I’ve spoken about my issues with anxiety, depression, and my relationship with food many times, but I wanted to take a step back and talk a bit more about what happens inside my head on a regular basis.
Since “coming out” online like this, I’ve had so many incredible people reach out to me, letting me know they support me, that I’ve inspired them, or simply that they care, and it has been overwhelmingly amazing. However, I have begun to realize that I’ve gotten very good at hiding my general anxiety – so good, in fact, that this “coming out” of sorts seemed to shock a lot of people, especially family. Though, I suppose it couldn’t be too shocking, considering my dad’s response was “Well….a lot things from when you were a kid make more sense now.”
Yeah, they sure do.
To explain my struggles with mental health and self-acceptance in a more in-depth way, I’ve decided to do a four-part series on my Journey. This part covers my relationship with food and weight.
**Trigger warning: Eating Disorders**
Part 1: Food
One of the ‘triggers’ and factors in my anxiety is food and my relationship with eating. I could come out and say I have an eating disorder, though it makes me extremely uncomfortable to do so. Both my therapist and psychiatrist have referred to it that way, but, to me, it’s just – “I can’t get it together with food.” I’m not anorexic, I’m not bulimic, and I can’t really relate to the term “eating disorder.” But I think this is because I have spent so many years refusing to use the term, or even admit to myself I had a problem.
They Start Young
The first memory I have of being concerned about my weight is 6th grade. I remember my mom laid out an outfit for me for school, and I remember a pink skirt. I also remember not wanting to wear the skirt at all. And when I try to remember why, I remember a boy I had a crush on and the girl he liked. She was petite, whereas could call me a chubby kid until my growth spurt at age 12. I remember thinking “I can’t wear that.” I don’t exactly remember my reasoning, but I know it had to do with that girl and how I thought she looked in skirts, which was: ‘better than me.’
I wore the skirt, but the memory of how I felt sticks with me.
Girls around the world are raised to worry about their weight. It is not unusual and I am not a special snowflake. I am, however, an anxious, obsessive and controlling person, so, for me, the struggle was a life-changing one. [I totally hate the way society focuses on our weight and all those other feminist opinions I have, by the way, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about so I’ll avoid ranting]
Like I said, I grew like a weed by high school. I was tall, I was skinny, and by all accounts, a pretty teenager (even with my braces!). I think I went through your typical “I want to be pretty and popular and wanted by boys” phase that most girls go through. The next intense struggle with my weight I remember was my senior year of high school.
Prom is a big deal. Every girl wants to feel like a princess. I was going with my boyfriend at the time, and picked out a very tight, long dress. It hugged my body from chest to mid-thigh and I LOVED it. I was obsessed with that dress and so excited for prom. I felt like superstar.
I bought my dress two months before prom. In those two months, every single time I ate anything outside of typical breakfast/lunch/dinner, or if I ever ate anything conventionally “unhealthy,” my father made it a point to exclaim “you know you still gotta fit in that prom dress.” Every. Single. Time. It was his favorite running joke. But, to me, it was a stab in the heart everyday. We fought about it once or twice, but I got tired of yelling about it and getting told I was “too sensitive,” so I just smiled and moved on. It got to the point where I didn’t even want to eat in front of my parents anymore, so I didn’t. Which is when I developed a new habit of eating in the middle of the night, after they were asleep. Oh, also, I still totally fit into the dress on prom night.
That’s the first time I distinctly remember my parents influencing how I felt about my body and eating habits, but I know it’s not the first instance. Through therapy, I’ve remembered many things that lead back to negative self-talk that came somewhere else first – before I was telling myself that I was fat. Also, I don’t blame my parents. I know, deep down, they were concerned for my health (obesity runs in our family) and thought they were doing the right thing. It just did not have the desired effect. Quite the opposite, actually.
Kid at Heart
I still hold some of these unhealthy habits, as do my parents. Though I’ve explained to them my struggles with food, old habits are hard to break, and my mom still likes to harp on me about exercise, while my dad still likes to joke about how much creamer I put in my coffee. I continue to let it go, now that I’m an adult with control over my emotions, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still sneak a bowl of ice cream in the middle of the night when I’m visiting home. At this point, it’s really a compulsion. Just another unhealthy, obsessive habit I developed from general anxiety.
