My Health Journey
One lesson I have been learning the past couple of years is vulnerability. This word freaks out most of us. Being vulnerable is especially scary if you are a perfectionist. I have lived my entire life this way, and I am sure many of you can relate. But the lesson I am learning is there is a power in vulnerability— a power that connects me to you and you to the next person. And these connections are the most important. They bring people into our stories and us into theirs.
I want to be vulnerable with you all because a) you deserve it, b) my story is an important player in why MTF was created, and c) even we health gurus who talk all day about food and show fun pictures are just real people who can struggle with similar challenges our readers do.
As early as I can remember, I thought about my body image- and not through a healthy lens. I recall wondering if I was skinny enough in first grade.
Then, at the age of 16, my body was going through some super fun changes (and by that I mean no fun at all). On top of the climax of puberty, I was constipated, bloated and loaded with breakouts. For the first time ever, I began to wonder how the food I ate was affecting my body.
By the end of my senior year of high school, I ate whole foods (ish), worked out, kept up a very (overly) busy lifestyle, and I was skinny. Everyone told me so. However, that pride lasted but a moment and quickly reverted back to the lie from my close friend Shame, “You are actually not that skinny, so don’t get your hopes up, sweet girl”.
[Senior musical in high school with my friend Julia]
So, fast-forward. I went to college and learned even more about food and what should go into our bodies. I was choosing whole wheat and chicken over beef and high-fat foods. That was healthy, right? Anxiety and worry were still my daily sidekicks, especially when it came to confidence in my own skin. But I was living up the college life in my own way and laughing a lot. Why was I still feeling (and looking) so lousy?
Throughout the rest of my semesters in college, I spent more time with farmers and began to understand the importance of eating lots of seasonal produce.
Over the next couple of years, all of these “new” health facts surfaced in support of full-fat and red meat and limiting sugar, and it all began to make so much sense to me. God made food intentionally to fuel and serve our bodies, and it is only when we separate foods from their nature-given states that our bodies suffer. So I started eating (actual) real, whole foods, filled with healthy fats, colors, and nutrients. While I certainly began to have more energy, I still felt bloated, never had clear skin, and still felt sick and squeamish in my own flesh.
[ But I knew I was not created with a dysfunctional body.
Something was happening internally that caused this discomfort,
and I was determined to figure out what my body
had been trying to tell me all these years. ]
[College travel abroad, still struggling with body image and health]
The Final Straw
I graduated college and moved to Atlanta, a place I never thought I would call home. Thankfully God is always wiser than we are, and this was the case with my relocation to the city. I met doctors, companies, and a lifestyle that literally gave my body life again. I began working through my fears of all those highly debated foods like full-fat yogurt (dairy) or quinoa. Even still, I carried anxiety; I could not find a clear answer. Meanwhile, my body image distortion was also out of control, and the preoccupations with these thoughts ran wild. I felt trapped in my brain and body, and the desire to escape was unreal. So, on the brink of an obsessive eating disorder, I knew something had to change (again).
The Two-Part Recovery
I started seeing a therapist. Talking to someone untethered to our day-to-day stories is really freeing. She has helped me see there is a grey area in life, and that area is not a bad place to hang out. Sometimes, sure, we need hard-core stances on a topic. But mostly, we don’t. We can have set boundaries that have some wiggle room.
Another component to my recovery is the help of my naturopathic doctor and whole-food based supplements. My entire digestive and hormonal systems were completely out of whack, and these healing foods— no joke— regulated my internal health. So my doctor and I worked alongside my body to clean out the gunk and refuel it with energy. The bloating went away for the first time in years. People compliment the clarity of my skin on the reg. My cycle is consistent. All of the things I literally prayed to happen did happen.
As of today, I can say my relationship with food is leaps and bounds better than in the past, and I now see food through a more balanced lens.
[Birthday celebration with the sweetest friends]
So, my recovery. Food is still a main thought in a lot of ways, but the redeeming thing is that a) I now see food as fueling and healing and b) I can better manage my obsessive thoughts through prayer and mindfulness. I also am now able to practice patience with myself in knowing that I have a highly functioning body that can do remarkable things. Truly. That being said, food is still my thing. Yet I can acknowledge a thought and let it pass without getting hooked. That is mindfulness, I’ve learned, my friends. And thank goodness for it.
I am learning every day. I am learning what makes me laugh the hardest and the ideal time I should go to sleep at night. I am discovering that being vulnerable is scary but so very freeing because inviting people into my daily routine creates a bundle of safety around me like a big bear hug. I am understanding things really do work out well when we follow our paths. I am realizing being present is really the most important in that moment. All the while, I am learning I am enough and doing exactly what I need to be doing every day. And that is good and perfect.
[A Georgia farm and my animal friend Daisy, embracing the journey]
Many people experience the kinds of thoughts I did, and I pray my story brings you hope. We have to accept that being vulnerable with people is such an important part to getting out of any hole into which we have fallen. Let people into your emotions and thoughts, so they can help direct you to the best option(s) for healing. Like I said, I am still living my story, which means ups and downs. At the end of the day, though, I am grateful for the body I have been given, and I desire to have as much fun and as many experiences with my body as I can!
If you are struggling with your relationship with food, please contact someone who can chat with you about it. Life is too short to be enslaved by these kinds of thoughts. You deserve freedom from that! And remember, you are enough and totally and completely loved.
[Ps. To read this story in its entirety, download My Healthy Journey.]