My relationship with food has had its ups and downs...
When I was about nine a standard order for me at the local pizzeria was two slices of buffalo chicken pizza. I was chubby, but it was baby fat and sure enough I went through puberty, developed hips and some other womanly assets and lost the extra cushion that had developed in my midsection. It is amazing to me that I had no concept of eating and how it would directly affect the number on the scale below me. I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and I was always open to trying new things.
Things changed in high school, I decided to be a vegetarian (well pescetarian, I eat seafood) and I started to feel the internal struggle of body positivity that would persist to follow me into my adult life. The time when I did not focus on what I consumed was replaced by periods of eating salads followed by periods of stress eating peanut butter and chocolate chips at 10 PM after soccer practice while I attempted to finish my geometry homework.
This behavior followed me into college. Dreading the “freshman 15” – I watched my weight on the scale go up and down. In public, I bee-lined to the dining hall salad bar, and loaded up my plate with the healthiest foods. But sometimes, stress would build, life would implode and I’d find solace in third helpings of eggplant parmesan; I was a D3 soccer player and told myself I’d “run it off later.” Behind closed doors, I’d spend late nights munching on vending machine cookies, chocolate, Cheez-Its etc. The next day, I’d set my alarm an hour earlier and run the track. I am not condoning this behavior as healthy, but I never hid it from anyone. I had friends by my side, following similar habits, reinforcing them as normal.
Like many other girls (I think, but don’t want to generalize) I observe and critique many aspects of my body. Do I think I look good? Yes. Do I overeat sometimes? Yes. Do I under eat sometimes? Yes. It is difficult, I do not want to view eating the way I do but that is how I am. I strive for balance ultimately.
In adulthood, I discovered the need to fuel and comfort my body differently than I did when I was ten or sixteen; but this past year has not been all positive, it has also been laced with some struggles. After the By Chloe incident (full story here), I started to experience anxiety around eating. I was terrified and overwhelmed when I would look at a menu, thinking every cupcake or cookie could potentially be cross-contaminated with tree nuts. I began to associate certain colors (green-pesto), consistencies (creamy-cashews) and words (vegan) with “contains nuts." Sometimes I would ask the server MULTIPLE times, talk to the chef and still I would take a bite and my anxiety would play tricks on me making my mouth itchy or elicit a feeling of not being able to breathe. I was also embarrassed when I was out with friends and had to be “that person” notifying a restaurant of my severe tree nut allergy before ordering.
Additionally, some of my old habits from college followed me into adulthood. Throughout the last year or so, I feel I’ve been exhibiting my most healthy eating habits because I LISTEN TO MY BODY and I AM AWARE of the things I struggle with, but it is a work in progress. A couple months back, I decided to eliminate gluten. Not for any dietary reason, but because in my mind, I feel “thinner” when I don’t eat bread. Looking at a menu, I sometimes can’t focus on the descriptive words and ingredients detailing a dish, but instead I think about the calories and the weight I might gain. Order the burger in the lettuce wrap, not on the bun, get the dressing on the side, eat the grilled salmon, not the pasta. I had friends around me encouraging me to finish my breakfast muffin, have a slice of their pizza, or some of their french fries, but I would kindly decline or obey unwillingly. Not because I didn’t want a bite of their burrito, but because I thought that one bite could make me gain weight.
I still struggle with these feelings sometimes, insecurity around eating. I get uncomfortable when I order pasta at dinner, but my friend orders a salad. Should I be eating a salad, is that what I want? No, it's a night out with a friend I will eat the pasta plus its DELICIOUS. Sometimes I order a salad and I can’t finish the whole serving, so I save it for later. But sometimes I finish it in one sitting because I’m hungry; are people judging me because I ate the whole thing? These are some of the thoughts I fight back, and the things that go on in my head. Being aware of this internal struggle, encourages me to eat the bread, pasta, cheese, french fries, mayonnaise, extra dressing, ice cream, cookies and cupcakes - not all the time, not at every meal but sometimes because it is what I WANT. I also eat salads, soups, roasted or grilled veggies and salmon or tuna when that’s what my body wants to refuel.
I refuse to deprive myself of the foods I enjoy because it might slightly vary the number on the scale.
Do I still feel guilty sometimes afterward? Yes, because that’s who I am and that’s what I’m working on, but I’m trying to react differently. I don’t go run 6 miles until I think all the calories are “out of me.” I do yoga. I walk. I breathe. I still run, but shorter distances, at slower paces to clear my mind, not to sweat out my calories. I’ve never looked too different at varying weights, so I’ve decided not to stress about it. It is an amazing and healing realization that by not depriving myself, my eating habits have gotten less extreme and more balanced.
I created this platform for myself, to embrace my food allergy and my eating habits, not to have eating be something that causes me anxiety, fear, stress or embarrassment. Do I still struggle with old habits? Yes, definitely. But it helps to be aware of these different patterns. It also helps to have friends that are also self-aware and care enough to call you out if they see you eating too many lettuce wraps when you really want the BREAD.This is something I have wanted to write down for a while but couldn’t find the right words. I feel like a lot of the words were hidden by those same feelings of embarrassment or anxiety, but talking about it gets those feelings out and allows me to be open and honest with myself and others.
What are some of the things you’ve struggled with around eating? Has anyone else experienced anxiety around food allergies? Message me - I’d love to hear your thoughts and your STORIES.
- XOXO NFM