Warning: This article includes references to eating disorders that may be upsetting to some readers.
I reached into the front pocket of my backpack, pulled out my phone, and clicked the on-button to view my recent notifications. “Messages: Vanessa–Hey, are you free to talk? Would I be able to vent?” I wasn’t in the optimal state of mind but went ahead and replied “yes” to her message. She opened up to me about struggles she had with food restriction and how after her rapid weight loss from a health-related issue, she noticed the difference in how others perceived her. She continued to limit her food intake and told me that she felt trapped: she wanted to eat, continue to live life, and was tired of chronic fatigue, but did not want to return to life at a higher weight.
As someone struggling with the same affliction, it felt hypocritical to tell her to eat and that she was beautiful no matter what when I didn’t believe or see the same for myself. Instead, I opened up to her about my issues and affirmed she was not alone in her body dysphoria and eating problems.
It wasn’t until I was starving myself six days a week, on the verge of blacking out whenever I got up too fast, that I recognized my eating disorder as a severe problem. Memories of distorted mornings fill my mind when I think about my early years of high school: ones of waking up to a clouded mind, feebly walking into the bathroom, shutting the door, stepping on the scale, and experiencing the rush of euphoria associated with my weight drop.
However, as the number on the scale decreased, so did my ability to think coherently. Previously simple and short homework sessions dragged into hours of working on assignments due to tireless internal battles of deciding whether I deserved to eat to get my brain working again as my head began to go light.
Around that time, I realized I would never truly reach the idealized version of myself; this fantasy would continue to consume my life. Life’s opportunities would continually pass me by if I was waiting for a day that would never come. Today I recognize that I am enough and more than capable of pursuing my dreams; my size is not the determining factor of my success.
Although my state of mind surrounding food may never reach full rehabilitation, I am currently on the road to recovery. I strategically follow pages on Instagram to allow complimentary messages to show up throughout my day to encourage me to eat when I am hungry. The visual content reflecting powerful women who look like me proudly eating food reminds me that I deserve to do and feel the same and this has aided in developing a love for my body.
I wear clothes that I like, no matter the current body shape society considers ideal, and I can choose oversized clothing for comfort, not to mask my insecurities. Sitting down with my family for dinner, I enjoy the meal without viewing the calorie contents and subtracting them from my daily allowance. I no longer think about how others view my body’s size when I present in leadership positions and trust that the audience views my confidence as credibility in the subject matter. In turn, young girls confiding in me that they feel more comfortable with their body because they see me happy in my skin makes my recovery worth the battle.
As I stumble upon the same advertisements I formerly idolized, I now see through the compulsive eating behaviors of the models depicted. With the weight of my toxic obsession removed, I have a newfound outlook on my capacity for my success, and it brings excitement for the journey into college that has yet to come. I look forward to presenting my most genuine, authentic self to my community and enjoying the potential experiences that the previous me would have never considered possible.