I feel so fortunate to be pursuing a career that I’m truly passionate about – nutrition is something I’ve really focused on in my personal life since I was about 16, when I first began my journey in vegetarianism. But my story really begins far before that – my diet has ebbed and flowed over the years with my lifestyle and I anticipate it will continue to do so for the rest of my life. Throughout all the ebbs and flows, I’ve learned some truly valuable lessons about myself and my relationship with food that I carry with me today. So, I thought it’d be appropriate to close out the month of February & Nurturing Relationships with a short note [read : a long novel] on my journey with food and how it’s connected to the love & relationship I have with myself.
To put it completely straight – I have been through disordered eating hell & back. I’ve struggled with anxiety a lot, and I’ve also had mysterious stomachaches since I was in my teens. . Throw in some major body image issues, too. Put them all together and it’s a recipe for food anxiety disaster. I honestly cannot remember a time when I didn’t have anxiety about eating – particularly around friends or strangers.
I’ve always been tall – taller than everyone in my class, taller than most girls my age. Because of this, I never really saw myself as just a tall child, but as big, also. I’ve felt self conscious in a swim suit since I was in elementary school, but I’ve never really been fat. So, imagine the distorted views I must have had of myself as a child – constantly poking and prodding at my stomach, doing crunches in my bedroom until I couldn’t do any more. Of course, puberty only increased my negative self image, and my anxiety about food only worsened.
Fortunately, I grew up with a close knit group of friends, though – I went to a small school and also grew up two doors down from my best friend, whom I still am best friends with today. Those friends never made fun of me or told me I needed to lose weight. My family has also only shown me love, so for me, this anxiety about food, has all been self generated – ignited by magazines, television, and dangerous comparisons.
Over the years, my food anxiety and dieting only became worse, and after a traumatic event in high school, I graduated and moved away to school and found myself utterly and completely lost. I turned to food to fill my voids, to calm my nerves, and give me temporary happiness. I purged it then – even if I wasn’t overeating – because I just didn’t know what else to do. After going through this for about 6 months, I moved closer to home, which eased some of my disordered eating tendencies, but didn’t completely heal them. Although, being close to family and friends helped tremendously.
I eventually left home again to travel – I spent a year in Hawaii, essentially healing from a breakup and regaining some sense of worth. Then, I spent a year living in Sweden, traveling through Europe on the weekends and enjoying spending time with the wonderful family I lived with. For some reason, though – maybe the stress of being far from family and all things familiar again – my disordered eating became the worse it had ever been. I was embarrassed, but felt totally powerless. I, at the same time, felt more in control than I ever had before – I felt I had made excellent progress with my food anxiety and eating disorder, yet was experiencing a completely different side of it that was completely tumultuous. In other words – I finally came to the full realization that I had a problem, yet I felt I had no control over stopping it.
After 365 days in Sweden, I had the opportunity to stay for another year. But my need to find support was too important to me and I felt the urge to spend time with my family once again – to be physically close to them and feel control over my own life. So, I did what I felt I needed to do when I got home – I told people. I told my mom and my best friends. I was abusing myself and my health, and I did what anyone who sought help from abuse should do – I just talked about it and let it be known. And that, for me, was the biggest leap I could have ever made to healing.
Throughout the years I’ve really tried so hard to improve my disordered eating and food anxiety – its been a roller coaster of a ride. But its been an incredible journey, with much learning and unbelievable growth both mentally and for my soul. I’ve had fantastic support, as well, that without I honestly don’t know where I’d be. The biggest problem with all of this is . . my story is not unique. There are millions of girls, boys, women, and men who all feel, or have felt, at least a small part of what I’ve gone through. And that’s why I felt sharing my story would be beneficial – for them and for myself. Its all part of the healing process, and if I can help one person recognize and become active in healing their trouble with food or body image, then I’ve done my job.
All of this – this is the reason I’m now studying to do what I want to do. I want to help people find peace and joy in food and nourish their bodies completely – and it doesn’t mean they must have an unhealthy relationship with it in the first place. But sometimes eating, something so essential to living, is confusing and frustrating. Nourishment does not come from simply eating foods that are beneficial to your body – nourishment is finding joy in the process of preparing meals, of having gratitude towards those whose hard work & hands created the food, and in finding joy in our lives. If we cannot find love & gratitude & happiness in our souls, then we won’t be fully nourished.
Its not always easy – nourishing my body – but I’ve grown so much from the shy young girl I once was and flourished into the food loving, self forgiving, body embracing woman I am today. And I hope all the lessons and all the tools I’ve gathered along the way can help me to create a space to help others in their journey, too. Unbeknownst to my intentions of nurturing relationships in February, I was completely urged, by a myriad of things in my life, the need to crack open my relationship with food again and dig deep to share about it. And I’m so glad I did. For that, I thank you for even reading this – from the bottom of my heart I am grateful to you for listening.
I was fortunate to spend some time with my family this past weekend in Phoenix. It was a celebration of life – I was able to meet my niece [now just over 8 weeks old] and it was also my 27th birthday! With my relationship to my body and food so heavily on my mind lately, this weekend I observed without bias how I treat food now – being around family, it seems, is often a truthful measure for me. And I was pleasantly surprised – I no longer stressed about it, I avoided what makes me feel ill, I indulged without any guilt, and I ate with pure intention of nourishing myself.
Although it was so hard to leave the sunshine and comforts of family, I came back to DC with contentment. I feel like, for maybe the first time in my life, I am in control. And I could not be more grateful for everything in my life that showed me that this weekend and this past month.
As for this month’s intention. . MARCH: find joy in movement. Spring is upon us by the end of March, which means that there is movement and growth all around us! Use this time of year [before summer bikinis begin stalking us] to find new fitness classes that excite you, or to reinvigorate your love of going to the gym. Don’t be afraid to set goals that push you to follow through – whether that means losing a few pounds, simply toning up your bum, or working towards a fitness dream such as completing a running or cycling race!
Again, thank you for allowing me the space to share what I’ve gone through to reach this amazing point in my life and in my career. Do you have a story to tell about your relationship with food, or maybe simply finding joy in nourishing your body? Feel free to email me at [ beintheglow @ gmail . com ]. I’d love to hear how you’ve become interested in nutrition or food, found love for yourself or your body, and anything else that has helped you create a happy life for you!
With gratitude + LOVE. .