Every time I go to the grocery store I end up standing in the ice cream aisle, staring at the rows of frozen dessert. Everything sounds so good: brownie fudge swirl, birthday cake, peanut butter madness. I want one so badly it feels overwhelming. Maybe this time, I’ll do more than just look. Maybe this time, I’ll actually take the pint out of the fridge. Maybe this time, when I turn it over to look at the nutrition facts, I’ll actually put it in my cart. I know this little ritual of mine isn’t healthy or normal.
So why do I still do it, every time I go?
It all started this summer when I lost 30 pounds. I trained hard and ate right, and the few extra pounds that I had gained from a few extra glasses of wine while abroad fell right off. It felt laughable, how easily it happened, so I kept doing it. I started cutting out more food groups just because I could.
I started exercising more often, spending two to three hours at the gym every day instead of my usual one. I lost my freshman 15 and then I just kept losing. It felt like I couldn’t stop, so I just didn’t. I kept going even as my jeans no longer fit right and I couldn’t remember the last time I ate something that wasn’t pre-portioned.
No one ever talks about the dark side of weight loss, the feeling you get that it will never ever be enough for you. I know plenty of people who yo-yo diet, or say they want to lose weight then go to Chick-fil-A right after just because they wanted to. I didn’t quit.
I started by going vegan, cutting out dairy and eggs from my vegetarian diet. Then I took out oil. And gluten. Now my list of food rules extends a whole page covering everything from packaged food and processed snacks to things that most would never even think to avoid, like bananas and avocados (too calorie dense).
I want to eat these things. I really do.
I’ll see them in the grocery store, sometimes even pick them up and look at the nutrition facts on the back. I’ll weigh the pros and cons. I could eat this thing if I go for a run after yoga class. I could eat this thing if I just ate half. But I know I’ll never actually bring myself to buy them because the little voice in the back of my head always whispers that as soon as I eat it all the weight will come back.
Losing the weight also affected my personal life. I used to love going out to eat, hanging out with my friends and going on late-night fast food runs just because we could and because nothing tasted better than salty French fries at 1 a.m. But now, the guilt surrounding my food choices prevents me from doing even that. I used to never have a problem with texting my friends out of the blue asking if they wanted to go to Moe’s or grab a pizza on the way home from class.
Now I wait for them to ask me, like I need their approval or permission to go out to eat. It feels like maybe the calories won’t count if my friends ask me and I just go along with it. Even if we do go out, I will usually only order a side because I feel like my body can only afford a salad. Then I’ll train harder the next day, like I have to atone for my mistakes.
I know food fuels me, and that it fuels more than just my body.
But now I find myself feeling like I can’t eat unless I work out. When this all started I’d go to a cycle class three times a week. Now I go to five and take power yoga classes at least seven times in between my multiple jobs and academic classes. I know that your body requires food to function, but if I don’t go to the gym for two hours or more I feel like I don’t deserve to eat, like I don’t deserve to feel the happiness that food provides at the cost of calories. I make my portions smaller and sometimes skip meals altogether because in my mind the numbers won’t add up otherwise.
Now I work on reminding myself that food provides more than just bodily nourishment. Food nourishes your mind and your soul, and I want it to make me happy again. It won’t happen right away, but I look forward to the day when things go back to normal.
I want to eat an entire plate of fries just because I can and not mentally count the calories. I want to eat and not have to check the mirror afterwards to see if the weight had come right back on. I want to go out to eat, indulge and still find time to exercise because it makes me feel good too. I want to take the pint of ice cream and actually put it in my cart, and taste that first delicious spoonful because food can’t hurt me, not anymore.