“I came to Jennifer 9 months ago feeling completely oppressed by food. Instead of a source of energy and enjoyment, it was a guilt-filled burden weighing down on my life. I hardly knew what exactly I wanted to achieve, but I knew that I did not want to spend my life in fear of the very thing that sustains it.
I cannot remember a time that I was not thinking about food. When I was a child, I periodically swore off or incorporated certain foods whenever someone dropped a snippet of information about them. Already picky, I’d stopped eating my daily salami sandwiches when I heard they’d make me break out. I’d looked at macadamia nuts in fear when I heard they had a high fat content. I chomped on carrots trying to strengthen my eyesight. As in many cases, a little well-intentioned knowledge was a dangerous thing.
I was a highly active and already naturally-thin high-schooler running track and cross country, playing soccer and dancing ballet. With that, I was further thrown into a world where knowing just a little but not quite enough got me into trouble. Before I knew it, my desire to stay lean for better performance consumed my life. My list of forbidden foods grew longer and longer and the anxiety surrounding eating rose.
Ironically, I didn’t achieve the goals I wanted. I was weak and spent more time suffering from constant illness and injuries than out with my teammates and fellow dancers. I wondered why no matter how many push-ups and crunches I cranked out, I never seemed to put on muscle. Part of me knew something wasn’t right, but a bigger part of me reminded me of all that I’d read about people with “real” eating issues. I wasn’t “that bad,” I reasoned. Sometimes, I’d feel too thin and put on a few pounds to prove to myself that I could. But it was rarely long before the number glaring on the scale sent me back.
It wasn’t until I went to my physical the summer before college where amenorrheric and thin, I was finally told my habits had to change. Terrified of the potential consequences, I ate and ate desperate to get healthy enough to continue my competitive running career.
My freshmen year began and my habits swung in a whole new direction. Overwhelmed by a new environment and experiences I hadn’t prepared myself for, food became my method of drowning my emotions. My negative feelings about myself manifested themselves in my attempts to swallow my feelings in the late-night snacks I guiltily crammed into my mouth. My weight climbed higher and I only felt worse as days went on. I was eating foods I knew weren’t good for me, foods that just a year before would have brought me to the brink of tears had they even made contact with my “safe” foods.
I finally called Jennifer after a year of this knowing that I was disrespecting my body and exhausted from keeping up a happy front when I was struggling so much in moments alone. After months of working with her, I once again enjoy my food. Eating mindfully with intention has become a priority, but is no longer an obsession. Putting good foods in my body is simply a no-brainer. I know that I deserve it. Eating this way not only makes me feel physically good, but mentally and emotionally, I am in the best place I have ever been.
By allowing myself to experiment and make mistakes, I have begun to learn what foods really works for me. Making changes in small increments, writing out my thoughts on what I was doing and referring back to Jennifer’s action plans regularly helped me most. It kept me thinking critically and engaged in the experience. There were times that I fell off track but the less I beat myself up about it, the easier it was to get right back on.
These months have helped me reclaim my life and even now that I have been inspired to research graduate school and career options in nutrition, food is just one part of my life. Without guilt, stress and frustration associated with food, I have time to actually go out and live! My grades are getting back up, I’m far more confident and I feel better every day. My challenges are no longer something I am ashamed about, instead, I love the questions I get as they give me the chance to spread all I have learned about health and wellness.”