I used to not look at myself straight on in the mirror.
I’d glance sideways, or focus on a particular part of myself, like pulling my jeans up higher or smoothing down my blouse – but most often I’d just glance over myself really quickly before heading out the door to make sure my outfit was put together.
I avoided looking at the real me, the entirety of me, because I didn’t want to focus on my looks.
Never considering myself to be superficial, I wasn’t into a lot of fads like Instagram, Snapchat, and selfies. I weighed myself about once per year, judging my clothes by how they fit… and certain shirts and dresses and jeans made an appearance when my weight was up…. and another round of options when it was down. (I guessed it fluctuated 5-10 pounds, and now that I actually do pay attention, my weight probably fluctuated 10-15 pounds).
My entire relationship with my body and image changed my freshman year of college. It was the hardest year of my life. Really, it was about a 5 month period that consisted of 3 significant events that took me a long time to ever think of myself the same way, and gave me severe anxiety that also impacted my relationship with food.
The events were ones that all females experience at least one of in their lifetime — a broken heart by both my first “love” (yup, it deserves quotation marks) and father who left our family (because he’s well, long story short, a jerk), and learning that sexual assault can happen to anyone, including me.
It took a whole lot of healing to overcome those things, but first I gained about 10 lbs my second semester due to depression and eating Moe’s in our food court just about every night (and topped off with some fro-yo). After that semester and making it home for the summer, I kicked the 10 lbs and then some, getting a little bit of my confidence back.
But not everything got better. The therapy helped, but I couldn’t even bring up that last event to my therapist for another year. Instead, anxiety overcame me. My body was constantly tense — every muscle tightened so fiercely I downloaded audios of progressive muscle relaxation techniques, my body under so much physical duress I was functioning minimally. The thought of going to class and leaving for another semester was terrifying. Constantly feeling nauseated, I was lucky to get down dry toast.
It took more therapy, a year of studying abroad in Belgium and making the most amazing friends (still lifelong friends <3 Leuven Ohana for those of you reading this!) I could ever imagine, moving down to Charleston, SC on my own, and discovering myself, before I could finally be in the place I am now.
It had been 7 years since that freshman year in college when I made a change to my relationship with food. I considered myself to be a relatively healthy eater, but I still used it as my crutch of emotional support. Bad day at work? Wine and ice cream. Bad date? Pizza and cookies. Sunday Brunch? Mimosas and Pancakes, please. For anything I needed, food was there, making me feel better.
But really, it was making me feel worse. Not only were the after-effects of eating those foods awful (hangovers, bloating, crashes, low energy, mood swings, weight gain), but they kept my body image down in the dumps.
When I changed my relationship with food, sure, I lost weight, I have more energy, sleep well, all that good stuff. But most of all, I know I am in complete control of my body. I am not a slave to my cravings. I eat real food, good food, because my body deserves it. Because I deserve it.
I didn’t stop eating sugar and processed foods for superficial reasons, I did it for me.