I’ve touched on my body image story with you all…but today I am going to share my struggles with food obsession and how I overcame it.
I think we can all agree that being a teenager is an interesting part of life…you are trying to figure out who you are, who your friends are, and what you’re going to do with your life all while trying to make decent grades in school and have fun. For many female teenagers, it is a time where appearances consume you.
We care about what others say about us. We care about if we are popular or not. We care about what we look like. For me, I thought all of that was determined by outward appearance, and the only acceptable appearance was to be skinny.
Thus, my obsession with food commenced. Initially, it became a restrictive-obsession. When I was in middle school, I remember skipping breakfast if I was planning on eating lunch at school…but on Friday’s, my dad cooked breakfast…so it was not as easy to “skip” that meal. Instead, I skipped lunch. I thought I would be skinny if I restricted.
I couldn’t even enjoy a piece of cake on my birthday without feeling guilt. The guilt overwhelmed me and consumed my thoughts that I would go run or dance to “burn off the cake calories”…and if I did not do that then I was ashamed of myself.
As I got a little older, I started running regularly with my brother…and I noticed I felt better running when I ate meals, so I stopped skipping meals…instead, I started packing a sandwich using low calorie bread and a small container of applesauce. It was carefully thought out. I could still eat, but only certain amounts that gave me enough energy to run in the afternoon.
I kept up that pattern of eating until I was about 16 years old when I started teaching Zumba Fitness classes. I was teaching 2 classes twice a week and I did not have enough energy to complete those classes when I did not eat enough. That is when I truly started learning about nutrition and how the foods we eat affect our bodies.
I was still obsessive. I would only eat what society coined as “healthy”. You know–nuts, dried fruit, whole fruits, veggies, hummus, brown rice, whole wheat, low fat…even those “100 calorie” snack packs being promoted as healthy…I was a calorie counter. I thought it really didn’t matter what I ate as long as it was under 1200 calories…
So, what’s wrong with that? To this day, I choose “healthful” foods over refined, processed, sugary foods…the difference back then is it became a calorie-counting obsession.
I was constantly thinking about when I was going to eat again, what I could eat that would be “healthy”, what would happen to me if I ate chicken tenders and fries for lunch like everyone else, will this make me fat, why can other people eat whatever they want and not gain an ounce…
Those thoughts took over my mind…I struggled with that for years. It was not until I took nutrition as a prerequisite for my professional program that I truly understood how food nourishes and fuels the body. After that class, my thoughts began to change…
Instead of thinking negatively about food, I started thinking of fun ways to incorporate veggies and fruits into meals and snacks. I started researching recipes where I can enjoy brownies and sweets using wholesome ingredients. I realized that foods containing polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (healthy fats) were not bad–they were beneficial to my body. My period came back! My mind opened up into a positive light on food. I felt like I could actually enjoy eating again…food is good for me. Food nourishes me. Food keeps my body going.
You see, eating healthfully is so important…but if we let it take over our mind, we can develop an unhealthy relationship with food. Being so over-negatively consumed with food can be detrimental to how we look at ourselves…and self love is so important.
Love yourself, love your body, and educate yourself…Not only will changing those negative thoughts into positive ideas help your mind but will also benefit your overall health.