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Sunday, October 10, 2010

taking a risk-- My Food Journey

(Disclaimer: I am absolutely terrified to publish this post. In fact, I'm not so sure I'll have the guts to do it.  It is personal, it is revealing, and it is honest. Please do not read if you fear you may be triggered.  Nonetheless, it is important for me to be honest about my journey.)

I, like many with eating disorders, have a history (both good and bad) with food.  There was a time of my life when I would eat anything.  Specifically, I had an adoration for anything chocolate related.  Crepes, cheesecake, ice cream, and brownies held a special part of my heart.  Yes, there was a time (specifically junior and senior year of high school) when I looked like this


and loved my body.  Even if boyfriends and peers didn't.  Yes, during the times when my self-esteem was at my very lowest, I loved my body for what it was.


I didn't know what an elliptical was, nor did I care.  And the only nutritional information I knew about was whether or not something contained any trace of chocolate.  I'll never forget the time I devoured almost an entire pizza, on my own.  Because I was "that girl."  The girl genetically blessed with a great metabolism and could eat whatever the hell she felt like.  In fact, there was a brief period of my life that I thought I was too thin.  In 9th grade, I decided I looked too pale and boney-- and who likes that?!  So, I managed to gain a few extra pounds, along with some confidence.  

Then, I went to college.  Until that point in time, alcohol consumption was of rare occasion and I relied on my mother's balanced cooking to keep my health in check.  But between the all-you-can eat dining halls, Thirsty Thursdays and late night munchies, I noticed a little "snugness" in my jeans.  Although there was one, dreaded night that would scar me for the rest of my life, I loved college.  By spring, I had a boyfriend and we went out to eat a lot.  In fact, I'm pretty sure one of the things he adored most about me was my love for wings, sweet potato fries and beer.  I was that "cool girlfriend" who could fit in with the guys.  Salads? What were they? As a result, I was the happiest I had ever been by the end of freshman year despite that one, dark winter night...

or so I thought.

I remember several comments referring to "bloating", perhaps attributed to the drinking, those damn dining halls, and lack of exercise.  But, after an enjoyable summer I was anxious and ready to return to school.  While I still managed to have fun, I also became more focused on my studies, extra curricular activities, and boyfriend.  There were days I'd be so busy that I'd forget to take the time to have lunch and/or dinner.  Conveniently, I would just grab a bagel in my dormitory and be done with it.  I also decided I wanted to work out a little a more so that I could look and feel better about myself (and most likely to impress my boyfriend), especially while under so much stress and pressure.  It was also during my sophomore year of college that I became more involved with the Jewish University Center on campus.  It was then that I tried to approach the Jewish dietary laws of Kashrut with a personal interpretation, by eliminating shellfish from my diet.  I suppose the unconscious, self-deprivation at school made my time at home that much more pleasurable.  It were those short breaks I looked forward to so much because I had access to a kitchen again and could eat the foods I enjoyed most, while limiting alcohol consumption.  By winter break, I had started to somewhat regularly exercise and, overall, was feeling "ok" about myself. 

Second semester was a little more stressful.  My relationship was rocky (and admittedly, unhealthy), school work became more difficult, and time was getting more difficult to manage.  Anxiety began to take hold, which only affected my mood and self-confidence.  Although I had always struggled with acceptance of an ADD diagnosis, it started to become an excuse for my "failures", mood fluctuations and loss of appetite.  Nonetheless, I was managing.  But by the end of spring semester, my boyfriend and I were broken up, and my confidence plummeted.  I felt incompetent, ugly, and alone.  So, I did what any girl would do.  I turned to my girlfriends.. and to food and exercise.  Soon enough, I started feeling better.  My grades were decent, I was receiving compliments on my somewhat more defined and toned body, and I had the greatest friends in the world.  

There were a lot of changes during that summer of 2008.  I went to Israel, started running (although I'd never in a million years consider myself an athlete), continued to work at TCBY, dated, and attended classes at a community college.  I was formulating a schedule and a new life for myself.  I found that keeping busy kept my mind occupied-- There was less time to feel badly about myself.  I also remember ritualistic behaviors starting to take hold.  For instance, I packed the same lunch every day, ate the same frozen yogurt treat on my breaks, and ran as soon as I was relieved, just in time to get to my night classes.  I also found running to be a viable excuse to indulge a little more every now and then.  So, I found love in baking.


