That Time I Had an Unhealthy Relationship with Food (part 2)

We left off in the summer of 2010, when I got down to a terrifying 101 pounds. Read on to find out how my relationship with food evolved into the health I have today.

(or get caught up and read part 1 here)2014-01-23 18.12.27

I became obsessed with the scale. I weighted myself right away in the morning and before bed. If I lost a pound, I rejoiced. If I gained a pound, I’d eat even less the next day. At my lowest, I was at 101 pounds. I was also grumpy, tired and overwhelmed. The night I saw that number, I wondered what it would be like to weigh less than 100 pounds. It was then that I realized how stupid the whole thing was. What good did losing weight do me? If I lost a pound a week forever, I’d eventually waste away to nothing.

I started to eat more, having two packets of oatmeal in the morning and adding sides like applesauce to my other meals. I did my research on health and discovered I needed to eat at least 1200 calories a day –  and that’s only if I did nothing but lay in bed all day. By the time I returned to college, I was back to my healthy weight between 110 and 115 and had a lot more health knowledge in my head.

Health quickly became it’s own obsession for me. I looked up information on healthy foods and started to try new things. Food wasn’t as much of a source of fear anymore as it was a curiosity. I liked learning about how different food interacted with the body. It was at this point that I started counting calories because I wanted to make sure I was getting enough. MyFitnessPal was a godsend, especially because you could customize your goals. My calorie count was very important to me as I wanted to make sure I maintained a healthy weight and also ate enough to be successful in physical activities, like fencing.

Unfortunately, I have a way of talking about my obsessions and I talked a lot about health. My friends got upset with me because I didn’t want to eat french fries or binge on cookies. I told them I didn’t need that stuff, which is true. I felt much better eating healthy. That wasn’t good enough for my friends, who quickly assumed I had an eating disorder. They told me I was unnecessarily restricting my diet and that I clearly had an eating disorder. I needed help (and cake, apparently). The whole thing was ridiculous to me, especially because no one had noticed when I actually had a problem. No one said a thing to me when I was down to 101 pounds. Here I was, now healthy and happy, and I suddenly had an eating disorder because I didn’t want to eat french fries.

In true small town fashion, one of my friends told me that her mom told her that someone asked her if I was shoving my finger down my throat. How lovely. Even when I spent most of my time far away from the town I grew up in, they still found a way to tell me I was wrong.

This was the first time I realized health is like religion. My friends were not interested in eating healthy. They wanted to drink and eat pizza. That was totally fine, but it should be equally fine for me to eat healthy. They didn’t think I had a disorder because of what I ate. They had a problem with how much I talked about health. They thought I had an unhealthy obsession and that, apparently, was equal to an eating disorder. From that point on, I tried to stay quite about health.

I do a bad job of that because health is just fascinating to me. Maybe I was a nutritionist in another life. So much goes into health and it affects all of our lives. How could I not find that invigorating?

After college, my knowledge of health escalated quickly. I learned about the chemicals in cans and stopped eating canned soup. I learned about pesticides and started to wash my produce in water and vinegar. The Paleo diet was the best thing that ever happened to me. That one experience taught me more about nutrition that I had ever learned up to that point. Only then did I truly learn to love vegetables. My latest learning experience was in reading The China Study, which has gotten me to try an even greater variety of fruits and vegetables. I even went so far as to eat tomatoes on my sandwich yesterday (until I couldn’t stand them and took them off).

I’ve come a long way from assuming calorie count was the be-all-end-all of health. My understanding of how the whole process works continues to expand. Like most sciences, it’s impossible for us to know everything. No matter what we do, we will all die someday. That being the case, I plan on doing all I can to live a happy and healthy life during the time I spend here.

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8 thoughts on “That Time I Had an Unhealthy Relationship with Food (part 2)”

  1. Not to disparage any of your previous writing, but I thought this was one of your finer pieces. I smiled, got pissed off, and laughed all in the context of one reading.

    Your summerization is exactly where I am at in life regarding nutrition; I’ve only actually commented on 3 blogs in the ‘blogosphere’ that I’m a vegetarian. People tend to get all weird if/and when I talk about food and health……only a couple friends of mine in RL know that I’ve been a long-time vegetarian and only because they’ve known me for multiple decades and eventually figured it out.

    People who are vegetarians/vegans if they find out, too often act like I’m apart of their weird little world, it’s almost a religion to them so I keep it quiet

    People who are meat eaters often feel judged if they find out I’m a vegetarian even though I don’t judge them and I don’t care……merely ‘knowing’ that I’m a vegetarian seems to offend them

    What your friend’s mom said about you made me laugh and pissed me off at the same time: it’s such a typical response that I’ve witnessed in so many different ways.

