I mentioned before that I had an eating disorder when I was in high school. It wasn’t severe but I did try to stay thin by not eating. I would go all day long starving and then often binge for dinner. I was successful at getting very thin and successful at starving myself most of the time. I had a love hate relationship with food. Looking back I realize how little control I had over my diet and my knowledge about food. I ate whatever was provided for me by my single mother and it was far from healthy. I did not learn how to cook anything and I did not ever eat fresh fruit or vegetables. It was a junk food and fast food diet and it was all I knew. Of course I could have asked for fruit or vegetables, but truth be told, teenagers don’t do things like that or even think about it.
So I was struggling with food and in my first year of college with a greater sense of responsibility. I knew I couldn’t starve myself forever, but I hated the idea of gaining weight even though it was inevitable. I had to grow up.
As I faced this barrier in my life, I was also enrolled in two particularly influential college classes; public speaking and interpersonal communications. These classes were taught by a man and a woman that happened to be married and they both were extremely talented and motivating. In public speaking the husband taught a very simple and structured method of giving speeches. He was an excellent role model himself and I enjoyed every minute of the class. That class set the tone for the rest of my career and my ability to speak to groups of people.
In Interpersonal Communications, (taught by his wife) I learned how to communicate one on one with individuals. I began applying those skills immediately with everyone around me. It transformed my relationships and my ability to make a point or understand others. Also during that class we were instructed to keep a written journal. We had weekly journal assignments and during one writing session I described my struggles with food. It was a frustrated vent at how much a problem food was in my life. I remember writing something about “hating food.” She wrote a small note in response to me up in the corner of the page. She said something that nobody had ever said to me before: “Food is something that our body needs in order to survive. We can’t live without it. It nourishes our bodies and gives us energy. It’s sad that you don’t enjoy food because it is so good for you.”
What?! Holy cow! Food IS good for you. We DO need it. I instantly realized my hatred towards food had to change. It was my fault, not the fault of food. I couldn’t hate food or blame food if I gained weight. I had to let go of the mentality that I could even live without food. What’s shocking is that I had been working so hard for so long to not eat food, I actually believed I could stop eating. Sounds silly right? That’s the unconscious mind being affected by our constant habits.
Well, I started embracing food and gaining weight quickly. My weight fluctuated to an all time high within a year or two. And looking at me you would have guessed that I still had a big problem but inside I was actually healing. That lightbulb moment in college caused me to make a monumental personal decision: my new goal was to get healthy. From then on I would eat three meals a day. No matter how much weight I gained I would eat three meals a day and continue to do so until my body adjusted itself, leveled out, and later on I would learn more about food and about what’s healthy, but at the time all that mattered was that I accepted food as good and important.
From looking at me during that eating phase you also wouldn’t have guessed that I worked out at the gym and outdoors on a very consistent basis. My body was strong and healthy under my new layer of blubber. I was so much healthier on the inside than when I was 119 pounds. One thing I had been taught during my youth was how to jog, swim, lift weights, stretch, etc. My dad had always set a healthy example when it came to fitness and high school athletics had their impact.
Eventually I shed the weight. It took twice as long to lose it. When I started eating I gained weight for two years and lost weight for the next four years. Over time my emotional connection to food lessened and my binges decreased. I developed a taste for healthier foods and began buying my own groceries towards the end of college. And by the time I graduated I was very happy and much closer to a healthy goal weight. I formed new goals after college like completing a triathlon and perfecting a healthy diet.
I should thank those two college instructors for teaching me so many valuable skills and setting me on the right path. They both had an enthusiasm that was contagious and a high level of energy as soon as they entered the classroom. I also wonder how many other young girls and boys struggle to this day with eating disorders and how they overcome them. I’m glad I have this experience in my past and I hope it helps me relate to all the clients I coach in the future.
What moments in your life have transformed your attitude towards food? Did you have a healthy example to follow or did you have to figure it out on your own? Comment below.