Dedicating this post to my people (you know who you are).
My first day at Tufts I walked into Carmichael Dining Hall and did a quick run through the dining hall, passing by the pizza, cookies, grilled items, observing the dinner items, gazing over the salad bar with its brightly colored vegetables, the sandwich bar, and the endless sea of sodas in the front. I ran through, then ran right out, back to my dorm, and into my room without eating a thing. I was terrified. I was terrified to eat here. I didn't know what was safe and what wasn't, and had never had such an abundance of food at my fingertips. I was terrified of the dining hall. It was so big, foreboding, and full of so many temptations. My room was safe and stocked up with my usual safety food, which meant Nature Valley bars and Cheerios. A few dried apricots. Safe foods. Foods I could monitor and eat in moderation. Food I could ration. For I was terrified of food. I was terrified of calories and gaining weight. And that's exactly what college was threatening to do to me in this very moment.
Skinny. It's all I ever wanted to be. It's all any girl wants to be. And yet even when I was at my tiniest, I wasn't happy. Because I just couldn't be THAT tiny. I couldn't be THAT skinny. I couldn't be like some girls, who literally had legs the size of my arms, waists so small they threatened to disappear at any minute, fade out of existence. Growing up my sister was the lanky one with the long thin legs and tiny frame - I was the fat and stocky one, "chubby but cute" as many liked to call me, "muscular and stockier." "Bulkier." These words were drilled into my head and were all I thought about. By the end of high school I had reached a bad stage of my life: my junior year I had just broken up with my boyfriend, and I decided to settle that heartbreak by excessively working out and limiting my intake to less than 1200 calories a day. Nature Valley bars became my lunch, Nutrigrain became dinner. The only sugar I would touch was fruit, and I convinced my friends and family that I seriously hated chocolate so that no one would tempt me into eating it. I loved baking, but I hated baked food with fruit in it, so I would make pies and other such tasty treats and force feed them to my family in an attempt to make myself feel better about being so tiny, or in an attempt to feel tinier than the rest of them so that I could feel better about not being tinier than the rest of the girls I felt I was surrounded by at school and in the real world. My Instagram followed more models and fitness trainers than real people, and I thought pangs in my stomach yearning for food or lightheadedness were signs of victory of a successful day, a normal day. I thought everyone was doing this and that it was normal. I would never finish an entire meal because it seemed too big, and every time someone asked me if I wanted a bite of their sandwich, their food or a snack, I would grow angry and convinced that they were trying to make me fat, and refuse profusely. If I thought a boy didn't like me, I assumed it was because I was not thin enough, and correlated how much people liked me with how big I was. Bikini season was my biggest fear; I never let anyone open my camera roll on my phone for fear that they would see the endless mirror pics I would take of my waist line and body, the various angles every day, measuring, making sure that everything was still in proportion and in line as they were yesterday, making sure I had not even put on an ounce. Any size clothing that meant I had to wear anything above a small was a failure to me, and I was always worried that people were looking at my legs or thighs and talking about how big they were. I was so insecure about my thighs, and so obsessed with this thigh gap trend. My computer searches were endless thigh workouts and healthy foods to eat, how to stay lean and green. I had done the green smoothie cleanse, I had done the teatox. I had tried to make myself throw up and excessively take laxatives, but grew scared and frightened by the health effects on the internet. I was a true pocrescophobe, or one who feared gaining weight. Every day the same questions would be asked to every member of my family, not excluding the dog: "Am I fat? Have I put on weight? Do you think this is tight on me? Do you think I've gotten bigger?"
So when college came around, I lost it. I ate. I ate in excess, I binged, and I couldn't stop. I was so tired, my body so strained. I had dropped over 25 pounds within the last year, from 140 to 115, and most of it was unnaturally unhealthy. What most people thought were abs were just my ribs poking painfully out of my stomach. I was below the weight my body type needed. My brain, which had strained and pushed and tried to keep me away from the food and everything that I had so feared, was lost and my body took over, so deprived of food after all the years, took over and nourished itself. It took away the nausea, the pangs in the stomach, the anemia I had given myself from lack of food. It was tired of vitamin supplements and pills instead of real food, tiny little sugar bars instead of a full plate of meals, having a slice of pizza instead of watching everyone dig in while I watched lonely in the distance. And yet I still tried to resist - I could see this happening, and I was terrified. My family could see it happening - when I came home over winter break, it was all I heard. "My my, you've put on a few pounds." "It's okay, with a little bit of working out and getting back into your old habits, you can be thin again!" Even one of my mother's friends briskly stated, "Well well, you've put on a couple pounds, haven't you? College!" My brain cried and screamed, and I found myself making two trips a day to the gym in an attempt to stop it, re-downloading all my old P90X workouts and doing them not once, but twice a day. I tried to keep myself from the dining halls, yet the more I deprived myself, the worse the binges got. The late night eatings and cravings worsened as I refused to let myself digest anything during the day, not to mention my weekends were scattered and full of parties and more temptations than I ever thought possible. I wanted nothing more than to be back at home under my covers listening to the pangs of my stomach and remembering how skinny I used to be. The more my body fought back and consumed twice as much. First semester had conquered me. It had given me a taste of failure, yet also a taste of what was to come if I continued down this pathway. First semester had made me realize I had a problem with food.