In fact, I'm pretty sure I fell even more in love with food.  Perhaps I thought that if I visibly expressed my infatuation with food, others would appreciate and admire me for being "that girl."  AKA the girl who ran, baked, and  ate.  However, it was around this time I realized I was getting more satisfaction watching others eat what I had created.  Perhaps it created a sense of mastery and competence.  It was around this time that the obsessions surfaced. 

With a renewed sense of (false) self-confidence, I began my junior year of college.  This time around I lived in an apartment with two of my best friends.  I had my own kitchen and creative freedom to eat how I wanted.  This freedom and extra time allowed me to go to the gym with friends, try to be "that girl" when I dated, and take pride in eating healthier.  However, I still found myself indulging every once and a while. 



 Again, I found myself attached to schedules, lists, and routines (which included meals).  Healthy, repetitive, and easy-to-prepare foods became "safe" and obsessions were quickly forming.  But this was my little secret.  As far as everyone in my life was concerned, I adored and ate sweet treats on a daily basis, without shame or guilt.

A few months into the semester I broke my foot.  All of a sudden,  I was in a boot and on crutches for 10 long, detrimental weeks.



Many know the story from here: my path to vegetarianism and love for whole, natural foods.  I wanted to be as healthy and 'fit' as possible-- one may say this marked a pivotal moment of some sort of "orthorexia".


Spring 2009 brought difficulty and a time of soul searching.  I felt like I was under constant pressure to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.  The stress and anxiety triggered the downward spiral of my eating disorder.  By May, I was basically living alone in the apartment and I was lonely.  My love for food became an obsession, and my need for schedules started to kill me-- quite literally.  

I spent hours upon hours of my day hidden at my computer desk, buried in health magazines, or at the gym.  Various eating disorder behaviors controlled my life.  I just wanted to be the healthiest, most fit girl possible. Maybe then I would be happy.




By August of 2009, I had hit my rock bottom.  Foods I once loved vanished from my existence and foods I once considered "safe" became of my utmost fear.  


Since my first admittance to a treatment facility for eating disorders, there have been many ups and downs--specifically, in terms of my relationship with food.  Every day is a journey towards self discovery, acceptance and love.  I'm trying to accept that I'll never be 'that girl' again: The girl who could eat an entire cheese pizza without a thought related to calories.  I know I can't erase what I've spent so much time obsessing over.  Nonetheless, I also know that if I work hard enough, I can bring myself to a permanent state where food is love.  We've been told, countless times, that "it's not about the weight"-- and I truly believe it to be true.  I wasn't happy with myself at my highest weight, and I certainly wasn't at my lowest.  Obsessions with food and weight mask our personal and deepest truths.  Because, Rebecca loves chocolate.  Rebecca can't go a day without frozen yogurt.  And Rebecca loves being in the kitchen.  Yes, Rebecca has a passion for cooking and baking, trying new foods, experiencing mouthfuls of sweet and savory flavors, a passion for the environment and a passion for health and fitness.  Rebecca is not defined by her eating disorder.



I've vowed to not let ED become such an obsession, ever again.  Evey day we have the opportunity to do something marvelous with our lives.  We have the option, with each moment, to do something different-- to do something a little more us.  And I believe it all starts with a commitment to ourselves.  No matter how impossible it may seem, a happy and healthy life awaits us.  If we give it the time and patience it deserves, our souls can be fulfilled and we can live, fully, as us.  I know I'll be tempted by ED, I am certain I will make unhealthy choices and surrender to instant gratification.  But I also won't let it destroy me.  I learn a little more about myself with each experience, and I promise to use what I've learned to help me move forward.  No matter how impossible it may seem.


"The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.
— 
Ralph Waldo Emerson


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50 comments:

  1. this was absolutely beautiful and moving. don't feel scared that others will read this! i'm sure it will be just as helpful to them as it was for me. love you girl -- miss you!
    xx
    becca

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  2. This is wonderfully inspiring, Rebecca. There's nothing to be ashamed of in thus post...in fact, I wish more people would read this and learn two things: that eating disorders SUCK and are not something to be taken lightly...AND that you are a role model in terms of positivity and determination.

    Thank you:)

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  3. I think you are very brave to post your reflections...truly very inspiring! I love your last paragraph and can feel your determination to grow past all of the things that have happened. Amazing!

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  4. you are amazing. period. love you so and congrats! thank you for sharing.

