In honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDA Week), I’m sharing a little bit about my struggle with food, my body, weight, and my overall perfectionism. If this sort of talk triggers you, please skip over this post! Back to recipes soon, I promise. 🙂
“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” – John Steinbeck
I read these words embedded in a blog post last week, and I don’t think any heartfelt Pinterest quote has resonated with me so much. It hit me like a ton of bricks – how amazing would we feel if we threw away the unreachable goal of “perfect” and just focused on simply being good? How refreshing that would be!
This NEDA Week has particular significance to me as this is the first year that I am reflecting on my own struggles and triumphs. Last year around this time, I was pretty fine around food. Sure, I always wanted to lose a few pounds. But it never got as bad as it all did in 2016. Shit hit the fan, basically. So this year, I’m not just supporting the millions of people who struggle with eating disorders or disordered eating – I’m also supporting myself in my own journey.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a perfectionist. The straight-A, do-every-extracurricular, be-the-best kind of girl. If I got a less than satisfactory grade on a test (which, for me, was a B), I was the one upset and my mom was the one consoling me. I wanted to do everything, be everything, and be the best at everything – and frankly, I was pretty good at doing it all.
When people asked what were three words to describe myself, “dedicated” or “ambitious” was always in there. It’s a part of who I am.
I was always tough on myself. I would (and still) beat myself up over the littlest things – a 95 instead of a 100 on a test, a missed workout, a brownie. It’s something I always attributed to being a type-A overachiever that I could never change. It was simply a part of my personality, and I’d have to deal with it.
This behavior crept into my relationship with food, exercise, and my body. Look, I’m 5’3″ – I am sure as hell not looking like a Victoria’s Secret model any time soon. The fact that I could not attain this “perfect body” that was sold to me 24/7 in advertisements, social media and my ill-fated pageant run bothered me to my core. It was one thing I couldn’t make perfect. However, I truly did love working out, and there were times when I wasn’t too concerned with my weight. The real body image issues didn’t start until college.
I always loved healthy food and nutrition, but there have been times when I have taken that too far (this was before orthorexia was a thing, but looking back, I see a lot of that in myself). Most of these negative times coincided with preparing for a pageant, aka losing as much weight as possible in 3 months. Lots of low-carb BS, “fruit has too much sugar,” protein powder overload.
Every time I went through that cycle, the same thing would happen: be miserable for a couple months of dieting, then gain it all back (plus some) because, ya know, I was actually eating like a normal person again. And my body didn’t know when it was going to starve again. Silly me.
That process always took a major toll on me mentally and physically, but for some reason, it really hit me like a ton of bricks in early 2016. Maybe it was the universe’s way of saying, you need to hit your lowest low so you can crawl your way out of this shit for good.
Either way, last year was tough. On the outside, everything seemed fine, but inside, I was broken, emotional, a bad friend/girlfriend/daughter, insecure, anxious, stressed… and hungry. Hungry not just for food for my body, but for my soul. I had lost my free-spirited love of cooking and enjoying the foods I loved. Instead, I was too busy counting and weighing portions and obsessively looking myself over in the mirror. I lost my period, my confidence, way too much weight, and the overall cheeriness that makes me who I am.
Add on top of that social media. I absolutely love social media, I really do, but seeing “perfect” fit girls doing yoga and eating perfect food really gets to you. I honestly sound silly admitting that this stuff affects me, but I can’t lie – it does. Spending so much time on blogs and on Instagram definitely had on effect on me.
After I got back from Chicago over the summer, I realized I couldn’t live like that anymore. I was listening to podcasts like Katie’s and Christy’s that talked about food freedom and body acceptance, and I so desperately wanted to be at that place again where my weight was not the center of my universe.
I also found Robyn’s blog, which was a life-changer. She’s a dietitian who talks all about metabolism, eating more, and being body-positive. I reached out to work with her, and soon after, I started working with her business partner Cody. Cody has been so understanding, kind, and patient with me through this whole process, and I really wouldn’t be where I am today without her.
Through lots of self-reflection and, recently, therapy, I’ve realized that all of these disordered eating and body image issues stem from one place: my perfectionism. Heck, I’d venture to say that 99% of my personal problems start with that.
I’ve got 99 problems and perfectionism caused every single one of them.
I love how ambitious and driven and hard-working I am. I’ve been able to accomplish so much – graduating valedictorian, attending college, starting this blog, getting awesome jobs, deciding on grad school. But I’m slowly (very slowly) learning that not everything has to be 100% perfect all day every day. It isn’t possible for me to take 18 hours, work 3 jobs, run a blog, work out, and be a normal person if I’m trying to do each thing perfectly.
I’m learning how to actually say NO instead of taking every opportunity that comes my way. I’m learning that it’s okay if I don’t have a recipe photographed for this week because I had 3 tests – this isn’t my full-time gig. I’m learning that it’s okay if I don’t have 342384023 followers on Instagram. I’m learning that reaching out for help is totally okay and doesn’t mean that I’ve failed. I’m learning that a 90 on a test is still awesome. I’m learning that a vegan donut is just what you need sometimes.
I’m learning that I don’t have to be perfect, and now I can just be good. A good person, a good friend, a good blogger, a good student, a good cat momma. I can eat good food and move my body in ways that feel good. Gimme all the goodness.
Right now, I’m doing really good. I’m not 100% “I love my body!” “Let’s eat vegan pizza!” “Yay swimsuit season!” quite yet. I have really bad days where I feel insecure in an XL t-shirt. But, I’m trying every day. I’m giving myself some grace through this whole process and not beating myself up if I “fail.” It’s been quite calming to be less stressed out all the time.
I really believe I had to hit my low last year to get out of that dieting cycle. I am glad it didn’t go any further and that I had the courage to reach out for help. This journey has by far been the hardest of my life so far, but it has made me even more grateful for my support system and all of the wonderful things in life.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, please reach out for help.
Thank you for reading my story! Feel free to leave yours below and share why this week is important to you.
Back to recipes very, very soon!