    Between you and me, one of the things that has been making me nervous is that a lot of my readers and bloggers are wanting to put me up via my travels this year and it’s been a long time since I’ve had to deal with the issue of being served meat at someone’s house. I’m kind of weird I suppose in my belief that as a guest i should do everything possible at being affable and agreeable….but I dunno. I lapsed for many years and ate fish because of this issue……but it’s been a long time since I even ate fish now and I don’t know if I could get past the psychological s**t to even do that…….clearly I am screwed up in the head 🙂

    And for whatever it’s worth: there were two things initially that caused me to start reading your blog and talking with you: 1. you are in Chicago and that element connected me to ya, it being my hometown and all…and 2. You had written a couple posts about nutrition and for some reason the way you wrote about it connected with me……maybe it’s because you are in a similar place as I where you think about it all the time……. for me, food is an obsession, I cook every night with my 2 daughters and we go to the produce store every afternoon when I get home from work to pick out the fresh vegetables for dinner. Sometimes I wander around the produce section for 45 minute going around in circles trying to decide lol it can be nauseating for my friends and my brothers when they come along with me: they are like WTH are you doing? in costa rica I only ate out a few times a week and usually spent hours (literally hours) every day wandering through the market looking a fruit ad vegetables lol

    1. I’m uncomfortable saying I’m really vegetarian or vegan, yet. I’m taking small steps in bringing down the amount of animal products I eat, but that peer pressure is something else. I remember the first time I ordered the vegetarian sandwich from Jimmy Johns, since that’s what work was buying that day. The guy who was placing order said, “really? you don’t want to and [insert list of meat]?” Um… no. That’s what I ordered the vegetarian. I told a friend I was trying out this vegan mac and cheese recipe that involved cauliflower in substitution for the cheese sauce. After making sure I knew it wouldn’t taste anything like cheese (I knew that) she ask “You’re not going vegan on me, are you?” Long story short, I totally get your nervousness. I feel like, if it’s important, you could simply tell those people you prefer vegetarian. I doubt anyone would be offended.

      Honestly, I cannot think of a single person I hang around right now who would be support of me suddenly becoming a strict vegan… I also just bought all that organic meat which is still hanging out in my freezer. There seems to be pressure on both sides, too. Whenever I Google vegan recipes, I also find extreme views on animal rights. I have nothing against people who eat meat… but I’d be willing to bet more vegetarians and vegans do. I had a friend in high school would could hardly stand to look at food that had animal products in it. That’s not really a group I want to be associated with.

      …and the shopping. I spend about 2 hours at a minimum when I got shopping. It’s gotten easier since I’ve finally found a store that has a large variety of produce. Buying for my morning smoothies has gotten easier, but God forbid I need to buy something in a package. I don’t even want to think about how much time I spent looking at whole grain pasta last weekend. What are the ingredients, the serving size, the price per ounce. If I see anything I can’t pronounce on the ingredients I have to Google that. I think I’d drive people insane, but I find it strangely relaxing. I like knowing all the nutrition information of the food in my kart. Nothing is a question mark.

      Lastly, I’m happy you enjoyed these posts because I honestly thought they were quite bad. After I wrote them, I asked if anyone would bother to read. Then I shook that off because this is my blog where I can write what I want. I’ve seen too many blogs ruined because they got obsessed with page views and writing what they thought other people wanted to hear.

      Even better, if this is your favorite yet, that means my writing is getting better. That alone makes this whole blogging hobby worth while.

  2. I think it’s absolutely amazing that you got out of that funk yourself. You’re very strong and lucky to know when to cut the “eat way less” thoughts. I’m completely fascinated by nutrition myself after taking the last few years to lose a third of my body weight. I think when it comes to the issues with your friends, it’s less about you and more about them. My friends and family are extremely supportive of my eating habits. Although my mother gives me weird looks when I measure my portions, but she knows I’m a healthy person. I’ve even changed a few people’s minds about food. Never be quiet about health and nutrition. It’s people like you that could change at least one person’s mind about what they put in their bodies. Obviously you don’t have to judge them on what they eat, but maybe if they see you eating something healthy and see how great you look and feel, they may pick up an apple tomorrow.

    1. My stance on health and nutrition is similar to that of religion. I know what I know just like I believe what I believe. No one wants that stuff shoved down their throat, though. When I order food at work (because we almost always order out), I make a point to order something meatless and with as few animal products as possible. Every once in a blue moon, that action will cause some one to eat healthier that day. Unless someone asks “Why aren’t you eating meat anymore” I don’t want to say anything.

      Maybe that’s not the right way to go about it, but my college friends spent a lot of time worrying about my ‘eating disorder.’ They tried to get D involved and had little meetings where they talked about how to help me. God forbid I eat even one cookie and they would suddenly want me to eat the whole bag.

      While that all freaked me out, I also was aware that my goals where simply to be healthy. While I was buying lots of oatmeal and vegetables, my friend and roommate was buying a lot of ramen and frozen pizzas. I knew that my physique was due to more than my genetics, and so was hers. That isn’t to say genetics don’t play a part… but I think what you eat plays an even bigger role.

      1. Very true. I definitely don’t shove my opinions down anyone’s throat, but if someone asks, hell yeah I’m gonna let them know what’s up. By the way, I’ve been using My Fitness Pal for years and I love it! It comes in handy at restaurants for choosing better options and such. It’s awesome!

        1. That’s exactly why I love it so much. I remember when I first got it, I would sometimes spoil myself with a black and blu burger at Applebee’s. Then I looked it up and say that it has a whole day’s worth of calories. I’m not one to obsess over counting calories (anymore), but no way am I having a meal that provides near 1500 calories in one sitting. It’s just not worth it.

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