Raise your hand if you’ve ever started a diet then fell off the wagon. Raise your hand if you ever felt a little crazy because you gained weight after you had been working so hard. Raise your hand if you ever felt like you weren’t good enough because you’re not as skinny as you want or because you ate something that you shouldn’t have. Raise your hand if you ever lost a bunch of weight but still feel the same as when you were chunky. Raise your hand if you ever told yourself you will start tomorrow or Monday.
If I had enough hands, I would have raised a hand in every sentence. It’s taken me years and many therapist appointments for me to navigate my connection with food. I am still navigating that connection and relationship, but I wanted to share my journey with you.
Confession One: I have never felt skinny enough for what I wanted to be, not even when I won Miss Colorado.
I felt like I could’ve worked harder or it should’ve been harder like it was the years prior. I had lost over 40 pounds when I won Miss Colorado USA over the course of a few years. My connection with food didn’t get easier being Miss Colorado because after winning your size matters….. which for me, meant my relationship with food actually got a lot worse after winning Miss Colorado, but that is not where it began.
My connection with food has always been challenging for me and it probably started from about 10 years old. That is when I can remember struggling with my relationship with food. I like to eat, but I also am a bored eater, and always have been. In junior high, I would get off the bus at my grandma’s and eat so much food because I was bored after school waiting on my dad to pick me up. I didn’t recognize this at that time because well, I was young, but my family definitely did… not to mention I was chunky and hated the way I looked. My dad, with my best interest at heart, asked my grandma to not let me have more than one snack after school. I think to this day, I still have some Little Debbie Swiss Rolls on my body.
Throughout high school, I don’t remember my relationship with food being as challenging. As a high schooler, I was always busy and super active, but I do remember intentionally not eating sometimes just to make sure I didn’t gain any weight, and I already had a tiny “roll” in my cheerleading outfit that bugged me.
When I was 18, I really remember starting to struggle mentally with my connection to food. This was the first year I competed for Miss Colorado USA. I had a trainer who put me on a strict diet, and Saturdays were my cheat day. I looked forward to Saturday so much, all I did was eat. It was extremely unhealthy. I would gain 5-10 pounds in a DAY! I’m not exaggerating, I would eat as much as I could, almost to the point of me being ill. I remember a few times wanting to cheat on my diet so bad during the week that I would, then I would go downstairs in my parent’s basement, turn the shower on, and make myself sick because I would be so mentally distraught about eating a cookie or whatever it may have been. I felt worthless just because I ate one bad thing. I remember being so upset when I couldn’t do normal things or live a normal life like the other freshmen in college because I was on a diet. I remember after I got off of my diet for Miss Colorado that year I started gaining some weight but never was able to get it off.
Confession Two: If you think dieting is a mindfuck, gaining weight back and feeling worse is a bigger mindfuck.
I struggled in silence for the most part about my relationship with food all throughout college. I felt like the fat friend. I drank a lot my first year at Johnson & Wales, and looking back I think most of that was so that I could be numb to the feeling of not feeling like I was the perfect size or shape. I distinctively remember a lot of girls at Johnson & Wales being named Madison the year I transferred in…. and one guy told me to my face that he referred to me as the “curvy, thick Madison”….. I was completely crushed but smiled anyway. I am sure I didn’t eat dinner that day or I drowned my pain in some kind of Jungle Juice at a party that night.
Throughout college, I would start a diet then fall off the wagon and eat 10x more than I needed to or I would have one bad thing and say fuck it…. eat whatever I want today is already ruined. I am sure my roommates in college knew I struggled with my relationship with food…. I think we all did in sense. I remember telling myself for years that just if I could weigh 125, I would be pretty. I would be enough. (I have weighed 125 pounds since then, and just in case you were wondering a number on the scale doesn’t hold your worth or your beauty.)
It wasn’t until after college, that I finally started to really start working on my relationship with food. I decided to compete for Miss Colorado again as something to get me into shape. Ironically, the event that I think really ignited my bad relationship with food is the same event that started getting it back on track. I spent 5 years figuring myself out mentally and how I can handle food. I still say I like to eat it at home, but that’s because eating out used to be extremely hard for me. My connection with eating out was that I wanted to binge, and then I’d feel awful the next day. (Pro Tip- you can eat out and not eat like garbage) I used to get a lot of anxiety when I would go home to my parents too because I knew there would be tons of unhealthy foods I would want to eat, and it would set my progress back. Just a reminder, 10 steps forward and 2 steps back is still forward and not a reason to quit… I had a hard time figuring that out.
In the time leading up to me winning Miss Colorado, my relationship with food definitely improved, but after winning it absolutely went backward. Having a diet is just not my thing, mentally, I do not like it. I like to cook, so taking that creative ability away from me is almost like not allowing my soul to fully work. I think having someone putting me on a diet while competing for Miss USA gave me a little PTSD from when I was 18. When I was preparing for Miss USA, I remember the first thought every day that would come to mind was what I couldn’t eat which made me want it even more. I would also like to note that I didn’t stay on a strict diet for Miss USA. I mentally couldn’t be my best self without eating some of what I wanted. I could’ve eaten better than I did for sure, but I couldn’t have stayed on the diet and enjoyed myself at all.
After Miss USA was a whole new struggle again for me and my connection with food. Post Miss USA, it was almost like my Saturday binging opportunities all over again, but I was smart enough to realize I didn’t want to go back to that life. I gained a few pounds, binged a little, and instantly felt horrible about myself. Within a few months, I was navigating the mental waves of getting back to feeling like myself. This navigation was a little easier with the help of a therapist who now I think of as my friend.
I think right now is one of the best places I have ever been with my connection to food. I eat healthy, but I have fun too. I do not have a perfect balance, but what I do know is that how I feel about myself is the most important thing so if I commit to more veggies, I keep that commitment because then I feel good about myself. If I get busy and eat Chik-Fil-A that’s okay too because one meal doesn’t make me fat or worthless. For me, I’ve found there is a balance of discipline and grace when it comes to food. I try to think of food now in a relationship of how it makes me feel, and I have to enjoy it.
Confession Three: Your worth and beauty are NOT determined or based on what you eat or how much you weigh, and that’s the tea sis.
I decided to share this very vulnerable journey because I think every girl experiences this or something similar. If you take anything away from this, please remember confession three.
I also hope you’ll join me in my live on Thursday at 6:30 pm. I am making a fun Zoodle recipe that anyone can do!
As always thank you for reading.