Content warning: discussion of eating disorders and disordered eating. This is one account of disordered eating, everyone’s experience is unique and individual. Recovery looks different for everyone and the content provided is intended to give another perspective to the ongoing discourse of disordered eating and related. If you are experiencing symptoms of disordered eating or an eating disorder, please contact your local care provider.
As a fitness and fashion enthusiast, I’ve had my share of struggles with body image and food. It took me a long time to accept that the way I looked was not something to feel ashamed of, bully myself over, nor was it a measure of my worth. But I also found a middle ground where wanting to tone-up or lose some weight was also okay. In the discussion of body image and eating disorders, this is a conversation we don’t hear often.
When I struggled with disordered eating, the common dialogue in my recovery was that people should not aim to change their body’s natural form. It made sense to me: dieting, calorie counting, intensive exercise programs led me to my fixation on food and spiraled me into overeating. Here, guilt and shame for ever feeling hungry were part of a vicious cycle that began with innocently trying to “get back in shape.” When we see someone we consider healthy who wants to alter their appearance by weight loss, the concern of eating disorders is prevalent. There’s this presumption where that will be the outcome. However, the fitness community on social media showed me that there are people who have a healthy relationship with food and their body. Some counted calories or changed their diet or exercise regime to achieve a certain physique but what I noticed was the difference in their mindset from mine when I had attempted the same thing.
In healing my relationship with food, I had discovered Intuitive Eating, a model founded by two dieticians to help people who suffered from chronic dieting and disordered eating. I read the official Intuitive Eating guide and over time I gained an understanding of my obsession with food and it changed the way I thought of food forever. I learned that all foods can be enjoyed no matter the nutrition content and that I wasn’t a bad person for wanting something sweet even if the diet industry told me otherwise.
One of Intuitive Eating’s principles stressed how we should refrain from any attempt to lose weight or alter our bodies at any given time. Refraining from calorie counting, eating less, and other methods to change my body was necessary for my recovery. I needed to put weight loss on the back burner to address my emotional eating and re-frame my toxic mentality on food and my body. When I had reached a place where I had a better understanding of nutrition beyond the pseudoscience and marketing tactics, my perspective of my body and nutrition turned neutral but positive.
Despite Intuitive Eating discouraging weight loss, I still wanted to get in shape. What was different this time was how I had accepted my body for how it looked. If I still looked this way with exercising and eating healthfully, that was okay. I started dressing up again, becoming more comfortable in my body, and feeling a lot happier.
Calories are just data, I eat whole foods and still love a good bagel, and a dream body, I know now, doesn’t equate to happiness. But wanting a little more muscle, a tighter stomach, or a leaner physique can be part of a fulfilling life, with the right mindset.
For National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, HealthyU at U of T spoke with a dietician about eating disorders. Click here to hear their take on the ongoing discussion.
 Denny, Kara N et al. “Intuitive eating in young adults. Who is doing it, and how is it related to disordered eating behaviors?.” Appetite vol. 60,1 (2013): 13-19. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2012.09.029
 Tylka, Tracy L et al. “The weight-inclusive versus weight-normative approach to health: evaluating the evidence for prioritizing well-being over weight loss.” Journal of obesity vol. 2014 (2014): 983495. doi:10.1155/2014/983495
 Robison, Jon. “Health at every size: toward a new paradigm of weight and health.” MedGenMed : Medscape general medicine vol. 7,3 13. 12 Jul. 2005
 Glaude, John, director. Abbey Sharp Vs Dr Mike Vs Unnatural Vegan (EVERYTHING IS FATPHOBIC). Youtube.com, Google LLC, 27 Dec. 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=jO_c7XspONA&ab_channel=ObesetoBeast.
 Doucette, Greg, director. Can You Be FIT & FAT? Youtube.com, Google LLC, 2 Feb. 2021, www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWk_cZMJgRU&ab_channel=GregDoucette.
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