Food: When Your Best Friend Is Also Your Enemy

As a child, I think I always loved food a little too much. I depended on it to bring me joy. I hoped it would make me happy. I would think about it constantly and had to eat everything I craved. Any food I saw, I just had to have.

But when I was 10 years old, I heard my schoolyard crush call me “chubby.” At 3 pm that same day, I quickly walked home and promised myself I would stop eating until I became skinny. In my mind, this would make me beautiful, this would make me “good enough.”

And thus started my torturous relationship with food. I starved myself for a whole year and dropped 40 pounds. I would go through periods of high restrictions for what I would allow myself to eat and then binge on everything. I would eat things like chips, cookies and PBJ sandwiches to the point of pain.

I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breathe. Every time I binged, I felt like I was doing a bad thing and then I would go an entire day without eating to punish myself, and then binge again. I was unable to view food as fuel, it was purely something to be coveted and that to engage with it was a punishable offense.

Not only did I put my health in danger, but I ruined my body’s ability to tell whether or not I was hungry or full. I had also damaged my emotional relationship with food. I was eventually forced by doctors and family to gain all the weight back and I was furious. It felt like all the work I put in to starving myself just went to waste.

“I just can’t stop eating,” I would say to myself. Every time I lost control and ate an entire bag of chips. Each time I ate so many cookies I could barely breathe. I felt confused and ashamed. I felt like a victim to food. This complicated relationship continued for 12 years.

This trap is very common. Feeling irrationally drawn to food, attracted to the way it makes us feel, but hating ourselves for this odd relationship. Therapy helped me realize these patterns and how important it is to realize that these issues with food go down to a deep emotional level. For me it, was the body image struggles I had as a young girl.

I remember the office manager at my grade school threatening me a bit. She said, “You won’t grow any boobs if you don’t eat.” Since then, I always worry that my body looks the way it does because of what I did to it. I am only 5 feet tall and sometimes, her statement about stunting my growth still haunts me. But when it comes to having a disordered past, I recognize how important it is not to blame yourself for the way you look as a result. All that matters is coming to terms with it all and forgiving yourself.

This past year, I have been 100% committed to my recovery. I sought a dietician who is helping me to view food in a healthy way, as fuel for my body and something that I need to recover and survive. This outlook has helped me to break out of an extremist pattern of starvation and binging and create a pattern of moderation when it comes to consumption.

I want to rebuild my relationship with food, and the only way I feel like I’ve been able to find peace is by combing through my past. I’ve learned that your body needs food and your mind needs to be present and mindful when dealing with it and you deserve to find peace with it all.