I never had an eating disorder.
I say it like that because I didn't. I was never diagnosed with anorexia, or bulimia, or binge eating disorder, or anything else that constitutes a medical resentment to consumption.
A diagnosis would give the issue a name, it would give it a face, which would make it that much more real.
My relationship with food and exercise--and with my body in general--has always been a very complicated thing. I never had an eating disorder, but I never knew how to eat a normal amount and not feel a sense of lingering guilt.
But most days eating always felt like a tug-of-war. I knew that I needed to eat, you know, to survive. The voice in the back of my head eventually became the voice at center-stage of my head. It added up every calorie I took, subtracted every sit-up, embellished my failure when I slipped up. I could never satisfy this voice.
There was always more water to drink, more distance to run, more meals to be stared at and then pushed aside. Sometimes the tug-of-war was just flat out war.
Growing up as a teenage girl in North America, over-exercising and never eating enough is just a part of life. Looking in the mirror and not seeing the human embodiment of an issue of Vogue was grounds for self-hatred. So I recorded everything I ate, tracked every step I took and grew progressively more proud of myself for looking at a glamour magazine.
But humans are not meant to fit in the shiny pages of lifestyle media. I am still trying to learn that. I am learning what it means to not imagine every calorie sticking to my body as if I were made of honey. I know now that it is not normal to make my nutrient intake at the end of each day add up to zero. I am still learning what balance looks like.
The permanence of recovering from living in a state of deprivation is hardly recovery at all. It is work. It is realizing sickness looks different on every body type. It is pushing away the first wave of shame when anything sweet or carb-heavy makes it past your lips. And the second wave. It is living in a world that told you a substantial body is hardly worthy of tolerance, let alone love.
There are little victories. There is a brunch with family or friends. Being so caught up in conversation and the morning's first cup of coffee, with a little extra sweetener, that eating is a breeze. There is fast food after concerts or a night out. So hungry in the middle of the night that you don't even think about reaching for a second taco from the consistently mediocre Taco Bell.
But there are holidays, and birthday cake, another glass of sweet tea, please. Sometimes it's hard not to return to old habits and fall back into the familiar cycle of restriction and denial.
This year and beyond I vow to seek balance. I vow to treat my body with kindness. I want to eat in a way that promotes healthiness, not sickliness, on either side of the scale. I am exhausted. I am tired of the dining hall being the battleground and I'm the one holding the weapon. I am tired of destruction and resentment. This year, I am embracing every curve, every soft whisper, every sigh of relief that I am composed of.
While I am not where I want to be, I am miles from where I started. And that is something to celebrate.