How Food Destroyed my Confidence (And How I Got it Back)
Lately I have been receiving questions regarding how to be more confident and how I am able to wear short dresses and no bra without feeling self-conscious. I want you all to know that I was not always this way. In fact, for years I was the complete opposite. Beginning in Middle School and throughout High School I had a terrible relationship with food. Cellulite was referred to as “cottage cheese” by the skinny girls, “thick” wasn’t considered cute and all of the girls harshly judged each other in fear being judged themselves. I was deathly afraid of eating in front of my peers at school lunch, restaurants, birthday parties, etc. The only people I felt comfortable eating around was my family and a couple of extremely close friends. Even then, though, I was incredibly conscious of only eating when no one was looking at me and chewing quickly while someone else’s voice could drown it out.
At this time I was 4 ft 11 and weighed somewhere between 80-90 lbs. My day went something like this:
I’d wake up at 5:30 A.M surrounded by “thinspiration” supermodels I cut out and pasted on my walls from various magazines who stood a foot taller and weighed 30 lbs more than me. I’d straighten my hair and quickly showered in fear that the water would seep into my skin and make me look fatter. I drew on thick eye make up, ran to the bus stop about a mile away and then ran another mile on the school track. I remember once at the bus stop when my friend told me her dad had noticed that I had lost weight and he had asked if I was 70 lbs. She told him she thought I was around 80 and he responded, “oh yeah, forgot about the extra 10 for her teeth.” That has stuck with me for years.
For lunch I wouldn’t eat or I would pretend to nibble on a cookie but would drop the crumbs beneath the table. After class I would eat a luna bar in the locker room before two hour field hockey practice and after I would eat another on the way back home. I’d eat a normal dinner with my family but once I would start eating I was so ravenous from starving myself all day that I just couldn’t stop, so after I would sometimes purge it depending on how I felt about how I looked in the mirror. This eating disorder controlled my life.
When I moved to Washington on my first day of school my mother dropped me off but I refused to take my lunch with me. Not only did I not like eating in front of people but I also didn’t want anyone to know that I ate or associate me with food in any way, so carrying a lunchbox while making first impression was definitely not a move I was about to make. I hurriedly jumped out of the car and my mother slammed on her horn, rolled down the window, yelled something along the lines of “TAKE YOUR LUNCH!” and began to throw the contents of my lunchbox at me and onto the grass on display for everyone to see. To make matters worse, I left the food there and later our school’s receptionist disrupted my class to “drop off lunch from mom.”
I genuinely believe that was a breaking point. The school forced us all to be in the cafeteria during lunch and had a strict no-electronics policy so I had no escape and no distractions during lunch-time. I thought that there was no way that I could be more humiliated than I had on my first day, so as I got older and made close guy friends who I felt no pressure to impress I began feeling more comfortable with them seeing a more genuine side of me. I wore my hair naturally. I didn’t tape the models up on the walls of my new room. Things gradually became easier also as I got involved in school activities such as knowledge bowl, tennis and acapella groups in addition to drawing and working as a waitress. My job made it so I had to become more comfortable being seen with food and I had way less time to count calories. I started seeing a therapist and gained a healthy 20 lbs. Food became more of a necessity, not an obsession.
It was a long road from feeling extremely self-conscious around food as a size 00 to comfortable being half naked having my weight announced at a wrestling tournament on a team full of boys and I am incredibly proud of that journey. In wrestling it is not uncommon to have to “cut,” or drop weight rapidly over the course of a day or so depending on the weights of the wrestlers we were going against. This meant sitting in saunas, running and sleeping in thick sweatshirts. My parents were concerned about me falling into the same habits and getting hurt as it became my main focus and my friends always asked, “you’re still doing that?” anytime I mentioned I said I had to go to practice. I wasn’t determined to lose weight look good for someone else, I was determined to be good at the sport and prove everybody who thought I couldn’t do it wrong. My past experiences actually helped me a lot- one time I cut 7 lbs over the course of two days just so I could be told at the match that my coach had forgotten the “female forms.” Right now I am currently working towards dropping to a new weight class for a better chance at going to state in a healthy way completely by changing my diet and working out hard. I woke up and saw that I was at 114, the lowest I have been in years!
My advice to girls who may be going through something similar to what I did is to focus on the good things about you. There are always other more beneficial ways to improve on who you are that don’t include stressing over your physical appearance. Someone will love you not because you are skinny or good at hiding a pimple, but because you are passionate, smart and driven. I know it can be difficult, but try to keep yourself busy with the things you love doing. Try new things. Take baby steps. Not only is it important for your health, but eating can be fun and sexy! If you are worried about someone you like judging you for eating (which no one ever does but if they do they fucking suck) start building your confidence by eating something that makes you feel sexy like sucking on a lollipop, eating chocolate covered strawberries or popping cherries in your mouth. Turn eating into flirting or foreplay. Dance in front of the mirror instead of focusing on the parts of your body that you don’t like. Wear heels and red lipstick. No matter how many times you are told to change by your friends, parents or doctors, change will only happen when you decide to do it for yourself. Once it happens, I promise you are going to be a million times happier.