***TRIGGER WARNINGS: Eating disorders
I’ve been obsessed with chocolate from far back in my childhood. One of my earliest memories is walking into the kitchen as a toddler, melted chocolate from mini Kit Kat bars staining my fingers– I came into the kitchen to ask for more. I also remember how I would get chastised for eating too much chocolate, and being scaled for gaining so much weight because of eating too much chocolate. My mom hesitated to trust me with chocolate (and with good reason) and this wasn’t just limited to my childhood. Even being at home from college, my mom still hid the Nutella from me regularly.
I’m not a child. I know that. But I keep feeling like I’m acting like one when I can’t seem to control my chocolate intake.
I’ve been struggling with a serious bingeing problem with chocolate specifically. It’s like once I start, I can’t stop. Especially when I’m at home and without distractions. When I’m sad, anxious and stressed. And this isn’t only when I’m hungry, or only when I want to enjoy chocolate. I don’t remember when it got this bad, but like I said, it dates back to my childhood.
I can notice a stark difference between a photo of myself in Kindergarten at age 6– tall, lanky and skinny– and a photo of me from 1st grade– much heavier, thanks to overeating chocolate and other junk foods. I think that’s where my bingeing problems started– between being the ages of being 6 and 7.
I think I’ve been associating eating chocolate with being “fat” at a young age, and that association continues to carry on to me today. And I was taught that being “fat” was extremely shameful and made me less attractive by default. Subconsciously when I was younger, I used to assume that “fat” people like myself were automatically obsessed with chocolate as much as I was. That’s how ingrained the association of eating chocolate and being “fat” was ingrained into me.
I’ve written blog posts more in detail about these previously (if you’re curious about them, you can click here to be directed to one) where I had associated losing weight and being attractive (as if I could only be attractive I’m skinny) with being a runner. In the same way, I associated eating chocolate with being fat. I associated eating chocolate as a pleasurable punishment, an escape. It was as if I was unhealthy and unattractive anyway, so I might as well continue stuffing myself with my feelings being all over the place.
But I know that I deserve better than that.
I was more concerned with “looking” healthy and being skinny than actually being healthy. Sure, as a freshman, I would run 6, 7, 8 or more miles daily first thing in the mornings, but I wasn’t nourishing my body the way it needed to be taken care of and in the way that it deserved– in the way that I deserved.
I wouldn’t eat completely unhealthy– I would still consume a good amount of vegetables and protein. But I was still eating in toxic ways. Even being fit with my rigorous running schedule and eating healthy meals, I was still eating one to two Nutella crepes with double Nutella from one of my dining halls daily. I went to the crepe place so much that the people who worked there knew me by name and often joked around with me about my Nutella obsession.
I figured that because I ran, because I was still losing weight, because I was fit, I was healthy enough that I didn’t have to care too much about how the unhealthy parts of my diet would significantly affect me in the long run.
But four years later, I know that there was a huge problem with me associating being skinny with being healthy.
I think I knew this deep down, but running and burning calories and eating healthy was not a free pass for me to eat loads of chocolate. My body didn’t deserve that. I didn’t deserve that.
I couldn’t figure out why exactly I couldn’t run the same way I was able to run in high school and in the beginning of college, but from my nutritionist mentioned that it may have to do with the years of unhealthy eating, the effects of it adding up.
But like I stated earlier, it was so hard for me to control myself. I didn’t know how to control myself.
It’s not like I would go to the grocery store and buy chocolate, intending to eat every piece ravenously in one sitting. But that’s what ended up happening. Every time I would tell myself that no, I would not binge, I would control myself– I had a choice. But yet, I always disappointed myself.
Even while on vacation with our family friends, the aunties and uncles express concern alongside my mom, dad and sister as they see me eating copious amounts of chocolate. I deny that there is a problem, even though I know there is. It was so challenging to stop eating the chocolate that I was desperate to fool others as well as myself of the brevity of my problem. It would even get to the point that I would try to hide pieces of chocolate while next to everyone, trying to soundlessly unwrap each piece and stealthily putting it into my mouth without others noticing.
