Thursday, October 8, 2015

Why I'll Never Force My Body Back to a Size 0...Unless It Wants to Be

This is probably one of the toughest posts that I will ever write.  Typically, I do not like delving this deep into my personal life and sharing this to the world.  But I write this as much to help those struggling with a similar issue as much as I write this as a reminder to myself that what may be healthy to one person, may not be healthy to you.  

I was never anorexic.  I was never bulimic.  But I did something just as terrible to my body - I stopped listening to it. 

During high school and college, I wasn't exactly in shape.  I wasn't obese or drastically overweight, but I freely ate all the junk that I wanted and I definitely carried some extra baggage.  When I started to care more about my health and my body image, I wanted to tone myself up a little, so I started to workout lightly by walking at a brisk pace on the treadmill (which was WAY more than I ever did) and I stopped relying on noodles, mozzarella sticks, and soda as snacks.  Especially with the stop of soda use, I gradually lost weight and felt more comfortable with myself.

After college, life wasn't exactly going the way that I wanted.  I wasn't happy with my job or my future, and I just felt a lot of stress.  Eventually, it got to the point where I felt so unhappy and out of touch with everything that I desperately wanted something that I could completely control.  And I found it.  I took control over my food.

I started counting the calories of the food that I ate for every meal.  While it may work for some people, to me, it turned to a ridiculous obsession.  At one point, I could recite the calories to so many different foods because of all the free time that I spent looking up calorie counts on different websites, restaurant nutrition charts, and on food labels.  My purse and my kitchen bench were piled with papers that listed all the calories that would enter my mouth.  If any of these were found by my family members, I felt embarrassed, so I started making sure to throw them away at the end of the day and to keep them hidden.  Tricking myself to think that I was warding off the hunger I felt between meals, I made sure to eat on the dot at specifically scheduled times.  During my "research", I read that eating 300-500 calories every 2-3 hours should keep hunger at bay, but this wasn't true for me, considering I just spent the next few hours counting down until I could eat again.  Thinking about it now, I feel disappointed about all the time and paper that I wasted back then feeding into this unhealthy fixation. 

Extreme calorie counting paired with my more diligent treadmill use, sure enough, caused me to drop even more weight.  I always ate, but at my worst, I wouldn't eat a single calorie more than 1,200 total for the day.  Having goosebumps in 80 degree weather and my mind constantly thinking about food should have told me that those 1,200 calories simply were not enough for my body, but I didn't listen.  I was fooled to think that I had control over my weight; I felt in charge of something that actually resulted in the outcome that I had wanted.  Little did I know that this habit actually had control of me.

I won't lie and say that there weren't any perks while being a size 0.  I didn't have a chest that got in the way of keeping tops from fitting; heck, I could almost put on any shirt and it would fit perfectly.  Also, it felt wonderful to have people comment on how skinny I was and look up to my slim body (though I definitely did not have any visible abs to be proud clothes hid that though).  There are definite things that I miss about being that tiny, but I finally realized my body, at least for now, is not naturally meant to be that small.

I can't really say what completely guided my perspective to this realization.  Perhaps it was the time when I saw a picture of myself and noticed that my arms looked ridiculous skinny.  Or maybe it was because I started working as a teacher and felt guilty not to eat the occasional treat that my students graciously brought for me.  Whatever it was, I am thankful that I finally broke this trance. 

To this day, I'm still not perfect with my eating habits, if there even really is such a thing.  While I do eat healthy most of the time, sometimes I still struggle with feeling guilty about eating a treat, stress eating, and putting weight back on (for sure the lack of exercise doesn't help that one...).  However, I am definitely not as absorbed by my overall mindset toward food and I can proudly say that I am learning to listen to my body more and more.  No longer do I feel freezing cold.  No longer do I lay in bed starving and waiting for breakfast.  If my body is hungry, I listen.  Maybe one day, my body will go back to being a size 0 naturally, but right now, there is no way that I'll force it to do something that just isn't healthy for me.  I love myself too much to hurt my body in that way. 

With all the "health" and "diet" plans out there, it can be rather difficult and confusing to figure out what is truly the "healthiest".  While I'm not a dietitian or an expert in the health industry, I believe that it is safe to say that whatever diet plan you follow, you need to make sure that it doesn't negatively impact your daily life or your mind.  If it does so in any way, it is not right for your body - it is not healthy for you.  You and your body should be in control, not your diet.  Eat healthy foods and exercise - those are truly the core of any healthy lifestyle.  If you really feel lost and you don't know how to go about losing weight or maintaining a healthy body, work with health experts like your doctor or a nutritionist to get you on track.  But whatever you do, your body will always speak to you.  Just be sure to always listen.  

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