By student intern and Alex Raymond, RD,LD.
Please note: This is a story of someone’s eating disorder/recovery journey. There may be information triggering to you. So please feel free to stop reading if you find the information to be triggering and also be mindful that someone is speaking of their own personal experience and everyone is different.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” Romans 12:2.
Not to be dramatic or anything, but this bible verse kind of changed my life. No matter your religious beliefs, I believe that this statement is something that a lot of people need to hear to finally be at peace with both their minds and bodies.
It’s almost impossible getting through the day without being bombarded by the things society has to say about standards. I can’t even tell you how many article titles or ads I’ve read along the lines of:
“Keep the weight off with THIS 30-day exercise program and see the results!”
“Try out our new juice cleanse to detoxify your body and lose weight fast.”
“Throw out your junk food [and mental peace] to finally be a better YOU!”
And I’m sick of it.
The social media realm works as a constant distraction.
It reveals new ideas that sweep our brains from the present moment and takes us into a mind of its own, causing us to be vulnerable to succumbing to the latest fads and norms of materialistic living. Instagram and Snapchat especially make us feel the need to one-up each other on our social media platforms to make our lives seem more interesting than the next guy. When we put our screens down, we face who and where we are in a very real sense. And that can be a tad scary if we spend majority of our down-time comparing our online profiles to each other’s.
Want to look more beautiful? Lose weight. Want to be accepted by others? Lose weight. Want to find love? Lose weight. Doctors, radio talk-show hosts, the vitamin aisle in our local grocery store, magazine covers, diet books, on and on have proclaimed this magical idea that losing weight will solve all our problems and more.
I learned the hard way that this is the opposite of the truth. And even more so, it’s the opposite of health.
It wasn’t until my mom told my 15-year-old self to watch what I was eating or else my thighs would get “chunky” that I began consciously thinking about body image. That may sound a little harsh coming from my mom but don’t get me wrong, I admire my mother and she inspires me every day. I don’t blame her for being unaware of the impact that this nonchalant comment had on me. Going from 3 hours of intense dance practice every day to more moderate after-school sports in high school did allow me to gain weight. I was just a teenage girl entering into puberty. Weight gain is kind of necessary during those critical years of physical growth. But I wasn’t okay with it.
I strived to be beautiful in the eyes of others, because growing up is about finding your identity and hoping that others will accept it and maybe even praise you for your character and good looks. I was so unsure of myself then that I was willing to do anything to appear more beautiful. God forbid for anyone else to think that I had chunky thighs, right? Completely disregarding a healthy state of mind, I gave into the pressure society placed upon me to lose weight. But with restriction and the goal to be thinner constantly on my mind, I was determined to keep going regardless of my happiness.
Behold: the story of my eating disorder. With the significant amount of weight I lost in such a short period of time, my mind was at war with my body.
I developed it all: anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. I thought I was truly being healthy by forbidding myself from eating anything on Pinterest’s “bad foods” list and by shedding pounds from militant exercise. Fried foods became my enemy, added sugars were the devil in disguise, and eating carbs could make me cry. I thought I could finally reach the thing that would make me feel my best and healthiest version of myself, when in reality my mind was so far from it. I would look at pictures of myself before my restriction phase and think how of happily and carefree I lived my life. The sixteen-year-old girl I turned into was more lost, insecure, and broken than ever before. And I couldn’t bring myself to ask for help.
My mom saw the rapid change in me before I knew how fast I was going downhill. She made me promise to never purge again once she found out. Seeing how much my behavior hurt her made me want to never do it again.
If it truly wasn’t for my mother (and God), I wouldn’t be who or where I am today. For that, I am forever grateful.
I gained some weight back and felt much more confident senior year of high school. When I asked my mom about what major I should pursue, she suggested Nutrition because of how much it interested me at the time, so I went for it. My disordered eating habits subsided throughout that year, I got into my top college as a declared Nutrition major, and things were finally looking up.
Going into college that summer, my values about food altered forever and my vision of a future career path finally became clear to me.
I interned with Alex at Empowered Eating and was introduced to the anti-diet and health at every size approach. I learned that targeting weight loss isn’t the end-all-be-all. That you should order what you really want on the menu (yes, even that burger with a side of fries and a milkshake, regardless of the food you had earlier that day). All foods are meant to be enjoyed not feared. And to listen to your body’s needs and cravings without manipulating your brain.
If you really want to live a healthy lifestyle, focus on improving your mindset.
After a year of studying Nutritional Science in college, I noticed how lectures discussed the “healthy” waist circumference measurements, memorizing the “healthy” BMI ranges, calculating the caloric equation for daily consumption and expenditure to maintain a “healthy” weight, on and on.
I picked up on how these numbers were shaming higher weights and how anyone who doesn’t fit into these ranges would be considered “unhealthy”.Instead of targeting the most important thing, which is people’s behavior and the relationship with both their bodies and food.
Instead, I had been taught to advise future clients that they need to lose weight if they don’t align with those ranges. THIS is the very same thing that set me off in the first place. Not to put my professors to shame, but I certainly do not wish to engrain the idea that my future clients must change their bodies in order to be “healthy”. My goal is to help people to truly be happy and comfortable with themselves, their bodies, and with all types of foods in the future and to make peace with their minds.
I’ve recently decided to switch my major to Psychology with a specialization in eating disorders.
I realized that I got where I am today because of my past, and I can use it as a tool to relate my experience to those struggling with disordered eating in the future. I hope to target people’s behavioral habits to improve the status of their health without telling them that weight loss is the answer. While, I’m not sure what kind of career I want specifically, I just want to help people feel confident in a society that makes them feel like they’re not good enough.
When I distanced myself from Instagram and deleted the app off my phone, I felt more at peace with myself. There was no one to compare my life to, I didn’t feel a need to post something to inform my followers. There wasn’t pressure to take pictures of myself when I went out, then worrying about “not looking good enough”. I dedicated my free time to my priorities and spent time with the people who were there in my presence, without involving myself in the lives of virtual people all over the world who post to seek praise from strangers.
Life is so much more enjoyable when you don’t put pressure on yourself to change how you look.
This can be incredibly difficult to achieve, however. It’s an everyday battle, but I admire those who persist to feel comfortable in their own skin. Being content with your body as the blueprint it has been predisposed to be is more strong and powerful than manipulating your mind into prioritizing discipline and restriction for a lesser purpose. Think of food and your body indifferently at all times without judgement. That’s the state of mind we should all strive to be in.
My hope for this generation and for future ones is to be their most confident, radiant self without feeling pressure to look any different. Confidence and beauty stems from the most real and true things in life, not materialistic conformities.
I know now that I feel the most beautiful when I laugh to the point of aching face muscles and stomach cramps.Or when children laugh because I’m making a fool of myself to bring them joy. And I feel beautiful when my mind is at peace and I am fully present with the people I admire and who accept me. None of these things have anything to do with how I look or the number on the scale at the doctor’s office. The world is flawed with expectations! Don’t let it swallow you up. Resist diet culture, asses your behavior, and let the truth renew your mind. It won’t happen overnight but be patient and know that I’m rooting for you.
You. Got. This.
If you or a loved one is suffered from disordered eating, please reach out to us to talk or set up an appointment , contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org