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  5. Thank you for sharing this Rebecca. This was so beautifully and sensitively written, and truly inspiring to read. Your journey is one that many can relate to I'm sure, and to see how far you have come is just incredible.
    x Hannah x

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  6. Thank you so so so much for posting this. I needed to read that so much today. It really struck a cord in me. You are an inspiration.

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  7. I love you! I love this post! It was so encouraging to read and you write so well. It must have been really therapeutic to write this all out. I know for me, when im posting about my past, it really puts things in perspective. I realize WHERE i want go and where I DONT want to go. I think reflection is great for beating your eating disorder. I've never met anyone who said they 'were happy' when engulfed in their disorder. Thats because nobody IS! Keep fighting my dear, ive totally taken that vow right along with yoU! some days are harder then others, but ill never go back.

    Dana xo
    http://happinessiswithinblog.com/

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  8. I am so proud of you for everything you have done and for how brae and strong you are. I loev that you want to be in a permanent state where food is love. Cooking and baking help me so much because I know how much effort and loe I put into meals so all of that love goes into my body, as well. You have such a beautiful way with words, and trust me, you have nothing to be scared of. So many of us can relate and it is always comforting and inspiring to hear different stories. It was great to finally hear all of yours (although I know there is probably much more to it!).

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  9. wow!! Thank u so much for sharing. Your story is so inspiring =)

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  10. what a wonderful post. You definitely have to know where you are trying to get (what kind of person you want to be) in order to make any sort of change. You may not see leaps and bounds from day to day but each day you are making changes. There is always progress. Each day is a step forward. Have you ever ready: It's not about food by Normandi and Roark? it is a wonderful book that really helped me in my journey.

    I had to really work hard to shake old labels that were put on me. i think that is one of the hardest parts. I found having dinner with my family was the hardest because I realized that over the years I had established myself as the special eater of the family. It was sort of the only area where I was asked my opinion or what I wanted or needed to have to be able to eat. And I would be accommodated. It was how I got "love" from my dad. Giving that up was really scary for me. I would have progress on my own but would go to a family dinner and my dad would assume I had not changed, and so the dinner would go the same way it always did. Shaking that label was hard. I was scared that I would then disappear. But I didn't. I created a better image of myself in the eyes of my family by becoming more and more relaxed. One day it was not being concerned about the butter on my potato or whether a piece of dark meat was in my meal the next. Tonight, I helped my dad and step mom move into their house and my dad asked me if it was ok if they ordered pizza. At one time I would be pissed. I would complain. Then I would pick things off, complain about the crust, whatever. This time, I didn't give a second thought and said i thought it was a great idea. I could tell my dad was happy. It's been a while now that I've been more relaxed but I know it's a lot easier on my family, and they don't love me any less. I just have to find other ways for them to see me.

    I think this story stemmed from your "the girl who can eat a whole pizza" mention. Or I'm just trying to write my own novel on your blog ;)

    take care of yourself. xo

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  11. *hugs* Thanks for sharing this hun. You're definitely not defined by your ED and your commitment not to let that happen will ensure that it won't. You have a sparkle that radiates from within and I hope that in time, you will be able to see what I can see - a beautiful, talented, strong, determined young woman who has the world at her feet. You just have to take the opportunity to be all that you were made to be! And I know you can hun!

    XOXO

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  12. wow you are such an inspiration! I hope a lot of girls dealing with the same thing get to read this!
    You are much strong than you know! YOU deserve the best there is in life! believe in yourself girlie!
    xoxo!

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  13. Hi Rebecca, I'm a new commenter, but I've been reading your blog for a while...thanks so much for this post. It is so beautiful, honest, and inspiring. Your insights motivate me to continue in this long journey of recovery :)
    You deserve to be 'that girl' again- happy, healthy, and full of life! Best of luck ♥

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  14. You are so brave to write this post :)Your story is so inspiring and I seriously commend you for putting it out in the open!

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  15. Rebecca,
    Thank you for this truly beautiful, open, honest post. Your journey has been long and hard but as you know, everyday is a fresh start!!
    To me, you are "that girl" -the one who is fighting for her life, the one who is overcoming obstacles but also providing strength and support to those in similar situations.

    Your bravery and ability to be open are so commendable. I hope to get there one day.

