Richard and I ran out for a quick trip to the grocery store late yesterday evening. We needed a few ingredients to bake chocolate chip cookies, along with some essentials. I was hungry, so on the ride home I nibbled on some cereal from the box.
“Don’t eat the cereal!” Richard said. He was joking, going on that he was about to make me yummy cookies and I could eat those.
I didn’t hear a joke. I heard when I was out to dinner at 14-years-old and my dad told me I’d be pretty and skinny if I stopped eating the bread that was in my hand. My mind went back to when I was starving myself and way underweight and would eat the most in public so everyone thought I didn’t have a problem. As I gained weight I would hide my food, fearing that others would think “well, that’s why she looks like that,” if I ate too much of this or that.
I closed up the cereal and tears fought their way out.
I don’t talk much about my battle with an eating disorder when I was 16. As most young girls do, I grew up listening to my father’s critical opinion of every woman’s body. Words like “gross” and “fat” and “too heavy” were used by my father and brothers to describe women’s bodies on television and in real life. My father would tell me that if I did this or that I would look great.
My mother would grab her thighs, complaining that if she could just get rid of this area that she’d be happy. I listened to how “gross” certain areas of her body were, her body that gave life to five children.
The influence of my surroundings didn’t really come out in my own habits until after my 16th birthday. My life was shaken up a few months prior. Someone very close to me abused my family in the worst way and my living situation changed against my will. I felt like I had no control over anything in my life.
I decided to try a vegan diet for thirty days to see how it felt. I quickly learned that my diet was the one thing I could control. It was too easy to turn away a meal and never eat anything to make up for it. An eating disorder grew under the guise of veganism.
I began to eat less and less and less. Hunger was satisfaction. My mind warped as I lost weight very quickly. No need to get into the sad facts of an eating disorder, but my fulfillment at mistreating my body makes me cringe.
I remember in the middle of it, bones popping out that I never knew I had, my father said I had lost weight and looked good.
After a year I changed my habits, with the help of a doctor, medication and my mom yelling at me. I quit veganism and gained enough weight to be healthy again.
My weight stayed up and extreme habits settled down, but that voice on the inside kept saying hurtful things.
Now I maintain a vegan diet– without an eating disorder hiding beneath. My body does more than I ever thought possible from an Ironman competition to ultra marathons to hot yoga sessions. My weight is higher than I’d like, and I know that is from my diet.
There’s a cycle of self-worth and how we nourish our bodies that I believe most women are stuck in. I had convinced myself that my thoughts now, my hiding of food, were normal. I had done an Ironman; I couldn’t possibly have disordered eating.
Last night proved to me that I am in fact not okay. I passed up chocolate chip cookies with my fiance because my father’s critical judgements, my worry of what he was thinking and my battle of whether a woman ten pounds above her happy weight should be eating cookies at all.
Despite my vegan diet, my pretty blog and my Ironman, I am not as okay as I believed. Sure, I can eat a normal meal and feel good about it. I don’t examine my body in the mirror and count how many ribs I can see. I’m well past my 16-year-old issues, but I have some ugly 22-year-old ones that deserve some attention.
I am healthy, worthy and beautiful just as I am. I will accept and love ten extra pounds of cookies shared with my love; however, I won’t stand for ten pounds of self-destructive habits. I commit to embracing every painful thought, every unpopular action, to be the best, most balanced me I can be.