day after school, lost my period, and always wanted to sit down since standing up, even if for a couple minutes, left me fatigued.
After a doctor’s check-up a few days before high school graduation, I was informed that I was underweight and was given the spiel about the harmful effects of calorie deprivation. At that point, I was frustrated with the doctor and wanted her to just keep out, but at the same time, I felt worried about the consequences she warned about.
The worry didn’t stay too long though. The summer leading up to college, I continued my regular habits but also developed a new one: restrictive binging. I call it restrictive since I still kept a watch on my calories, but it was a binge because I ate the calories I allotted for myself in a day within one sitting. Even though my allotment was still below what I needed, restrictive binging left me feeling much worse, and I oftentimes skipped lunch and dinner because these binges occurred in the morning and only pushed the cycle forward.
Even though I wanted the restrictive binging to stop, I began to notice that anxiety only fueled it, so the binging continued when I left for college. It was also a depressing time for me, and I began to dread each day that I fell into a restrictive binge since I was often lethargic and pretty much useless for the remainder of the day.
I became obsessed with the scale, and convinced myself that I had to weigh a certain weight. I continued to do my schoolwork and participate in extra-curriculars in my new school, but I did not have the interest and often felt apathetic about these activities. What interest I did have was in how to stop my restrictive binging, but still restrict. I had this notion in my head that if I felt small, I had to look small. My lowest weight that year was 98 lbs, and even though I thought I’d feel happy, I was shocked…but that still wasn’t enough to turn things around.
When my first year of college ended, I began to blog about food publicly, but I was still coming to terms with my disordered eating. I began to realize that I truly was denying myself of the calories I deserved and that I did have to do something about it, but even with this realization, I still couldn’t convince myself to really change.
It was especially hard to make any drastic changes to the way I was eating because I thought I could “handle” it, and that I just had to figure out a way to stop the restrictive binging and then I could go back to the way it used to be when I first started this whole thing. I was also restricting my fat grams so that made things even more complicated.
I was also feeling stress from a new internship, and put together that on days I was anxious, I tended to restrictive binge. Even though I didn’t have the right mindset to make changes that summer since I didn’t have a set plan of action and I was still too scared to face the facts, I made a pact with my Dad that I would at least set aside a good amount of calories for dinner—calories that I had to “save” for myself each day so I wouldn’t go to bed hungry.
Even though I was blogging and reading about other bloggers who suffered from and were fighting to conquer their eating disorder pasts, I found myself unconvinced that I would not “get fat” or “lose my current body shape” if I changed my ways. In my second year of college, I was in a state of “floating in between the lines” of disordered eating and “normal” eating. I was split in two, knowing that I shouldn’t be sticking with old habits, but was afraid of pushing out of my comfort zone. I felt like I was cheating myself, but I tried not to worry about it since I wanted to focus on having a better year, even though my mind was still on food and the anxiety-fueled restrictive binges still occurred.
I decided to come up with a plan of action when I wasn’t so bogged down by the stresses of the academic year, and stayed in my floating state until the summer of 2012, when I really began to make a dent in changing my ways.
The jumpstart I needed occurred on our trip to LA when we visited Native Foods Café, a vegan-foods café that I had been dying to visit ever since learning about it a few months prior to our trip. I originally went in planning on having just one meal, but something in me just said how often are you going to come here? Have some of your friend’s Soul Bowl! Your sister’s Nuevo Nachos look good too!
And so I did. I ate till I was full, and it felt so good, nourishing, and liberating. Ofcourse I had a little bit of guilt afterwards as I touched my bloated stomach, but I also reminded myself that my body would just absorb all those nutrients, and thank me for all the food I had deprived it for so long.
Since that sort-of-epiphany, I became a little bit more relaxed when it came to calories. I still count, but my goal is to eventually not have to depend on calories to live a happy and healthy lifestyle. Following that trip, I was able to put into action the following over the course of the summer:
- Introducing fats back into my meals (no longer strictly counting fat grams)
- Being flexible with calories (allowing myself to eat more on days of intense exercise, when I feel hunger pangs; being comfortable with the idea of “no calorie counting days” and having them more often)
- Acknowledging my ties with anxiety and food, and thinking of ways to sever those ties (writing down times I eat; trying harder to space out foods, which is actually quite challenging for me due to my history with restrictive binging, but I’m just going to keep working at it!)
- Looking to exercise as a form of recreation, and not just calorie burning
My current relationship with food is not perfect, but it has come a long way since my senior year of high school and first year of college. Some days are challenging, but I’m all about appreciating the days I put in the effort to make a change—to space out meals, to eat above my comfort level on days I especially need it, and challenging myself to not count calories on special occasions. Hopefully there will be more of these days as time goes on.
Phew! So you made it to the end of my spiel. If I didn’t bore you yet (yay!), here are pages that contain my food-related posts: