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.
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.