When I think of the Holidays, I think of food, family, fun and stretch pants. I love to eat. Not only do I love to eat, but I love to overeat during Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and a a week leading up to each Holiday to "stretch" my stomach. Let's talk a little more about the food. I laugh about it with my family and friends, but food is and always has been a big deal for me. Most wouldn't know that I had an eating disorder.
As a kid, it was a given that I wanted to help in the kitchen, and I looked forward to devouring my share of every dish on the Holiday menu. During those years, I did so without guilt. However, as I grew older and entered adolescence and my young adult years, things changed. Food became the enemy and the Holidays were filled with anxiety, shame and secrecy. No longer was I able to enjoy the sweet, fluffy texture of my mom's homemade pumpkin and custard pie. Nor was I able to enjoy the company. I was locked up in a secret world inside my head. A world that told me pumpkin pie was bad and so were mashed potatoes. I had an eating disorder.
I can recall an instance at a family Christmas party where I binged on Frango mints. You know those tasty little buggards that your grandma used to pick up from Marshall Fields (now Macy's)? After having a few helpings of pie, I proceeded to eat a small bite out of, say, five to six Frango mints, had an anxiety attack and locked myself in the bathroom to purge. Those six to seven years suffering with my eating and body image were pure hell. The Holidays just highlighted the fact that something was wrong with me. I had an eating disorder and couldn't shake it on my own. Food is not meant to be the enemy. It is meant to be celebrated.
Today, I feel much different. I am not only capable of being present at the Holiday dinner table, but I feel freedom and peace surrounding food. I am not ashamed to pitch in with the meal and I definitely have no qualms with overeating this joyous time of year. So what changed? Sure, my intensive five year recovery process from Anorexia and Bulimia helped, but something else did too.
I am finally listening to my body. I don't overeat to the point of suffocation and I don't eat foods that cause me pain or anxiety. I am lactose intolerant and couldn't shake dairy for many years. I tried Lactaid milk, lactose pills and sometimes I would just suck it up to not inconvenience anyone. I finally stopped. I am worth more than that. Words alone cannot explain how much better I feel now that I finally surrendered to the fact that dairy + Ashley = pain and discomfort.
Now, I eat plant-based. The mashed potatoes are whipped with almond milk and healthy margarine. Tofu is used in the pumpkin pie and I bring a field roast in place of turkey. I think my parents suspected another form of "controlled eating" when I announced that I no longer eat dairy nor do I eat meat. Others may think that eating plant based is a variation of an Eating Disorder, but I know what my motives are. Living well, eating well and paying it forward. It's not all about me anymore.
Here's to a healthy body, happy thoughts and a joyous Holiday season with loved ones!
For more information on Eating Disorder awareness please click here and feel free to send me a private message. I am fully recovered and act as a confidential resource for those who struggle with body image, poor self-esteem and eating issues. I also share my story of recovery at local schools and events and would be thrilled to share it with you. Email or phone me for inquiries. I know the Holidays can be rough when you struggle with food. You are not alone.
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-Ashley Gilday "Plant Strong Diva"