So what did I do? I set out to solve the problem and be normal. And that meant... get this... treating myself. It meant allowing myself to eat the pizza when I wanted it, letting myself get a scoop of ice cream. It was no longer a matter of all or nothing. It was all about moderation and giving in. In other words:
I was not working out half as much, and I was enjoying myself. I made less and less excuses as to why I couldn't go to dinner with friends and began accepting that I had to eat around other people. I slowly began to tell myself, "they aren't making you fat, they genuinely want to know if you want a bite," and slowly but surely learning to accept if friends offered a bite of a meal. I also started to open up more with people about my issues with food, including my best friends on campus, which was one of the best things I could have possibly done. Because people more times than not do not even know that you're struggling with such a thing. No one knows how you are feeling unless you speak up. So don't keep things bottled up inside and let it out. Do not feel selfish - BE selfish. Let it all out. You're a person too and you deserve the best. AND I still managed to drop off a lot of that freshman fifteen that I had battled with in the first semester without even trying and without even thinking. Unconsciously I had succeeded in doing what I never could have done with the obsessive, unhealthy mindset I was in. I had done the unthinkable by being (get this) a normal eater. And it was so alien and foreign to me. I have to be honest - even now I am not sure if I love it or hate it. Sometimes I still eat a normal portion and I feel guilty, as if I have put on an excessive amount of weight. Some days - I'll admit it - I don't want to look in the mirror because I know I won't like what I see. But get this - one bad day, or even a bad week, will not be the end of the world. You can be healthy and still enjoy the sweet and savory things that life has to offer.
I can't say I am perfect and that I have overcome all obstacles when it comes to food, but I can say this: LEARN TO LOVE YOUR BODY. Cherish it. it is a vessel that was given to you and you need it to last you a while if you want to live a long and healthy life. And with the life I was leading, I was far from that. I was hurting myself more than making myself better. And I was far from happy. Skinny doesn't correlate with happiness. Weight and body image won't make a guy, or anyone for that matter, like you any more or any less. Plus, you need to learn to love yourself before you try to get someone else to love you. Before you can let other people learn to love you. And there are still many things I love about myself. I love my curves. I love my eyebrows. Remind yourself about the things you love about yourself - make a list when you're having a bad day, or have a friend tell you something that they love about you. A kind word can go a long way and can remind you about what really matters. Plus who doesn't like free compliments? ;)
So screw fearing food. Seize the day. Carpe Diem and all that crap. You're too young to let your entire thought process and life go to what's going on your plate at the end of the day.
10 Feel Good Tunes (to remind you to dance, and love yourself):
A short story I wrote in high school describing how I felt... I honestly hope no one ever has to feel the way I did. But I can't say that I still don't have bad days where I just want to fall into the same old trends. And even more unfortunately, even though I am saying that, there are people who have it and had it way worse, and are still struggling with weight, food, and body image. No one deserves to feel that way, because we're all different. And as cliche as this sounds, that is what makes us special. A lot of people do not realize how serious eating disorders are, and more times than not put them off as something not so serious, drawing men or women with them to push themselves to wilder limits to get attention or fall further into depression. My advice? Take it seriously when someone tells you they are having problems with food. Recognize the symptoms. It's not as simple or easy to deal with as one might think. For more information, please visit http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/.
The sound of the car turning out of the driveway made her heart pound. Taking a deep breath, she firmly grasped the crinkled corner of her bed sheet and wrenched the rough cotton off her sweaty thighs. Her legs trembled as she willed them to help her slide off the bouncy mattress and onto the carpeted bedroom floor. She thought she would feel prepared, yet somehow she had never felt more unable. Her legs would not cooperate with her brain; she demanded that they walk her out of the bedroom, yet they resisted.
Swallowing hard, she managed to stumble the last few feet out of her bedroom and into the narrow hallway, where she made a sharp left turn and nearly collided with a hard, intricately designed door; taken by surprise, she placed both palms firmly out in front of her and furiously pushed off. Before she knew it, she was sprawled on the floor. Perspiration began to build on the back her neck.
What is wrong with me?
She felt no pain, only panic. Her body was trying to tell her something, yet she refused to give in to its pleas. Delicately picking herself off the ground, she proceeded to open the door she had run into. The brass handle refused to turn, which gave her the sense that it wanted to keep her out. She had to rattle it rapidly back and forth before she heard the satisfying click and creak of an opening door.
She entered the bathroom. The marble flooring felt cool under her feet, but calmed none of her rattling nerves. The mirror perched proudly above the sink caught her reflection immediately, causing her to flinch. A sickly image stared back at her: she could not help but wince at the pudgy cheeks that seemed to swallow her tiny eyes when she crinkled her nose. Some days the nose flattened itself in the middle of her face like a pancake, while other days it stretched out and made her feel as though she were a crow. The blond curls did little to conceal the ears, which drooped under the weight of the short yet thick hair.
She felt no word suited her better as her eyes shifted away from the mirror and slowly traced the outline of short stubby fingers and bloody, savage fingernails. Wincing, she slowly allowed the fingers to curl under her rather doughy palm; to her dismay, this only enunciated the gnarled knuckles peeking out from above. In silence she began to undress: the light cotton she had slept in slipped easily off her heavy skin, which allowed her to get a better look at the rest of her body. She started at the toes, and made her way up to the thighs, passing quickly over the stomach and breasts until her eyes met at the mirror once more. There was nothing here that pleased her: she felt grotesque, almost inhuman. She felt shame for the body God had given her, and silently compared herself to the girls she went to school with, went to dance class with, went to volleyball with. They were all so tall, elegant… beautiful. She loathed them for it; they did not have to go through her constant torment, the struggle to be called… to be… skinny.
But you can be skinny too.
Her head began to throb once more. Taking one last look in the mirror, she averted her gaze to the shiny white toilet that seemed waiting to welcome her. Her body began to shout in protest; it ached in places it had never hurt before. A sharp pain began to build in the back of her throat, yet she swallowed it down. Without hesitation, she gripped the slippery cover of the toilet, and gently propped it up against the back of the seat. A watered down, blurrier version of the ugly monster she had seen earlier reflected towards her.
She dug two fingers into the depths of her throat, and vomited over the watery image.