As a kid, I was tiny. I was born the smallest of my siblings at 6lbs 8oz. My nickname in third grade was Shorty, which I probably pretended to hate but secretly liked.
In middle school, I was self-conscious about two main physical traits, my lack of boobs, and that I looked so young. Some of the girls looked and seemed so mature. I always felt like I looked like a little kid (boobs probably would have helped).
Freshman and sophomore year were the same issues. Once I hit junior year, I started to gain weight. It wasn’t until my senior year that I suddenly noticed, wow, I’m not skinny like the other girls in my grade. And I always have been.
That’s when I became obsessed with food and my body image. (I wish I could say that this is a thing of the past, but it’s not.)
Fast forward to college. The drinking, the late night eating, the very unhealthy food choices, led me to weigh the most I have ever weighed. I remember the moment. It was pre-season, and we had to get our physical. I got weighed and the doctor read my weight out loud. 138 lbs. I was like, no, that’s not me. I am not that person. But I totally was. I was disgusted with myself, and fell into this self-loathing person who tried to diet but then binged and would try not to eat in front of other people.
Junior year, I went the complete opposite way and weighed the least amount I have ever weighed. I remember that moment, too. I was in my dorm room, alone. Allie and Kristin were at class and I had the room to myself. I got Kristin’s scale from behind her desk, and stood on it, knowing I was skinny but needing the number to validate myself. 111 pounds. I wish I could say I wasn’t so happy about this, but I was SO HAPPY.
It was Winter, so off-season for field hockey. I had gotten a part in the school musical as a Cabaret girl (one of the dancers). The day I got cast, I was so happy. Then our dance instructor informed us that we would probably be wearing very little clothing for the show. That I might be wearing a two-piece, showing off my stomach. This was awful for me, but super motivating. There was no way I was getting up on stage in a two-piece, and not being skinny. No fucking way.
So there were some factors to me getting my thinnest. One – Cabaret. We had rehearsal almost every night, and we danced for hours. Two – off-season. We still had practice three days a week and lifting two days a week. (Plus my late-night trips to the gym to run on the treadmill for an hour.)
And three, the main reason I lost so much weight – my diet. I can tell you exactly what I ate. In the morning, for my 8:45am class, I’d stop at Einsten Bagels on my way to class, because it was in the Communications building. I’d get a coffee, add skim milk and splenda, then a honey wheat bagel toasted with honey almond cream cheese. The coffee and bagel I would eat and drink slowly over the course of my class. In the early day, I would drink a Diet Vanilla Pepsi. Then I would have a can of soup for lunch. Vegetable soup was 80 calories a serving, so 160 for the can. This would fill me right up.
The difference between the way I ate before and the way I ate now was that now I made sure to eat in front of people, so they knew I was eating. I would go out of my way to make sure people saw me eat, because I certainly wasn’t doing it in private. I remember once, I hadn’t see Allie all day, and at night, she grilled me. “What did you eat today?” And I told her. A lie. I completely made up a meal that I had had in the afternoon, because in reality, I hadn’t eaten a real “meal” since breakfast time.
If we had practice in the afternoon, I would get a smoothie afterwards. It was a pineapple coconut smoothie with some kind of protein enhancement thrown in there. That would literally be my dinner that I would drink through my 4:15-7:30 class.
If I went to the dining hall at night (which was my favorite place, ever) I would sometimes get a bowl of cereal. Honey Nut Cheerios was my go-to. I would always make sure to be the last one at the table, and eat very slowly, so that it wouldn’t seem like I was eating so little (I’m sure I wasn’t fooling anybody). Sometimes I would get a salad with raspberry vinagrette dressing and a side of tuna pasta salad. I would pour the rest of my water on the plate when I was finished, so I wouldn’t eat anymore, because I always left some on the plate.
Sometimes I would get a side of granola to go. I loved granola. It would be my snack for the rest of the night.
I remember one time, someone said they wanted to go to Dairy Queen that night. So I skipped dinner. All I ate was a small ice cream from Dairy Queen. But no one knew that. I was just a normal girl going out for ice cream after dinner.
Everything changed when I had my end of year meeting with Monica, my coach. She met with each of us individually, to check in before we left for the summer. I was going to be a senior, and a captain, and she was worried about me (and probably the role model I had become for underclassmen). The fact was, I wasn’t strong anymore. Girls were muscling their way through me on the field and there was nothing I could do about it. Monica asked me what was important to me, and I told her. Field hockey. Field hockey meant everything to me. And that was it. I felt like I had been so vain and weak (mentally) to let my self-image take over and fuck with the one thing I was so passionate about. I was going to be a senior. This was my last chance to do the thing I loved more than anything. So I did.
Getting back to “normal” meant falling back into old habits. Binging. Not eating in front of people.
Fast forward to a year after college. I was living at home and working at the Gloucester County Times. I got down to a decent weight here. And again, it was the calorie counting and eating the same thing every day routine. It’s gross to think about it now. Morning, or should I say afternoon because I always woke up late, I would get a coffee from Dunkin Donuts. I’m sure I put some poisonous Splenda in there. I sometimes ate those cracker packs, you know, with the six cracker sandwiches inside? Something with chive and onion was my go-to. Basically, anything with a “nutrition” label on it that told me how many calories were in it, meant it was safe to put in my body, because I could control exactly how many calories I was eating every day (1200-1600 was the range). Every night at the office, Sean (my boss) would take food orders or get a pizza or something like that. I never partook. I would bring a Lean Cuisine Panini. Heat that shit up in the microwave, and savor every bite (gross). When I would get home, late, usually after midnight, I would be pretty hungry. Everyone at home would be asleep, because they worked “normal” jobs. I’d open the fridge and see the leftovers from dinner, knowing that Mom was saving some for me. Most times I would just look at it. Then I’d go to my room with an enormous glass of wine and 200 calories worth of Cheez-its, and watch Gossip Girl on DVD until I fell asleep.
So, yea, I have issues. I’m much better now (I attribute most of this to living in California). But no doubt about it, I have a problem with control. Food is some kind of weakness/comfort for me, and I need to do everything in my power to control it.
My point? Well, I can’t stop watching documentaries on Netflix about food. It is absolutely disgusting what we put in our bodies and I am so happy to be learning more and more about it. Like how completely terrible processed food is. (I’m not gonna lie, Cheez-its are still my weakness and I pretty much always have them in the apartment. I actually watched one of these documentaries while eating Cheez-its.) It’s awful. But I approach my image in a much different way than I used to. I want to be “healthy.” I don’t count calories anymore (actually, that’s not true, it’s such a habit that I sometimes do, but not to the point of keeping track of it throughout my entire day). It’s really hard to stay away from all the terrible food that the food industry is throwing in our faces, but I try to make smart, healthy decisions. I still love pizza and lots of things that are bad for me, but there are some things that I absolutely will not put in my body. And I have no problem spending more money on groceries for actual food than that processed shit.
We have more and more access to knowledge about food and what we put in our bodies and we should take advantage of that. I’m not preaching, because if I actually wanted to REALLY take care of my body, I would cut out sugar, which is poison, and I’m like, there’s no fucking way. I’m drinking wine and eating salami and crackers with sweethot right now, like, who am I kidding? But I am way more aware of what I put into my body than I ever have been before, and while I’m not a great example of perfect health (by any means), I am conscious of my decisions every day and understand that I need to take care of myself.
Baby steps, people.