Many people, especially in the health-career field, have struggled with disordered eating. It comes in many different shapes and sizes. Some people struggle with anorexia, some with restrict-binge, some with just binge eating and many in between. In a world constantly judging a persons worth and placing them in certain “boxes” based on the way they look, it’s tough not to compare yourself and get pulled in to disordered eating.
As a dietitian, I myself have also struggled with disordered eating and although I have overcame many of these behaviors, I still have to give myself pep-talks to keep from reverting back.
My story starts in high school after many years of feeling like the ugly duckling; being the heavier friend, feeling uncomfortable wearing girly clothes and having braces for several years. Finally, I was a freshman in high school, had gotten my braces off, and had a whole new school full of new faces that I desperately wanted to impress. I remember creating an “inspo board”. Looking up pictures of girls bodies online and posting to this board. Writing down a countdown of my weight to X out as I lost it. Writing out workout goals and calculating how many calories that would burn. I remember some days only drinking water and eating half a cookie at lunch and then after softball practice, going home and sleeping because I was so exhausted.
This continued through most of high school until I got into my first relationship. I began to get comfortable in the relationship and allowed myself to eat again. I began to gain the weight back, but I didn’t care because I had someone who liked me regardless. Until one day, I stepped on the scale and weighed more than I did way back when I first started my disordered eating. I completely spiraled. I was depressed with the way my body looked and couldn’t believe I let myself get back to that. I wondered how someone would ever want to be with someone who looked like me. I became insecure and jealous and began arguing with my boyfriend. And I restarted my disordered eating. But this time, having more knowledge on nutrition since I knew then that I wanted to become a dietitian, I became obsessed with the food I was eating and obsessed with running it off.
I would wake up every morning, eat a banana and run four to ten miles. I lost the weight again and I thought that this time it was healthy because I was eating healthier foods and working out instead of just restricting. Little did I know that this was mentally and physically straining for me as well. I continued with this type of disordered eating for the first two years of junior college. Until eventually, it was time to move away from home for college. And this is where my disordered eating took its biggest toll.
I went to a university only an hour and a half away from my family and had a few friends that I knew were going there as well. My boyfriend and I were not in a good place, but I thought that I could handle it all. After all, I could handle losing weight when I wanted to. Well, I moved away, became homesick, my boyfriend and I broke up and I spiraled even more. I became depressed and had no desire to eat. This had confirmed my hypothesis that no one wants to be with someone who looked like me. I remember not eating all day, calling my mom in the evenings and her telling me to at least make a smoothie and then just drinking that for dinner.
As I got more accustomed to college and my new friends, I started to get over the break up and being away from home. We began partying every weekend. I was so thin, I felt confident and guys seemed to like me. So I continued my disorder eating with barely eating throughout the week and then feeling good on the weekends and binge eating. This is what started my restrict-binge cycle. I remember feeling so fatigued that I would purposely go to Olive Garden to order spaghetti for the red meat, which I knew had iron for energy. But again, I thought that I was being healthy. I remember one weekend going home and my mom was shocked with how thin I was. My sister made comments and I would just say that I was running a lot so I had a high metabolism.
I then got into another relationship. And again, I gained the “comfortable” weight back. We trained for a marathon together and I remember feeling so discouraged because how could I gain weight when I was running several miles a day on top of teaching group fitness classes? I wasn’t concerned with the fact that it was probably muscle weight or the fact that I was fueling my body to be able to run 26.2 miles. I was concerned with the number on the scale. And yet again, I became insecure and jealous. I started fighting with my boyfriend and we broke up. And the cycle continued.
Until finally, I graduated from college and when I felt like everything I knew had been lost, I decided to move away. I moved to Tennessee. And this was honestly the best decision I could’ve ever made. I started new in a brand new city with new friends and many new experiences to see/have. I stopped worrying about my weight and began worrying about becoming a dietitian and enjoying every bit of life. I stayed single and began to love myself and let my self-worth be determined by the education I was receiving, the hard work I was putting in and the amazing experiences I was having. I finally felt in control of my life and health. I finally got back to a normal weight and I was okay with that.
And that is where my story ends and begins again. The end of an unhealthy cycle and the BEGINNING of a new story started here. Here in Tennessee, as a dietitian and placing my self worth on my knowledge and experiences and not on my looks.
However, I still have my days that I struggle. Overall, I feel happier and healthier. But I do have days where I dive into those thoughts where I compare myself to others; what I eat, what I wear, what I know and the way I look. I still have days where I wish I was smaller and I have to tell myself to stop. I have to say “we don’t think like that anymore. You are beautiful, smart and talented regardless of the number on the scale or the extra cushion on your body.” I have to give myself pep talks every once in awhile and although I wish I could say I never think about my weight, I think it’s something I may always struggle with. But I’m glad that today I am able to talk myself out of it instead of just spiraling.
So how do I keep myself from reverting back?
1. Ditch the scale
There’s no reason you need a scale. Your weight has no value. Base your health off the nourishing foods you eat, the enjoyable physical activity that you do and the way you feel.
2. Don’t compare yourself to others
Social media is a highlight reel. The “ugly”, tough and stressful days are not shown to you. You’re shown the nice things, the pretty things, the healthy things. You are not shown the cheeseburger they ate the other night or the day that they skipped their workout.
3. Do not base your worth on your looks or the way others perceive you
Your success in life is not based off the number on the scale or whether you have a flat stomach or whether you look good in a mini skirt. Your self-worth is based off the knowledge you have, your hard work ethic and the way you treat others. Your worth is also not based on the guy who broke up with you or the girl who acts like she’s better than you. You can go as far in life as you set your mind to and success is more attractive than nice legs or pretty hair.
I hope that if you are struggling with any of these behaviors or feelings, this will help you overcome them. This is just what worked for me, it may not be what works for you. But I knew that I had to completely change my mindset and focus on things that were healthy for my psyche. If you would like more information go to NEDA’s website.
Also, check out my post “5 Reasons I Feel Happier and Healthier Being 15 Pounds Heavier” for more information how I am feeling after overcoming disordered eating.