I was ashamed and irritated at the fact that I couldn’t control myself on my own. If it’s something I have a choice for, when I have motivation and willpower, then why can’t I control myself and stop when I want to– when I need to?
Like I hinted at earlier, it’s extremely frustrating to me when I seem to lose self control. I’m an adult, and it feels like I’m not acting like one when I keep eating piece after piece, ice cream bar after ice cream bar, bite after bit out of an ice cream tub that should last weeks instead of the days I finish it in. It’s even more confusing when I know I’m no longer enjoying the taste, but continue to gulp down bite after bite as if I have to finish a large amount if not everything in that single sitting.
I have an emotional connection to chocolate, both positive and negative. It’s positive in the way that it is a food of art and carries many memories for me. And it’s negative in the way that it brings up feelings of losing control and self-deprecating feelings toward my body and myself. My relationship with chocolate is still something that I’m struggling with, but I’m starting to get help for it. I had been following a few nutrition/fitness pages on Instagram, but there was one particular one that I really liked. I loved this nutritionist’s content in particular because she was so genuine and realistic and non-restrictive in her approach. I knew that she did nutritional coaching too, but I hadn’t really considered signing up for it or nutritional coaching in general. I kept feeling like I didn’t want to change my ways, and I was in denial of how my body had changed in ways that I couldn’t resume my regular running schedule. But I was tired of looking at myself in the mirror and hating my body and feeling insecure about my physical appearance lately– for this past year, actually. I was sick of feeling tired and worn out and feeling out of control with my food consumption.
I had to get help. I had to change something.
I had to grow.
Denial wasn’t going to help the consequences of reality.
As hard as it was to control my unhealthy habits and my bingeing, I had no excuse not to invest effort into what I could control.
So I went ahead and signed up for coaching with her (if you want to check her page out, it’s really helpful. Her name is Leena Abed and you can click here to be direct to her Instagram page). And it’s one of the best decisions I have made for my life.
Before officially signing up, I had the intention of eating healthier and living healthier– not just because I wanted to be skinny, but because I wanted to be healthy. I knew that my bingeing habits and my unhealthy eating habits had been going on for far too long and it was due time that I took action to take care of myself. Because like I said, I deserve to live healthily and treat my body right. My health is priceless, and investing time toward it is essential.
I’m going to continue writing about my struggles with my health and body image, but this is something that I often haven’t talked about so openly. I like to think that I’m comfortable with myself– and I am. I’m proud to be who I am, and I’m constantly trying to improve and realize and work on my shortcomings. But I can’t keep pretending like everything is fine with how I feel about myself, because it’s not. And that’s okay, and I’m getting help for it.
I think one reason that I was so hesitant to seek change is because I was scared to change my “old self” and I was so desperate to hang on to my identity as the kind of runner that I had become in high school. But growth is necessary, and that “kind of runner,” while being awesome in ways of her determination and motivation and willpower, was also flawed in ways where she was willing to compromise her health.
I also realize now that I was nervous about being a “fake” version of myself. If I’m already comfortable in myself as I am, then why do I care so much about my body image? The thing is, I now realize that taking care of my body and having my own fitness goals to reach does not take away from me being body-positive and with me being comfortable with myself. I should be comfortable with being uncomfortable with myself– I should muster the courage to be like “hey, Samantha, something is wrong and we need to fix it” while knowing and affirming that I’m still the same woman who can feel sexy in sweatpants while in public. In fact, it is because I am body positive that I am seeking to work on my body to improve its health. Working on my body is an act of loving it.
And as is any kind of change, that change isn’t going to be easy– it isn’t easy now– but I’m heading in and continuing with a positive mindset which I’ll continue writing about. This mindset prioritizes me and my well-being– not illusions of it. This mindset emphasizes that the willingness to grow, the efforts I put toward growing is a valuable facet of my character as I strive to hone it continuously.