    Sending all my best and wishing you well!!!
    -jillian

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  16. This post brings tears to my eyes, you are such a touching and great human being.
    Your experiences has a place in my heart, there are so much of your feelings, your loneliness, your search for happiness that I can relate to.
    I was also the girl who could eat whatever she wanted, who ate an entire pizza faster than the boys, who enjoyed trying new food and just... embrace the combination of good food and good people.

    At some point it all changed though, people around me disappeared, changed social pressure - all I had left was food. Food, or no food. Because maybe if I changed the way I ate, and then how I looked some of the security I felt previously would come back? And that was the start of a confused, desperate search for something. Something I'm not sure what was, or if it was anything at all.

    You are so brave for sharing your life with us. And I am so grateful because you activate so much emotions and fire in me. I am grateful for sitting here with tears streaming down my face by the thought of the person I was, the person I became and the one I am now.
    You are beautiful, and... and, I do not know what to say because you leave me as one big ball of emotions with this post.

    <3

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  17. what a tremendous post, rebecca! i loved hearing all about your history (a lot of it sounding very similar to my own) and your current state of LIVING. you're an amazing woman.

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  18. we have a lot in common. i too used to be that girl that could eat anything and i was damn happy in my body.
    but most important is not what has been in the past but what will be in the future!
    thank you for your comment.
    xoxo

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  19. Rebecca.. I absolutely LOVED learning more about you, and I commend you on this post. It is so real, honest and raw. Just reading it, I can feel how much emotion is behind the words and that is so special. I can't thank you enough for sharing, because your journey is so inspirational :)

    <3 Tat

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  20. i'm glad you took this risk. i think we've all been there. we're just not all brave enough to admit it.

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  21. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.

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  22. Thanks for sharing your journey and struggles so openly. It's definitely through open dialogue like this that we can destigmatize eating disorders and encourage others to get help. And beautiful quote at the end - thanks for sharing!

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  23. Thank you so much for sharing :) I totally love your outlook on recovery, and life in general, thank you SO much for passing along the positivity!

    <3 Scott

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  24. Thank you so much for posting this! I really admire your honesty. It is so easy to go from healthy eating to disordered eating/thinking. It sounds like you are on the right track though, and you're right when you say your ED does not define you!!

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  25. Rebecca.. thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for sharing this. It took guts and you are so brave for being able to let us get a better glimpse into your past. The person you are becoming is so beautiful and inspiring and I'm glad I get to be a part of your journey.

    (I love the new layout!)

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  26. hey beautiful,
    that took a lot of strength to write (and publish!) and I admire you for you. Your honesty is refreshing. keep being honest, and keep in mind your beautiful and healthy self. you are so strong! and thank you so much for your continued support, I appreciate it SO much and I wish I could comment on your blog more! I am insanely busy, but I'll try to get over here a little more :) take care sweetie.

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  27. thank you so much for your sweet comments on my blog. youre finding me allowed me to read this, a post i feel like the universe wanted me to read. your story is so powerful and you wrote about it beautifully.

    i empathize so much with your journey. and while my relationship with food is healthier now that it has been since i was in junior high, i still struggle with guilt more often than i'd like to admit. i too rarely go a day without chocolate or fro yo...and you know what? it IS ok. thank you for reminding me of that.

    wonderful post.

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  28. Beck, thanks for your honesty!

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  29. Thank you so much for sharing your story and being so honest with your readers!

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  30. this was a really interesting & touching read, rebecca. thank you for posting it - - you are very brave! as someone never diagnosed with an ED but has been through many different 'food' phases i can relate to a lot.

    i LOOOVEEE this:

    'Evey day we have the opportunity to do something marvelous with our lives. We have the option, with each moment, to do something different-- to do something a little more us. '

    thank you for sharing your love!

    <3 <3 <3

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  31. Thank you for this beautiful, and honest post. I am sure it took a lot of courage to share your story and you should be proud of yourself! I agree w/ Dana, this post was probably quite therapeutic for you also.

    Love the last paragraph! Keep up the good work!
    Robyn

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  32. WOW!! im so happy to see you healthy and happy today, and working to leave ED in the past forever! of course the struggles come and go, but knowing that ur secure and grounded in ur body/self/mind is really what will always pull you through. you are a beautiful testimate to that <3

    isnt it lovely to find baking has so many therapeutical properties!! WOW thank you for sharing your journey and story with us!! it made for a very emotionally charging/inspiring read.

