Food Fight

by Ryan Benson
Join me in raising awareness for eating disorders by posting a picture of your New Year's resolution aimed at loving your body how it is, instead of trying to change it.  Use the hashtag #foodfight.

Food is not meant to be a demon. It is meant to nurture, to be an art, to add vibrancy to life, to taste good! Yet for so many girls food is a demon. For so many of my cherished friends, so many of the girls that pop up on my Instagram feed, that are on my sports teams, that are at my play rehearsals, that surround me in the library, food is a twisted monster strangling souls, minds, and bodies. 

Last New Year's I made a resolution to start eating more fruits and vegetables. To work out more. To get fit. I pinned a thousand health recipes and started running four miles everyday, even after sports practices and games. I packed skimpy salads for lunch and wrote insanely detailed grocery lists for my mom. I was rarely full and always thinking about food. At the time, I told myself I was doing it all to be "healthy." In retrospect I realize I wasn't doing it to be healthy, but rather to be the best at something. To be the skinniest. I am an insanely competitive person, especially with myself, and that competitiveness ignited my struggle with food. After a month or so my parents noticed that my "health kick" was becoming a dangerous obsession. They tried talking to me but I brushed off their words. "Guys, just because I'm not eating ice cream every night doesn't mean I'm anorexic," I'd scoff. I never skipped a meal, I never forced myself to throw up, and because I never did these things I thought there was no way I could have an eating disorder. I was wrong. I was always planning my next snack, obsessively asking my mother what we were having for dinner, demanding that I go with my parents to the grocery store. My doctor finally disillusioned me at my annual check-up. She suggested I see a nutritionist and cool it on my daily runs. After talking to Barrett Butler, a fantastic nutritionist and good friend of my mom's, things looked up. Still, it took several months to get back on track. Ultimately, though, I realized that not eating cookies at lunch is the unhealthy thing to do. I mean, for goodness sakes people, I'm fifteen--if there's a time to eat cookies the time is now!!!! 

Every girl fights with food for a different reason. Some girls do it because they feel pressure from relationships, others because they need to control something and they feel weight is something they can control easily, and some because of home environments. The origin of all our struggles with food, though, is the ridiculous pressure to achieve this contorted definition of the "beautiful woman" that society has sculpted.  We all feel the pressure. We see it when we look at our Instagram feeds, when we turn on the television, when we when we open a magazine. We see it in each other. To achieve it we do sick things like altering our photographs to make us look thinner or sneak our mother's diet pills or shove our fingers down our throats in the bathroom after lunch. Eating disorders are a product of a society that expects women to be a fake, unattainable type of beautiful. A type of beautiful that requires mental and physical pain. A type of beautiful that leaves you scarred on the inside. As women we buy into this expectation, it is almost inevitable that we do. Ridiculous expectations are what make us fight these seemingly unconquerable battles with food demons and ourselves.  

Admitting to an eating disorder is admitting to imperfection, which is completely counterintuitive to a girl who is sacrificing her mental and physical wellbeing to attain society's standard of beauty. Thus telling people, especially yourself, about your problem is unthinkably daunting. The only way to win the fight with food, though, is to admit your problem first to yourself, and then to others. It takes bravery, strength, a good friend, and sometimes a whole lotta tears. The thing about eating disorders, though, is that you are the only one who can save you, as cheesy as it sounds. If you are struggling with food tell someone. Don't let something as simple as food dictate how you see yourself. Don't let food be your downfall. 

This New Year's let's screw the "hit-the-gym" resolutions and instead aim to maintain an actually healthy relationship with food and love our bodies for what they are. Let's resolve to eat Oreos with lunch, to take a nap instead of going for a run, to stop criticizing others' bodies, to refuse to let food dominate our minds and lives, to refuse to let society manipulate how we see ourselves! If you don't struggle with food, make a resolution to help the girls around you and to maintain a healthy mindset. Eating disorders are everywhere. Help raise awareness by posting a photo of your New Year's resolution to end fights with food and use the hashtag #foodfight. 

