Welcome to our Youth Talk Blog, a section dedicated to youth lived-experiences with mental health and wellbeing, with weekly blog posts from diverse young people’s perspectives. This is a positive, fun and resourceful space, showcasing young people thriving and connecting with healthful activities, resources and support. This post has been written by Jameel, our Community Education intern, who is a 21-year-old psychology student.
My entire life, I have struggled with food. I have gone through times of eating too little and times where I would overeat. I have had a strange relationship with food; I do not think it has been a healthy one for most of my life. Due to my nutrition habits, I have had a negative perception of my body too. It is not easy trying to work your way through a lifetime of an unhealthy relationship with food, but I have reached a point where I am better about food and my body, so it is worth sharing.
I want to start by explaining a little about myself from my childhood. Growing up, my family did not have the greatest eating habits. I did not learn to eat well in terms of getting a balanced diet and did not have healthy portions either. I grew up overweight and going through the motions through school and early high school. In 2014, I decided it was time for me to try some changes and work on my diet to get to a healthier weight. I ended up losing a lot of weight by following a random plan I had found on the internet. I reached a point where I weighed under what would be considered a healthy weight for my frame and losing any additional weight would not be recommended for me. Even at this point, I thought to myself ‘I am still overweight’. I can recall a time with my mum when she tried to explain that I had lost more weight than I needed to, and she was getting a little concerned. Even after a discussion with her, I looked in the mirror and saw the opposite of what she said. It was not apparent. How could I see myself one way and she see it another?
I thought I was still the same overweight person from before starting the diet, even though the scale and my mum were telling me differently. I decided I would ease up on the dieting. I slowly gained some weight and sustained a healthy weight for the next couple of years. I graduated high school in 2016, and the year after that was complicated. In 2017 I was lost. I was not sure what I wanted to do with myself in life. I ended up eating disproportionately as a way to deal with my situation at the time. This meant I gained a lot of fat, and by the time 2018 came around, I was the biggest I had ever been.
I reached another deciding point. I knew I had to change, and I knew I had to do it as soon as possible. So I began researching nutrition and attempting to understand better what I actually should be eating and what I should not be eating. I started seeing a personal trainer to learn how to gym the right way as well. It was a serious attempt from me to try and turn myself around. Once my diet was more healthy, I began losing weight very rapidly. I started in June of 2018, and in about a year, I had lost 30kg. I had lost weight, but my body was not ‘perfect’, so still, I was not happy. In the last two years, I have had some severe changes, more mentally than physically. I began to understand there is no perfect body, weight, or image that I can achieve that will make me feel good.
At the time, it was easy to believe that doing a little more would make me feel better or that there was some point in the future where I could feel good about myself. Now I understand that being happy with myself should happen regardless of how I look. I am a lot more at peace with myself than I was through all the ups and downs. However, that is not to say I do not have days where I am still negative towards myself. As I write this, it is level 4 in Auckland. I have lost a little weight, yet when I look in the mirror again, I think I have gained some. I believe that the little battle I have in my mind is going to be there for some time, but I understand now that it is not rational and that I am good as I am.
I know many people that have a similar inner battle about how they eat and feel about themselves, but it is a process. I hope that anyone who feels they are not good enough or need to change themselves to feel better takes one thing out of my experience. It is a journey that you should try and be kind to yourself. It is okay to want to change yourself or better yourself, but you are fantastic regardless of your appearance.
Further reading and support:
EDANZ - support, practical advice and understanding about eating disorders
Canopy - https://www.canopyeds.co.nz (Live chat from Tuesday to Saturday, 9 AM-11 AM)