To Eat or Not to Eat
“The breaking point came when I caught myself checking the nutrition label on a cough drop: Was 5 calories really worth it?”
By Mallory Arnold, Ohio University
I’m obsessed with food.
Sushi, Chipotle, tofu, Panera, avocados, you name it. When I wake up and go to class, I can’t wait to go home to make my lunch. After the gym I get super excited to see what dinner is cooking in the kitchen. And oh my god—Skyline? Don’t even start.
But my obsession isn’t like those foodies on Instagram. You know, the ones who dress their meals up in Calvin Klein and shine them up with shoe polish. Nah, that’s not me. My love for food—okay my obsession, comes with an unhealthy aspect.
Like how I’m also obsessed with One Direction, which is good, until you buy all five of the collectible dolls and people start to question your sanity. Some people might not consider that healthy.
You’d never associate an eating problem with a person like me. Even my roommate has never seen someone love cereal as much as I do (I’d never pass up a good bowl of Special K). Even at 8 years old I wasn’t insecure about my chicken legs or grass stained floral pants. In the girl’s locker room during gym time, girls would poke and prod at their skin using words like, Chubby. Rolls. Gross. Fat.
I didn’t get it. Yeah I used “disgusting,” but to describe meatloaf or cicadas, not a person’s body.
But In high school, where the root of a lot of problems seem to stem from, I developed a habit of restricting foods. I didn’t think it was anything serious, just a kind of game for me to control how long I could last without eating. It felt good to have a victory when it seemed I was failing in everything else. I couldn’t maneuver the whirlwind of events happening at that period in my life, but I could control how many calories I ate.
It was all I thought about. I watched the Food Network constantly just because it was kind of like eating. I planned how I would get out of dinner or what excuse I was going to tell my friends when I showed up to school without a lunch. Let’s get one thing straight, people. If your friend ever says, “Oh, I’m just not a breakfast or lunch person!” then they probably aren’t a dinner person either.
Being an athlete, I started becoming weaker and weaker during track practice. My body began to fight against me, collapsing under all the pressure I was putting on it with training. My coach noticed and threatened to kick me off the team if I didn’t start taking care of myself. The thought of losing my sport killed me, so right before practice I would eat a single apple so I wouldn’t feel faint. Who cared if I lost races? I was winning at my little restricting game.
Then I got sick. It amazes me that throughout this entire time of trying to be thin, not one minute did I feel beautiful. People have this image in their minds that when someone goes through weight insecurity, it’s all margaritas in the sunshine and tanning.
I wore baggy clothes and always had circles under my eyes. I turned the kind of pale someone gets after reading a “We need to talk” text. My immune system was shot so I constantly woke up with colds, coughs and other viruses that easily soaked into my body. The breaking point came when I caught myself checking the nutrition label on a cough drop: Was 5 calories really worth it?
For years people have blamed the media for the rising rates of insecurities and eating disorders in young women. And yes, that is a part of the problem. But I never looked at a Barbie and decided that’s what I had to look like. Her hair was stringy, mine was real. Her eyes were fake, mine were real. Her skin was rubber, mine was thick.
When I looked at my mom’s magazines, I didn’t assume I was supposed to look like the movie stars because they were just on a flat, shiny page. I didn’t watch Disney princess movies and zone in on how thin Cinderella’s waistline was—partly because I really just wanted to be Nala from The Lion King. No judgements, that girl is fierce.
Through support and love, I found a healthy balance to make peace with my body before anything became too serious. But now I cringe when I hear girls talk about the crazy diets they’re trying. I’m all for eating good foods—I mean, I still struggle to avoid junk food.
But the hot sauce and lemon water diet? Nuh, uh. The only blue foods diet? No. The jelly bean diet? What did you say?
I don’t think I’m ever going to be completely rid of my obsession. I still find myself glancing at the calorie count before snapping myself away. But just like my One Direction collection (Zayn, please come back) there’s always a positive side.
I try to embrace how powerful my body can be by working out everyday, not because I have to, but because I love it. I’ve discovered new foods that make my body feel good and give me the energy I need to build up muscle. I never want to feel weak and sick again; I want to kick ass.
Certain foods give me energy boosts or shine my hair up or can even calm me down. Did you know dark chocolate naturally lowers your stress hormone? How fantastic is that? Willy Wonka is rolling over in his grave as we speak.
There are going to be days where you eat nothing but crap. Especially if you’re in college when sometimes all that’s in the fridge is Four Lokos and half eaten pizza. Dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets tempt you and fluffy brownies always magically appear in the kitchen when you’re trying to stay on track. And that’s okay! I don’t believe in “cheat days,” because that just implies that you’re doing something wrong. As long as you feel healthy, energized and good in your skin, there’s no cheating involved.
We’re all different, but it’s important to remember that everyone has struggled at one time or another. You only get one life and it’s too short and beautiful to spend another minute hating yourself.
Now if you’ll excuse me, some crunchy avocado toast is calling my name.