BERKELEY'S NEWS • SEPTEMBER 25, 2022

You are what you eat, except you’re not

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AUGUST 15, 2022

You are what you eat.

The only way to achieve health is through controlling what you put in your body.

Vegetables and fruits provide a nice waist, while fried chicken sandwiches make searching for jeans in Urban Outfitters an impossible feat.

If you follow a simple list of approved foods, you will be the next Bella Hadid or Kendall Jenner.

Your hair will be thick through keratin found in almonds and avocados. Your skin glowy with the consumption of fish such as mackerel or herring.

High school followed this seemingly easy format. I spent most of my time at swim practice or learning new choreography for my next musical theater performance. Small snacks were scarfed up in school recess periods and in between extracurriculars.

By eating and exercising in what was considered an acceptable manner, I grew up relatively unharmed by negative body image issues that swirled around society.

But really, it’s naive to believe that the guide to “perfection” is this simple or this attainable. Even if you were to unhealthily regulate your eating habits to minimize caloric intake, you are not what you eat.

I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome during my freshman year of college. After this lengthy term exited my doctor’s mouth, every other piece of information blurred in the background. I was only able to pick out a few key terms.

Type II diabetes, infertility, endometriosis …

All terms that could potentially become a reality for my body due to the irregular hormone levels characteristic of my condition.

Over the months leading up to the diagnosis, I had been noticing abnormal changes in my body: excess body hair, oily skin and a wonderful weight gain of nearly 20 pounds.

Old pictures of my high-school self would periodically pop up in my Snapchat memories, and I would hardly recognize the girl on my screen. Instead, she was replaced with a bundle of stretch marks and acne.

I ordered baggy clothing to hide the soft lumps of skin that now sat on my stomach and thighs, piled on pounds of Tarte foundation and avoided going outside in any given instance.

Simply put, I hated myself.

While nearly 20% of women suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome, I felt uniquely alone. No one seemed to understand the implications of my condition. It wasn’t a temporary step back that could be fixed like a broken bone, it was a permanent glitch in the matrix of my body.

No matter how many calories I restricted or Paula’s Choice products I slathered over my face, I would still face the music of unknown hairs and sore bumps popping up in unusual places.

Many people like to think we are blank canvases when we are born, only to be tainted by how we decide to treat ourselves.

If our parents shove us into youth sports and require a glass of milk to be downed at dinner every night, we will triumphantly rise as D1 athletes.

A childhood of slouching on the couch with a bag of Fritos and the new Dancing with the Stars episode is certainly setting you up for failure.

It was easy for people around me to criticize the way I picked apart my body. Apparently easier than showing me compassion and care for enduring a condition I never could have caused.

Instead of understanding the effects of my hormone imbalance and preventative measures I took to curb its symptoms, many pieces of advice I received generally poked and prodded at my lifestyle choices.

“Maybe if you went to the gym more you would be able to squat heavier amounts.”

The fatigue induced by muscle pain barely allowed me to walk a couple blocks to work in the morning without stumbling onto a concrete bench to catch my breath.

“That amount of food will not sustain you throughout the day.”

An influx of new hormones decreased my appetite from what it used to be, and I simply did not find myself hungry that often anymore.

“The new medication you are taking has made your skin even worse, are you sure it’s working?”

The purging stage of skincare prescriptions flushes all oils and debris out of your pores for the first month or so, and I am trying hard to trust this process.

Simple nagging questions seemed to place the blame of this unwanted illness on me. Maybe if I ran a little faster, ate a little better or scrubbed a little harder, this could all be over.

Polycystic ovary syndrome was encoded in my DNA long before I understood the concept of a juice cleanse or gummy bears that supposedly thickened hair. The entirety of my post-puberty existence was spent shamefully trying to hide symptoms that had a clear explanation.

Growing into myself is a mental and physical metamorphosis that I experience every single day. Since arriving at college and shedding the shadow of my former self, I have finally found beauty in my personal growing pains characteristic of life’s unexpected nature.

I am not a product of quitting the swim team or using hand soap as face wash. And I certainly am not what I eat.

Contact Emma Solomon at 

LAST UPDATED

AUGUST 15, 2022


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