As I near my 30th year on this Earth, I remark at how my body has changed over these three decades.
Growing up, I was morbidly obese. I went through a series of diets, all of which seemed to end in me gaining rather than losing weight. My doctors and nutritionists continued to berate me year after year for not “taking care of my body,” but, unfortunately, they did not realize that my difficulties were emotional rather than physically. The amount of emotional stress I was going through, which was exaccerbated by worries about my weight and health, were the cause of my eating problems. I buried my emotions in stomachaches. I hid my feelings underneath butter and bread. When I was upset, rather than throwing a temper tantrum, I would quietly sneak to the kitchen and steal food from the refrigerator. I thought that the pain in my belly would mask the pain in my heart.
When I turned 16, I decided that I was done enduring the taunts of bullies and the endless stream of fat jokes. I was done going to sleep with a lump of heartache in my stomach. I was done hurting myself. I decided it was time for me to ask myself some difficult questions. Did I want to take the easy way out and be unhappy and unhealthy for my entire life, or did I want to fight and struggle to take control of my emotions and my body? It was a definite crossroads moment, but, happily, I made the right decision. I started doing research, I found foods which made me feel light and energetic rather than weighted and achy. I became diligent about going to the gym to read my beloved books rather than sitting at home. I replaced the gallons of soda I drank daily with an endless supply of herbal tea. I figured out what worked for me and stuck with it. Most importantly, I began to develop a healthy self-esteem.
That all sounds well and good, but the difficult truth is that I have been on a constant diet for 14 years now. While my “diet” has become more streamlined by becoming a gluen-free vegan, there will probably always be that little voice in my head weighing if eating a cookie is worth the calories and judging if I did enough cardio for the week. The struggle now is keeping that voice from becoming an unhealthy obsession. It’s a difficult balance to create for those of us who are blessed with eating disorders of any kind. I say blessed, because going through those trials has made me the determined, self-restrained, and focused person I am today. I had to learn at an early age what it was like to reach for a goal that many considered unobtainable–to put in the time, to push yourself to be better, to give up what is easy in favor of what is right.
As I approach my 30th birthday, I hope to continue to love and take care of this body that I’ve been given–imperfections and all… and to maybe let myself eat a few more cookies. Life is too short not to eat a few [gluten-free, vegan] cookies.