Food is a critical part of the human experience. Its smell can bring nostalgic childhood memories to the forefront of the mind, its taste can define aspects of a culture, and the mere site of it can evoke artistic expression.
For some, food is a joyful occasion that is celebrated and reveled in repeatedly throughout the day. For others, food is seen as a basic need that is fulfilled solely to survive. Whatever the case, no person’s relationship with food is identical.
My complex relationship with food started when I was 14. I was just entering high school and felt ecstatic to be one of the newest members of the cheerleading squad. I had been a cheerleader since the age of 10, and I could not wait to show off my advanced tumbling and crooked smile to the student body.
With my new position on the squad came a whole new load of responsibilities. My first day of school, I wore my bright orange uniform with pride and felt all of my peers looking at me. People knew I existed, and that was thrilling. They became even more aware of my existence when they saw me thrown into the air at football games.
I was the youngest (and shortest) flyer on the cheer squad. In cheer terminology, the flyer is the athlete that is at the top of the pyramid, and is often the most noticed of the squad. It’s a competitive and coveted position.
I noticed that I was different than the other flyers on the team. The other girls were long, lanky, and had thin willowy bodies that looked as if they could float like feathers in a gentle breeze. I, on the other hand, had been a competitive cheerleader for four years and was a ball of muscle accompanied by thick arms and a pair of powerful legs.
I knew that I was a talented athlete, but I wanted more. I yearned for a body as dainty and thin as those of my teammates. As a flyer, there was nothing I feared or loathed more than hearing my bases groan as they tossed me into the air. The sound camped out in my mind and refused to leave despite my knowledge that throwing any person into the air, regardless of their weight, is indeed hard work.
This was when food became my enemy. The eggs in the morning, the sandwich in my lunch box, and the plate set before me in the evenings were all cruel adversaries destined to keep me planted on the ground.
For the amount of it that I avoided, food dictated and consumed my life. The pang in my stomach after a day of fasting or the boulder of guilt residing in my stomach from overindulging encompassed my day to day life. The boy I liked failing to talk to me in math class, the choir solo I wasn’t casted for, and not receiving the anchor position for my school’s broadcasting station all made me think of how unhappy I was with my body, and how an unsatisfactory appearance must have been the culprit of my failures.
It wasn’t until I came to college that I realized what a backwards and delusional life I was living. On the surface, I could say that the end of my cheer career and worries about being tossed in the air solved a lot of my problems. But that is not completely true.
In college, I gained a wider perspective for what my life could be and what makes life beautiful. My path to success was not one that was going to be paved based on the size of my waistband. It would be determined by my hard work, my vivacious personality, and the zest for life that I exude.
This is where my healthy relationship with food began. Over the years I had not only lost a few painful pounds, but my love for food. I had to learn slowly that food is not only necessary to live, but it can bring so much happiness into life.
On this journey, I have learned a few things. Firstly, nothing can compare to the warmth and love that accompanies the taste of my mother’s mashed potatoes. Secondly, hot dogs are an American classic that are underrated and need to be given the respect they deserve. Thirdly, and lastly, food is a gift that should be enjoyed.
If you or any other loved one has lost this love for food, I advise you to contact Mirasol at 888-520-1700.
Header image by Alexander Schaller.