Food has become a vicious cycle for me. Try to eat better -> overhaul cooking and grocery shopping -> get completely overwhelmed and exhausted, increasing my anxiety -> see no signs of progress due to impatience / lack of self care -> insist I will “slow down” but really I just stop altogether -> gain weight back + some and fall back into bad habits -> get depressed and anxious and decide to start over -> etc etc
It’s completely and utterly exhausting.
Change is Good, but Not Easy
Over the past three years, I’ve tried to develop lifestyle changes, rather than follow diets. I’ve done the Whole30, I’ve tried Paleo, I did yoga, I forced myself to like running, I ran 5Ks, I pushed myself into physical activities, I cleaned out, restocked, and cleaned out my kitchen time and time again, I did over 100 days of MyFitnessPal. And guess what? I am still overweight. Why? Because I haven’t found what works for me yet. I am still on my journey to a healthier life. There is no diet, no overnight fix, no quick way to fundamentally change the relationship I have with food. And, truly, I’ve come to realize I can only DO so much. More than anything, I need to learn self-care – how to be compassionate with myself, take care of myself emotionally, check in with my feelings, and forgive myself for simply being human. Until I actually change my relationship with my mental illness, I will not see results I’m looking for – it’s simply not going to happen. So that’s where I am on my journey with food. Somewhere between hopeless and “working on it.”
This year, I’ve been doing Camp Gladiator, which are basically 60min intense, outdoor bootcamps. I shoot for 2-3 workouts a week, and have been since January. I recently decided to give MyFitnessPal a shot again, just for a little while. It tends to trigger my obsessive tendencies, so I need to be wary. I’ve also just tried to move more – joining friends for outdoor activities on the weekends, taking the dogs to the park, asking André to go for a walk with me, and other ways to get myself out of the house and on my feet. So far, things are good.
222.4 is the Loneliest Number
Well, they were good. I post on social media a lot about my workouts and activities, and I was truly feeling positive about changes in my life, until last week. This month is “Total Transformation” month at Camp Gladiator, which I signed up for. Basically, it’s a month for members to kick-start their diets and get back into the swing of really dedicating to CG. The most interesting part of the month, is that we get access to machines that accurately measure our weight, BMI, BMR, body fat percent, and lots of other numbers to help us start tracking our journey. In three weeks, I get to step on that machine again and see if any of my numbers change. I am terrified.
I hate numbers when it comes to weight loss. I used to be obsessive over weight, measurements, pant sizes, you name it. It really, really triggers me and makes it difficult to get motivated. Instead I prefer to focus on how I look and feel in clothes or when naked. This just works better for me. But, I couldn’t hide from these numbers. I kept it together at my measuring appointment, even after getting my results. I listened to the optimistic, happy, fit trainer tell me all about the numbers and what they mean (I already knew, I did all this research years ago), all while my hands would not stop trembling under the table. I gave high-fives to my fellow campers and chatted with a few people I recognized. And then I went home. And then I broke down.
It’s one thing to feel overweight, or out of control of your body. It’s another thing to see it on paper, in black and white, scientifically certified. Obese. Clear as day. Right in my face.
I’ll admit – I’ve been in a funk over it since it happened, and it’s taking a lot of processing for me to not completely obsess over the numbers. I’m trying to use it as a motivator, but really it just makes me want to stay in bed all day eating ice cream. I haven’t, but I sure would like to.
This is another step in rebuilding my relationship with food. Being able to face what I’m working towards: health. I am trying to see it as a health goal. Not a weight goal. Pretty hard when you have that “222.4 pounds” staring at you, but I’m trying.
I wanted to get all of this out there, in an effort to 1) get it out of my head, I feel like I’m going crazy, and 2) to reach out and support anyone having similar feelings. You are not alone. I feel your pain, I empathize with you, and I want you to help yourself, just as much as I want to help myself. Food is a big part of life, but it doesn’t have to rule it.
So far, I’m on Day 3 of Total Transformation month with CG, and I feel good. I’m tired, sore, and stressed from counting calories, but I feel hopeful. Hopeful that maybe this time, I’m beginning the right journey.