Content warning: disordered eating
For as long as I can remember, I have had a toxic relationship with food. Whether it was how much, how little, how many calories or how many nutrients, I can’t remember a time in my life where I was not hyperaware of what I was eating. You figure this would make me extraordinarily healthy. By monitoring what I eat so closely, I should have a nutritious diet figured out and have a meal plan written for every day of the week. However, although some people can build healthy food relationships by studying what they eat closely, I did not.
I have become obsessed with food.
My relationship with food has been like a roller coaster. I love it as much as I hate it. This love-hate relationship has affected my body, my mind and, unfortunately, how I live my life. For a very long time, I thought this was normal. I thought obsessing over what you ate or when you ate was a normal, everyday thing to do. As I’ve gotten older, I realize my obsession was not normal, and it was a consequence of diet culture being forced upon me from a young age.
Diet culture strongly pushes you to focus on what you should limit: no bread, no eating after 7 p.m., no pasta (and don’t even think about cookies). However, shaping a vital aspect of your life around what you can’t do has the adverse effect of forcing you to focus on something that shouldn’t matter. It should not matter so long as everything is in moderation. However, diet culture’s relationship with food is not about moderation; it’s about what you can’t eat and what you should eat.
This focus on can’t and should began my relationship with food on a rocky foundation. Diet culture never allowed me to focus on eating a normal amount and rather forced me to obsess about the kinds of foods I was putting in my body, shaming me for not eating the right ones. This has resulted in a toxic relationship that leaves me binging one day and skipping meals the next.
The worst part of this relationship is that I did not know it was a problem until it was too late. I always figured since I’m not skinny, I didn’t have the right to complain about a relationship with food that revolved around anything other than eating too much. However, as I reflect and begin to take steps toward a healthier relationship with myself and the food I eat, I realize that my struggle with food is not only real but valid too. That is what I hope to communicate within these words: Your struggle with food, or any aspect of your person, is valid — regardless of your situation.