I have had a complicated relationship with food. I was an athlete in high school and college, bullied in elementary school and at home about my weight, forced to go to the school psychologist without my parents knowledge, compulsively weighed my clothes separately from weighing myself, took a weight loss supplement that is now off the market, and already had a predisposition for thyroid issues before forcing my body through extreme weight fluctuations to appease myself and others.
I do realize that my use of amphetamine based weight loss supplements had an impact on how my teenage body and how it has impacted my current health situation. In my late twenties I had been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis because of my extreme weight fluctuations without intentional dieting. Since then, now in my late thirties, my TSH/ TCH levels have been gradually growing from 3.8 to over 7.3. The result has created a big problem regulating my diagnosis of hypothyroidism.
In the late 1990s, I was using a supplement called TrimSpa. It was heavily advertised and it was my go-to solution when softball season was approaching. I had experienced bullying for my weight in grade school and at home from my parents about my weight, but it wasn’t recognized as a problem. It was just life, and it built character. I just had to deal with it. Since I was too weak to take the criticism, the school thought it was completely ethical to arrange time out of the regular school day for me to go to the school psychologist everyday for the entirety of sixth grade without asking my parents permission.
This was not exactly what I would call “helpful”, since everyone in my class knew where I was going and why. I understand now why this was so very wrong. I was being punished and singled out for other students' shitty behavior toward me.
Gentle reminder: You are not selfish for wanting to be treated well.
My few happy childhood memories revolve around food and my dogs. Food was always a comfort, and my love for animals has never changed. I have been a commercial cook on and off for the past 20 years in country clubs, catering halls, on-site parties, weddings and bartending events, as well as restaurants and cafes.
While I was in high school I was the only one who was pushing myself to get my weight down, and pursuing an athletic scholarship as well as academic scholarships, in order to get into college. My parents as well as teachers did not seem interested in helping me in this, and to be honest I didn’t start thinking about it until I was a sophomore. I had only one teacher ever suggest that I should get a degree, and that really changed my perspective.
The girls softball team was an easy team to get on, it was lacking team members in key positions and looking to fill positions fast in the beginning of the season in my sophomore year. I was that person who would run in sweats with garbage bags underneath to create a sauna suit. I was always a runner during high school but just for myself. It was the only time I had to myself that I could just concentrate on nothing but my breath. I found it to be very meditative.
I don’t remember my parents ever coming to any of my games. I also don’t remember either of my parents coming to any of my doctors appointments after I turned 11. I had been on my own, in my own mine, since I was about nine or ten. Fourth grade was when I would be left alone much of the time, and I would do my own laundry and boil my own pasta or hotdogs for dinner.
At the end of softball season I would have a giant feast of all the foods I abstained from. It was a feast and famine type of disordered eating habit. I never intentionally threw up after feasting, but it did happen occasionally. I did fast leading up to the opening of the season because I was worried about putting too much stress on my feet and knees, because I pitched with my left and batted with my right. I would use both feet in different positions to pivot. In college my left shoulder was injured badly, and I had to quit the season in my second year while getting my bachelor’s degree. I also didn’t have insurance, so there is a ligament that tore and healed and now causes me osteoarthritis pain and muscle spasms in my neck after all this time.
After college, I didn’t really care about putting on weight anymore, and my weight was out of control. I was at my heaviest while working at an office job, it was my first professional job after college. I lost a lot of weight after 2007, when I was laid off from that job and moved away from Manhattan and back to Long Island. I’m the sort of person who eats less when stressed, I get stomach acid that comes up that’s exacerbated by anxiety. My finances were uncertain, and then the 2008 recession hit everyone everywhere. Within two years I went from my heaviest at 190lbs to 120lbs, and I knew I wasn’t healthy. I had brittle nails and my hair was thinning out in spots. It was a very stressful time in my life.
That was around the time I decided to leave Long Island and move to a slower paced life in the Southern Tier of Upstate New York. My mother had recently bought an old colonial home in that area and invited me to help her fix it up and live there rent free. I’ve since moved house, bought my own place, and been here about 13 years now. It’s been much less expensive to live here, and the access to quality healthcare and doctors has been a good experience for me.
What I can recommend in my own experience with disordered eating is that we need to feed our bodies in order for them to work. I try to set myself up for success at the beginning of the week with staples that won’t go bad quickly. I store things separately so they don’t spoil or absorb smells. I switch things up seasonally, or just to my taste. Lately I have been steaming sweet potatoes, cooking quinoa, cutting celery stalks and in season fruit to have available during the week to make quick meals with. I still have my weaknesses, I keep cheese and cold cuts in the fridge for quick bites. I love pickled things, like sweet dill pickles and pickled ginger, capers and artichoke hearts. It’s nice to have add-ins for salads. I also like to have greens on hand that have longevity, like arugula or swiss chard.
I tend to lean on protein staples like tofu, chicken and fish. I do like a steak every once and a while, but Impossible brands of beef substitute are my favorite meat free option so far. I love my spices, I probably use sage rosemary and thyme on everything. I use a grinder for fresh coarse kosher salt and pepper, and despite popular belief; MSG is a wonderful thing in moderation on certain dishes. I keep a small stockpile of saffron, and I order some pantry staples from mail order grocery sites. My pantry is usually stocked with rice and garbanzo bean pastas, shelf stable oat or almond milk, shelf stable bone broth, gluten free box mixes for corn bread or muffin mix (baking something yummy on a rainy day is my comfort activity) and some assortment of miso and seaweed ramen. I like to browse online Asian shops too, just to see if anything catches my eye, also Italian online groceries are fun to look at too.
I hope I have given you some food inspiration. If a bit of my personal story resonated with you, I hope it can help you be brave enough to figure out what is right for you as an individual.
Our individual stories, in telling them, give us power, as well as inspire others to come forward to tell their own.