I can’t remember the first time I really thought about food, but I do remember thinking fat was bad at an early age—probably 10 or 11 years old.
I would check the cereal boxes and other snack foods to see which had the least amount of fat. I didn’t know about calories until a later age, but when I did, I tried to eat “healthy” by limiting them. In middle school, I would often get these gross salads instead of the regular menu food (which was also gross) because I wanted to eat fewer calories.
I was very conscious of my body. I thought boys didn’t like me because I was fat, ugly, and weird. I tried purging once in eighth grade, but physically couldn’t do it. I continued this pattern for a few years. My junior year of high school is when things went downhill. I started seriously restricting—skipping meals altogether when I could get away with it, reading nutrition facts on everything, looking up nutrition facts online for things like fruits and vegetables. I would eat dinner because my parents were there, and I knew I couldn’t get away with not eating. I decided to start purge when I couldn’t restrict. I would often go downstairs after dinner to “shower” or “do homework.” I woke early to exercise. All I wanted was to be thin, to force my body to be a different shape. I was in a spiral. I would get dizzy and see black spots when I stood up. I passed out when I tried to give blood at a blood drive. My nails were constantly peeling. My tongue and throat were always sore. I was miserable, but I was addicted. I felt strong for not “needing” food. I found a weird pleasure in feeling hungry. I felt like I was in control.
Obviously, I was not in control. I desperately needed help. Thankfully, my parents figured out what was going on after about six months of intense restricting and purging. I was 17 years old. They took me to the doctor, who said I needed inpatient treatment. They found Remuda Ranch in Wickenburg, AZ, and I was admitted in June 2008.
I was not “cured” of my eating disorder when I came home from treatment, but I had learned a lot. I wanted to get better, but I still had a long road in front of me. I had ups and downs but am now recovered and have been for about three years.
I still battle negative thoughts. And sometimes, I have a hard time eating. But I’m much more open and honest when I’m feeling these things. I’m able to fight those thoughts, and they come less and less often. It helps to have an amazing support team of my parents, friends, and partner, Shelby. So that’s my story. Now let’s get onto the good stuff!
Can I just say, I love food?! It is soo good. There’s so much you can do with it! I love reading cookbooks and trying new recipes. I love discovering new spices, new fruits, new vegetables . . . there’s so much out there! Shelby and I have been eating a plant-based diet for a little over two years now, and we love it. We started due to some health concerns of mine regarding pain and inflammation, and both started feeling the difference within a few weeks of the switch. (Note: We switched slowly. We cut out red meat for about six months, then other meats, and finally dairy and eggs after about a year of eating a vegetarian diet.) I love my diet, but it’s not for everyone.
Meal Planning to the Rescue
Regardless, here’s a tip I think is for everyone: meal planning is key. We have this awesome chalkboard we use to write up our weekly meal plans. We try to plan simple meals during the weekdays, maybe a Crockpot meal for extra busy nights, and we try to make enough food so that we have leftovers for lunch the next day.
One of our favorite cookbooks is “Everyday Happy Herbivore” by Lindsey Nixon—she has a bunch of simple recipes that use everyday ingredients and take less than 30 minutes to put together. As we write our meal plan, we go through each recipe to see what ingredients we need to add to our shopping list. There are definitely times when we pick recipes that don’t require us to buy much extra when money is tight. Usually we have a good stock of dry goods—dry and canned beans, lentils, nuts, pasta noodles . . . we stock up on these things about once a month. We buy what we can in the bulk section of our local Fred Meyer. When we do our weekly shopping, we mainly have to buy things like produce, nut milk, chocolate—the necessities. We keep a good supply of apples, oranges, and bananas to throw in our lunch boxes for snacks and to supplement breakfasts or dinners.
And we LOVE jars. We have a collection of Mason jars as well as a random assortment of other glass jars we’ve cleaned out and re-used (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!). We store our nuts, beans, rice, coconut flakes, and much more in these jars. They are handy to grab off the shelf, and they look nice on the counter or in the cabinet!
I struggled with food for several years. I fought with it. I considered it my enemy. After a lot of hard work and support, I have found freedom from that bondage! I now enjoy food. Cooking dinner and getting to enjoy the fruits of my labor is so fun! And planning ahead takes away a lot of the stress that people feel. Though we definitely have our nights when we order Chinese takeout and turn on Netflix.
THAT is called balance!
Meghan Schuster lives near Seattle, WA with her partner, Shelby and their dog, Ella. She teaches music and enjoys cooking, eating, crocheting, yoga, playing clarinet, getting outdoors, and advocating for a healthy relationship with food.