I don’t know exactly why I decided I wanted to write this. Sometimes I don’t really know what I am doing. Often I ask myself, am I helping people? Am I sending the RIGHT message? Is my message or content triggering to someone? I don’t know the answers to those questions. But I do know I express myself how I feel I am, but sometimes that may come off differently. And the last thing I want to do is mislead or misrepresent who I am.
I was scrolling through pubmed.gov like a good practitioner looking at research on stress, B-vitamin status and gut health. I’ve seen this research before but when this article popped up I found hit me differently in that moment. A study on Dietetic students in Greece had shown that 68% of students had orthorexia, an eating disorder characterized by an obsession with healthy eating. From my experience, these statistics seem very true, especially for myself. Between my own personal issues with body image, diet culture, wellness culture, and lack of security and esteem, I fell victim to disordered eating. Yes a victim, because disordered eating, eating disorders and mental illness are not a CHOICE. The obsession with health, healthy food, thinness and beauty stole so much from me. And quite frankly, I looked and felt like shit.
Now realize in nutrition school, many of us are there because we have an obsession with food (not all but many). I mean let’s look at the Ancel Keys starvation experiment, they all became obsessed with food when food was restricted. So my journey into nutrition and fitness wasn’t based on a passion, but off a personal, unhealthy obsession. I used to say, “Well I was athletic as a kid and I like cooking and then I just ended up here”, which we all know is really 90% BS. I was insecure, hated myself and how I looked, was in bad relationships with many things (men, food, exercise, money, myself, alcohol). There was no peace within, there was no self love. It was a consistent comparison of me to others and never being adequate enough, inside and out.
And reality is, none of this changed until the inside changed: spiritually, mentally, emotionally. I can sit here and cry and mope about all I missed out on: dinners with friends, birthday cake, holiday meals, joyful occasions, nights out, nights in. I missed a this because there would be nothing healthy enough on the menu or at the dinner for me to eat. Others felt the effect of it too, they needed to make sure I had something to eat.
I replaced a social life with exercise. I replaced the joy of eating with eating to fix my body and how I felt about me. None of this worked, all of it backfired. It was such a miserable existence and I did not realize HOW miserable it was until I broke out of it. BUT the journey of discovering who I am, feeling every single emotion, and not hiding behind my defense was a humbling experience. And I’m grateful for that.
I am still changing. The voice in my head is there but it’s very very quiet. Sometimes it gets loud and I tell it to leave me alone (easier said than done). I do not believe there is a “cure” or people become “cured”. I know there comes a point where all of a sudden your aren’t making choices based on a set of rules that literally have no weight to them. I believe there is a reprieve and there is recovery.
With recovery there is relapse, which I am highly aware and cognizant of. I am in an industry that makes me highly susceptible to it. Sometimes I am triggered (so please stop commenting on my body). I define what I do as a Dietitian and Trainer much differently now than I did when I started. It went from marketing thinness and only healthy foods to strength (physical and emotions) and healthy relationships with food. I don’t feel phony in my practice, I am genuinely serving what I know is right.
I love who I am today. I’d be lying if I told you I don’t care how I look, it’s no where close to being as important as my mental and physical health. And about how I dress. I dress how I dress because I like the look. I’ve always dressed liberally whether I loved or hated my body, so that has zero bearing on how I feel about myself. So yes, I wear crop tops, short shorts and revealing clothing because that is what I’ve always liked. I enjoy expressing myself that way, I love fashion (especially fitness fashion). I also do like feeling beautiful, doing hair and make up. It is not to show off or to obtain compliments. That is who I have always been. The difference today is that it doesn’t make or break who I am, how I feel about myself and how/what I eat that day.
I do not share this for attention, applause, “wow you’re so brave”, likes on social media (because we know unless I’m in a bra that’s not happening because #dietculture), because I’m really not. I’m not special. There are millions of stories like mine. I just don’t find the use of hiding who I am or projecting an image out there that I’m something I am not. I am doing this for YOU to know you are not alone, I am not alone, WE are not alone. Stop stigmatizing yourself and others, we need love and compassion for all.