Below I've included a list of nutritionist Barrett Butler's tips to get back on track when eating becomes confusing. I've also included words from some of the strongest gals I know who have fought, and are fighting with food. 

Barrett's Tips for Getting Back on Track
  • "I believe that normal eating is responding to hunger cues, eating a balance of whole foods that provide stabilized blood sugar, and sometimes just eating something yummy because it is fresh and hot and a special treat." - BB
  • "The act of controlled denial of hunger response will spiral into a mental prison of sorts and very often leads to a binge - purge cycle of overwhelming hunger ( because of appetite hormones) then guilt because of the binge and then return to starvation and then once again a binge/purge." - BB
  • "I always encourage an active physical life because of all the health benefits and a wide variety of healthy foods on a daily basis with lots of fresh water." - BB
  • Each of your meals and snacks should include a healthy fat (mayonnaise, peanut butter, nuts, avocado), a protein, and a carbohydrate (fruits and vegetables are carbohydrates).
  • Maintain a stable blood sugar level throughout the day. This means that you eat something truly substantial when you feel hungry. Eat breakfast, lunch, a snack between lunch and dinner, dinner, and whenever else you feel hungry. Maintaining a stable blood sugar throughout the day will prevent binge eating.
  • It's okay to eat when you're bored. It's okay to eat when you're sad. It's okay to eat when you're happy. It's okay to eat when you're not hungry. 

Words from Strong, Fighting Gals

"Eating disorders mess with your mind. Like I would hide and eat alone. And it would make me feel like shit, almost as if I was looking in the mirror with filtered eyes - like I'd know I was skinny but I'd just look for something to be wrong and I'd have to be skinnier." - Tali Juliano

"Coming from a family who was always discussing weight, how to lose weight, struggles with weight, weight gain, etc., it was practically inevitable that I would fall into the mind game of body image. It seems like it has always been something on my mind. And what a sad thing to constantly occupy my thoughts. These thoughts/worries morphed the way I ate and how often I wanted to exercise. Eventually, this became an unhealthy obsession. Looking back, I was getting too skinny. Yet at the time, I still thought I needed to loose more weight. And I mean, this situation isn't necessarily a small talk conversation, you know? It isn't very easy to blurt out at dinner with your friends, "Oh no, I don't wanna eat. I want to be skinnier." What an awkward, humiliating situation. This caused me to not talk to anyone about it, which only worsened the situation. Bottling up these emotions definitely impacted my happiness and the way I acted around others. Finally, I couldn't take it. I had to tell someone, someone I knew I could trust and rely on who wouldn't judge, and who would understand. So I did. And this was the best decision I ever made. After telling one person, I was able to confide in more people I trusted. My perception of my body image took a 180. Simply talking about it helped tremendously, and I was able to receive help to find a healthy way to stay in shape. I didn't stop caring about my eating, I just changed the style. Instead of eating minimally I began eating healthily. I now know how to take care of my body in a safe way. And this new lifestyle has caused me to be happier and in a better place than I have ever been." - Anonymous

"When you have an eating disorder it's a fight to stay in control with yourself. You decide what pants you fit into and you decide what you weigh. No one can tell you to stop, only you, and there is no limit. Eventually you realize that you fought so hard to stay in control but you're really not in control and you lost yourself to a disorder. You don't realize how many effects it has on your body physically until everything you tried so hard to control collapses and you're left with rebuilding the pieces. You feel disappointed in yourself and embarrassed and the worst part is there is no one to blame but yourself." - Anonymous 

"It's a disease, really. It consumes you, your mind and your body. Parents, friends, and coaches would always say "You're (too) thin…" like it was a bad thing, but I took it as a compliment. I felt comfortable with myself and my weight, and that was what was really messed up. I was actually confident like that. It's an identity: it changes how comfortable you feel wearing certain clothes, walking around in public, exercising, and even being friends with certain people. You have no desire to eat because eating disorders manipulate you to think that eating will take away that comfort, as if eating is the one thing you can control." - Murphy Brennan

win the fight, my gals! xx ryan


1 comment:

  1. Ryan, This article is extraordinary and I commend you for writing it!