Photo Essay: Learning to love food again


Before reading this piece, I feel that it is important to introduce the content of this photo essay. Trigger warnings include: eating disorders, unhealthy weight loss and unhealthy body image. I am not a registered healthcare professional; what I am about to share is simply what I have learned over the course of my struggle with an eating disorder and my recovery journey. The photos featured are meals that I made for myself this semester while eating intuitively; I didn’t count my calories or measure my food. I simply ate when I was hungry and ate what I wanted. This essay is meant to be a celebration of food. For years, I was scared of food and viewed it as my enemy. But food is meant to be celebrated. It keeps us alive and it’s meant to be a source of pleasure, memories and so much more. It is not meant to be tracked, weighed or stressed over.

I’ve had a disordered relationship with food for as long as I can remember. 

As a child, I was pretty large compared to most kids. I was tall and held on to weight more than other children my age. I felt uncomfortable in my own body; it seemed like every other girl my age was so thin. I felt like I didn’t belong both physically and socially, and I would go on to spend years of my life taking extreme measures in an attempt to shrink myself so I could physically fit in. In my mind, if I could fit in physically, I would fit in socially as well. The two were mutually exclusive. I genuinely thought that I was not worth loving because I wasn’t a size 0. 

Chickpea pasta with homemade turkey meatballs and a lettuce salad. Julia Schachinger/Daily. Buy this photo.

Growing up, I played a lot of sports. Being one of the slower members on the team didn’t stop me from having fun, at least at the beginning. After a while, it got old being one of the last people to finish our basketball conditioning workouts. Every time our coach had us line up, my heart would sink to my stomach. I wasn’t necessarily the last person to finish but I sure felt like I was. The coach screaming at me to be faster, better, in my head was screaming at me: you would be better if you lost weight, you will never be good enough at the size you are. That is something I told myself every day for most of my life. Because I was so self conscious about my size, I would take anything that anyone said to me about my performance as something that had to do with my weight. In reality, most of the time it probably wasn’t. Nevertheless, exercise, especially in a group or school setting, became an anxiety inducing experience and led to a very negative relationship with exercise for years to come.  

Starting in elementary school, I have distinct memories of wanting to be “healthier,” cutting out all “bad” foods in an attempt to take up as little space in this world as possible. I had convinced myself – no, diet culture had convinced me – that the only way to be healthy was to be as thin as humanly possible. So I truly thought that by restricting myself I would automatically become healthy. What I didn’t realize was that I began to assign moral values to food. Carbs are bad, vegetables are good, etc. And eating desserts meant that I didn’t have the willpower to stay thin and be the type of beautiful that society expected me to be. 

Waffle breakfast sandwich with eggs, cheese and turkey with strawberries on the side. Julia Schachinger/Daily. Buy this photo.

There are extremely dangerous messages being advertised everywhere, everyday, that are harming young, growing girls. If the only “beautiful” women that I saw on TV and in movies were a size zero, of course that became my default standard of beauty. 



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