While shopping at a vintage market with my mom a few weeks ago, I asked her, “Would you have ever imagined in a million years that I’d turn out this way?” There are many things I’d expected to be as an adult: creative, quiet, studious. I never expected that I’d be healthy, and my mother didn’t either.
We had walked around this huge warehouse stuffed with booths of handmade and vintage goods for a few hours, and we were getting hungry. She watched me turn down a burger from a food truck and seek out the wok fried vegetables and rice from a booth with fresh vegetables overflowing from wicker baskets. I picked each piece of broccoli from the rice and savored it, my body very much enjoying the nourishment.
When I was a kid, my parents had to lock me out of the house and wager with me the amount of time I’d spent out in the yard playing until I could come back in and watch TV. They would force me to get 30 minutes of exercise a day. My mom sat me down at the table and watched me carefully as I force-fed myself fruits like pears and apples. They took me to the doctor numerous times and had my thyroid tested because they couldn’t understand how I could be so large at such a young age while eating all the same foods as them. I even got grounded from my books once because they kept me inside too long. My parents feared that I would be morbidly obese and anti-social my entire life. They were desperate and tried to push me toward a healthier lifestyle.
I began to view healthy food and exercise as a form of punishment, while relaxation, entertainment, and unhealthy food became my idea of normalcy. As I grew older, I began to seek food as something to be enjoyed, something to be indulgent. In the mornings, I would eat my artificially colored cereal and drink down my filmy, sugary milk before heading to the bus and to school, where I ate another breakfast, usually a breakfast pizza and chocolate milk. I was punished numerous times for having two breakfasts and running up a lunchroom bill for my parents, who were definitely not wealthy in the slightest, to pay. I remember sneaking off to my room with cookies, thinking I’d be sly, and being punished when the crumbs were found all under my pillow.
Ever since I can remember, food has had a hold on me like any other addictive substance. I’d often lie or steal in order to get a sugary fix from foods I wasn’t allowed to have. I remember stealing caramel candies from a local Walmart store back when candy was sold by the weight from giant wooden barrels set at exactly my eye level, the stores marketing to children who would then beg their parents for a treat. My mom caught me chewing the caramels like a cow chewing cud, the sticky, buttery sugar adhering to my teeth too much to allow me to chew discretely. I had to confess to the Walmart employees what I had done. I was so ashamed.
I still kind of feel that way anytime I decide to binge, like a kid who stole from a candy store and has to confess. There are so many emotions and conflicts attached to food in my mind.
When I started to make healthy habits, my family was happy for me, but I don’t really think they ever expected me to stick with it or to actually make any lasting lifelong habits.
I’m not really sure when it hit me that I am now a healthy, outgoing, confident person who is active, vibrant, and self-aware. Sometimes it’s at moments like that, when I’m at a table with my mom, eating a meal that is way healthier than anything she’d ever serve me. It’s at the moments that I pass a fast food restaurant and happily attempt to count back the months since I’d even craved something from one of those places.
The greatest part about my transformation and my newish habits is simply that I am in control and I did it myself. I challenged myself. I pushed myself. No one made me sit down and force apples down my throat. No one locked me in a gym and forced me to run on a treadmill. I found a way all on my own, and I had some fun along the way too.
When my mom answered me, all she had to say was, “I never thought you would be this way. You were so stubborn that I thought you’d be that way for forever. But I’m glad you changed your mind and found that motivation. I wish I could do it.”