I can’t even count the amount of times I have looked in the mirror and told myself I was fat. Absolutely, completely ridiculous. I am 5’8, 130lbs and muscular. I am absolutely NOT fat. I always think there are two sides of myself… the Hailey who knows that I am strong, lean and beautiful, and the other Hailey who is so hard on herself and nit-picks at all the possible, minute, imperfections about myself. And why? Because we live in a sick society where looks and size rule over anything else. And this is so very wrong. I have come a long way since my days of having an eating disorder, and I now can proudly say I have a very healthy relationship with food. But it hasn’t always been that way. We had a special request to share a blog about eating disorders in women. As someone who has been through it, I felt compelled to share my story, because maybe I can help someone who is fighting their own battle.
It started when I was in grade 12. The first year that I really felt pressure to look a certain way, to fit in with the popular crowd. I was by no means athletic and couldn’t play sports for the life of me, so I started to go to the gym. It started as just going a few nights a week once all my homework was done and it quickly became a very unhealthy relationship. I started cutting what I was eating drastically. At the worst of it, I would eat an apple for breakfast, cucumbers and carrots for lunch and then skip dinner that my parents would make and go the gym, promising to eat when I got home. Of course when I got home, I would be so starving that I would binge on anything that I could find in the house. Then, feeling guilty about it, I told myself I would never do that again and I would be even strict the next day. This imaginably became a vicious cycle and who knows how far it would have gone if I hadn’t had the relationship with my mother that I had. At 5’8, I was hovering close to 100lbs and my mum was the first to intervene and get me help.
And yes, things got better, but the unhealthy relationship with my body and food never changed. I would eat because I knew I had to, but if I ate anything I felt I shouldn’t have I would get so mad at myself. I would say I hated myself, that I had no self-control. I would ask myself what was wrong with me. Reflecting back on this negativity is really hard, I was in such an unhappy place.
My first year of university was when the problem really started. I worked at a grocery store in the photo-lab and the girls who worked the front desk were taking weight-loss supplements. I felt the peer pressure to take them as well. I felt that I could then eat what I was currently eating and still lose the weight I felt I had to. I would hide them in my car so no one else could find them. But those pills are so full of disgusting chemicals and they would give me panic attacks from the energy boost in them. Luckily I kicked that habit quick enough.
The following year was the most stressful of my life; my brother broke his neck, I started my nursing degree and I moved away from home. I started running for the first time, it was my way to escape all the stress. As soon as school was done I would go for a run and then head to the gym for sometimes up to 3 hours. I was completely obsessed with exercise, and not to be healthy, to be skinny. My fridge was full of “diet” food. No fat margarine, weight-watchers single meal trails, zero fat process cheese, zero calorie juice… I think you get the idea. I was completely failing to see that food is fuel, instead, food was the enemy and if I ate too much I was going to get fat. And the irony of this, was I was actually at my heaviest during this time because our bodies aren’t meant to live off chemicals and exercise like a crazy person.
From there, the problem got worse. I failed school and I moved back home with my parents. When I would have a food binge, or eat food I felt wasn’t appropriate, I would steal my brothers laxatives, hoping that if I was able to have a bowel movement sooner, I wouldn’t absorb the calories or the fat from the food I had consumed. I remember sitting on the toilet, locked in the bathroom at work uncontrollably going number two. I will spare the details but soon it became every weekend and I had reached rock bottom mentally. I am so sad for my past self, this was my lowest moment.
But there is a silver lining to this story. I got help. I went to a councilor and shared my unhealthy relationship with myself. I didn’t want to hate myself anymore, I wanted to be happy. I was so tired of feeling down, tired, unhealthy, sad and angry. I wanted a change and so I made it. It has not been an easy road. I found long distance running and my relationship with food completely changed. I think that as I started to need to carry food with me while I ran, I realized that food is fuel and nothing else. When I felt my energy lowering during a run, I would eat something and immediately felt better. Something so simple changed the way I saw food completely. When I came home from a long I would refuel. Have a protein shake or a good meal to replenish my muscles and calories I had lost.Food is fuel and if you want your body to work the way you want it to, you have to listen to your body and give your body the fuel it needs. I watched documentaries about food and proper nutrition and completely changed the way I ate. I said good-bye to all prepackaged food and adopted the whole-food diet (I HIGHLY recommend the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle). And through running, and meeting tones of inspiring people, my self-esteem improved. I started setting goals for myself and achieving them. And most importantly, I was doing something I loved. I was finally happy.
There are still days where I get down on myself, but honestly, those days are few and far between now. I have a very healthy relationship with food and I love my body for what it is and what it is capable of. Our society puts so much pressure on women to look a certain way. They put this image out there of what perfect looks like. Well screw perfect. Who wants to be that anyways? Perfect isn’t always happy and happiness is the greatest thing you can feel. Learn to love yourself for who you are and what you do. Put a strong emphasis on the fact that food is fuel and that is how you should eat it. Love your body for not how it looks but for what it is able to do and what you have done with it. Forget all those magazine models and celebrity bulls shit and focus on being the best, happiest and healthiest YOU.