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Repairing my relationship with food

Given that I’m The Miami Student’s Food Editor, it’s somewhat ironic that I’ve always had a complicated relationship with food.

From a young age, I loved to eat. My family has hours and hours of old home videos that we watch every couple years, and I’m slurping up spaghetti, shoving cake in my face or munching chips in nearly all of them.

As I grew up, that love never waned. But I soon learned that eating constantly is a lot cuter when you’re 5 than when you’re 10 or 12.

As a tween and young teenager, I was a dedicated athlete who practiced softball nearly every day. My parents cooked healthy meals, and they watched what I ate like a hawk.

It didn’t matter. I was still a chubby kid, and my classmates made sure I understood that I should be very ashamed of that fact.

I don’t have a body type that’s conducive to skinniness. It’s just a fact – my dad doesn’t either, and that’s where I get it from. I definitely grew into my body more when I hit puberty, and I wouldn’t characterize myself as fat, or even chubby; I’m just kind of stocky.

When you’re a teenage woman, though, none of that matters. I desperately wanted to be skinny.

I heard somewhere that diet has a larger effect on your weight than exercise, and I took that and ran with it. I downloaded MyFitnessPal when I was 16, and the rest was history.

Every ounce of sustenance I consumed was accounted for. Whether it was a single Oreo or the barbecue sauce I dipped my chicken in or even a stick of gum, I wasn’t letting a single calorie escape documentation.

Food went from being one of the greatest pleasures in my life to becoming a sort of currency. If I burned 500 calories in a workout, I could have dessert after dinner; but if I didn’t have time to exercise, I had to severely limit my caloric intake that day.

I did lose weight – quite a bit of it, actually. But I still wasn’t skinny, because I couldn’t change my body type.

Once I realized my painstaking efforts were never going to pay off the way I wanted them to, all hell broke loose. I went from being borderline malnourished to eating three giant meals a day and snacking constantly in between.

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Every couple months, I went back to MyFitnessPal and restricted myself, but I’d always fall off the wagon and end up eating uncontrollably again. It was an awful cycle, and I ended up heavier than I’d ever been before.

It took a painfully long time for me to realize it, but I had an eating disorder.

That’s a hard fact to admit. Even harder to admit, though, is that I would likely still have an eating disorder had I not started a medication that killed my appetite.

I think my eating problems were definitely linked to my ADHD, because I frequently ate out of boredom or restlessness. When I started taking Adderall, I began to channel my restlessness into productivity.

Now, to be clear – I was prescribed Adderall because I have ADHD, not because of my eating disorder. The way it’s helped me regulate my eating has been an unintended benefit.

For my first few weeks on Adderall, eating was physically uncomfortable, and it took my stomach a while to become less sensitive. Being nauseous all the time sucked, but it did force me to only eat when I was hungry and avoid foods my stomach didn’t agree with – things I should have been doing all along.

Several months later, the constant nausea has passed, but those healthier eating habits have remained. Now that I’ve finally struck a balance between binge eating and starving myself, I am extremely happy with my current weight and also feel nourished and fulfilled.

More importantly, though, I’ve learned to love food again.

Food tastes so much better when you aren’t ridden with guilt and anxiety over calories with every bite you take, and eating is one of the few small joys in our otherwise cruel world.

Take it from me: being skinny isn’t worth harming yourself, and it certainly isn’t worth depriving yourself of your favorite foods.

So, go ahead – grab another slice of pizza. You deserve it.

@madphabes

phabymr@miamioh.edu 

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