    <3 xoxo

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  33. I don't know what to say! Thank you for being so open and honest with this post. I know that's scary, but you are dearly loved by everyone here. You are such an inspiration and encouragement, and I am in awe of your story. You have so much life ahead of you, pretty girl! You don't have to let anything stand in your way.

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  34. This.. is.. beautiful.. oh my gosh
    Girl i KNOW recovery is scary! I KNOW it is scary when you dont see the end result.. but its something you have to have faith in. you have to trust that food is FUEL and nourishment for our organs/bones/muscles. LIFE being healthy is seriously SO much better. I would NEVER ever go back, or ever even think of it, because I was MISERABLE when I was unhealthy. too many girls THINK They are "healthy" when they really arent, and i hate that bc they dont know what they are missing! You have a BEAUTIFUL story. and wow you look BEAUTIFUL in those earlier pics- you have an AMAZING body shape.. embrace it and trust it!

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  35. Girl, this was beautiful and I really admire you for sharing. I know its terrifying to put yourself out there and share your struggles but at the same time I know there are *so* many people that can relate to your story and are finding comfort and hope that they too can get better.

    "Rebecca is not defined by her eating disorder" <-- loved that; never forget it :)

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  36. This was such a great post. Thank you for sharing even though it was hard- I am proud! Being committed is the only way to get better and STAY better and you have shown your commitment. You are an inspiration and I know you can leave ED in the past!!

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  37. thank you so much for sharing your story! you should be so proud of yourself for getting better and being able to inspire others to do the same. never let ED ruin your beautiful life you have now and in the future.

    xoxo

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  38. Thank you for being so open and sharing your story! I've been a follower of your blog for a while and look forward to continue following you on your journey to a healthy YOU!! You are a beautiful soul and deserve freedom and to truly live your life as Rebecca!!

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  39. This is a beautiful post. I hope you feel EMPOWERED by sharing your story. You are NOT defined by an eating disorder, and it takes so much strength to move forward from it.

    I look forward to catching up with and reading more from you! And thank you so much for your sweet comment on my blog as well.

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  40. You sharing this is so inspiring. I bet it will touch quite a few people. It does me. I always love hearing about other women's paths to loving themselves more again and overcoming food demons.

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  41. you are so inspiring and i give you tons of props for posting this :)

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  42. girl! i am so glad i finally have the chance to catch up on your posts! love readinggg :)
    jenna

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  43. This is a very insightful post, and I thank you for sharing. There are so many things that I could relate to. Especially the baking, falling even more in love with food. I did that also, along with wanting to be the fittest girl. It is a lot of work to keep all of that up. I'm so glad to hear that you are doing better and gaining recovery!

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  44. This was definitely a moving story! I'm so glad you shared this because you're definitely an inspiration and show that there really IS a light at the end of the tunnel! I hope that you continue this uplifting recovery!

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  45. Thank you for sharing this. You are a beautiful and amazing woman. Really!

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  46. Rebecca, this was a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing your story. Please consider submitting a letter for the "Letters to Me" Campaign - I think you could really help out others with your story. Here is a link with info about the campaign: http://www.biochemista.com/p/letters-to-me-campaign.html

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  47. Thanks so much for sharing this post. It was very moving. I see a lot of myself in you. I am so glad to see that you are on the road to loving yourself again. I can totally relate to not feeling happy about yourself, whether at your lowest weight or your highest. Keep up the great work.

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  48. First off HELLO!! I love your new layout and all it's great!!

    I am truely moved by this post, thank you for your honesty, I commend you and all the courage I know it takes to post thoughts and feelings and experiences on your blog. You alloud yourself to b vulnerable and I'm sure helped many people becuase if it.

    Life is a journy each day IS an adventure and that is sucha perfect way to look at it!!! Keep on being you!! <2 <2

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  49. Thanks you so much for sharing your story. Like you, I had a fast metabolism growing up. I could eat whatever I wanted and not feel guilty or gain an ounce. But unfortunately, it caught up to me when I was 13 (not by much..) and I started dieting.

    I'm glad you're recovering now. Anorexia/bulemia makes life so difficult. It makes the things that used to be enjoyable, not. Choosing to recover makes life worthwile.
    Take care
    -Danielle

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  50. It takes a lot of bravery to post a story with your history and background like this. Thanks for sharing your story, I'd bet someone who so far hasn't taken their ED seriously will read it and recognize themselves and their trajectory, and it will be a light-bulb moment.

    Hang in there, you are going to make it all the way. :)

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