Evidently, pregnancy cravings are a beast. When my mother was pregnant with me, she carried around and nursed a 2 liter of Coke each day. This means that I started drinking Coke quite literally at conception. Throughout my childhood years this didn’t seem to be a problem. Everyone in my family drank soda regularly; nowadays, the dangers of regular soda consumption are widely known. But back when I was a kid, toddlers sucked Coca Cola from their Evenflows.
My first recorded instance of dealing with body image issues was when I was eight years old. When I looked into the mirror, I realized my stomach stuck out a bit (possibly from all the dang soda and sugar I consumed?) and I distinctly remember thinking to myself that I couldn’t wait to get boobs because they’d make my stomach look smaller. I was already comparing myself to other women and falling short. When I got to middle school, I felt chubby compared to my skinny prepubescent classmates. I decided to take matters into my own hands. My distorted body image blossomed into full-fledged crash dieting, even though I got boobs like I’d wished. I decided to go on a very strict diet of simply a bowl of oatmeal a day but, because I was so desperately in love with (read: addicted to) Coke, I couldn’t bear to part with it. So I made the switch to Diet Coke.
To stave off hunger pangs, I would consume several Diet Cokes a day. I would even substitute meals for it. It seemed like the perfect plan! Eat one bowl of oatmeal and drink a six pack of Diet Coke a day! Perfection! What could go wrong with that plan? Diet Coke was a delicious stomach filler, devoid of calories, fat, sugar, and evil, and full of only tastiness and caffeine (a metabolism booster!)
What could be better?
When I was a junior in college I lived with one of my best friends Becky. We typically shared groceries, but I was quite reluctant to offer up any of my Diet Cokes. I made frequent stops by the fridge each day to grab a can without thinking.
One day, I mindlessly walked into the kitchen and to the fridge to get my Diet Coke fix. Becky was doing something by the sink within arms reach of me and when I reached for the door handle she, like a ninja, slammed her hand on the fridge door and prevented me from opening it.
“Lindsay,” she said seriously. “We need to talk.”
“Okay,” I replied. I was extremely nervous. Becky and I are very close, and when she takes that tone with me it is usually because I deserve to be smacked across the face.
“This has got to stop. You can’t keep drinking Diet Coke like this. I’m worried about you. You drink so much of it. And I don’t even know what’s in it! I wish you’d switch to regular Coke so at least I’d know what the hell you’re consuming everyday!”
I was stunned.
I had never thought about the fact that, apart from caffeine and deliciousness, I really didn’t know what was in my lone beverage choice. But she was right — the entire reason I drank Diet Coke was because it didn’t have anything in it. That was the whole reason I made the switch in the first place. And suddenly, it made sense. While I wasn’t consuming calories or fat, I was definitely consuming gallons upon gallons upon gallons of something, and I didn’t have any earthly clue as to what that was. I suddenly became very uneasy.
So I Googled it. It’s what you do when you’re already freaked out about something and wish to become even more freaked out about it.
What I found wasn’t particularly surprising. All of the ingredients were words I couldn’t pronounce, except for aspartame, which I found out is actually poison.
According to the Internet, “the following chronic illnesses can be triggered or worsened by ingesting of aspartame: Brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, mental retardation, lymphoma, birth defects, fibromyalgia, and diabetes.”
So. Despite my satisfaction with the fact that I was skinnier than the majority of people who drank regular Coke, I was (it seemed) deteriorating from the inside out.
My intervention from Becky changed my life. I’d been so obsessed with being skinny that I’d completely neglected my own nutrition. So I conceded that this had gone on long enough and I made an appointment with a nutritionist.
After analyzing my eating habits over the course of my life (which, at some pretty low points didn’t allow for me to consume more than 900 calories a day) the nutritionist informed me that yes, Diet Coke was really bad for me and, oh, just a bit of a side note, I’d been suffering from an eating disorder since age twelve.
Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, or EDNOS. I was officially diagnosed with an eating disorder and before I had time to fight her on it, she was spouting off my recovery plan straight to my shocked, open-mouthed mug.
It took me several years to really develop a healthy relationship with food. Actually, I would say I didn’t really reconcile with food (and my body) until about a year and a half ago. After going through that mentally (and physically) exhausting hell, I made a pact with myself that I’d never, ever, EVER do that to myself again and that I was going to treat my body with love and respect because it was the only one I’d ever have. I realized that life’s too bloody short to hate your body so much, and I’d already wasted twelve years of my life doing it.
Not only was I addicted to Diet Coke, but I was also addicted to the poison that society was feeding me on a daily basis through magazine covers, TV shows, movies, the pornography industry, the modeling industry, the cosmetic industry, the textiles industry…
What poison is that? The idea that I’m not good enough the way I am. The idea that my self-worth is wrapped up in my pants size, my shirt size, my body shape, my weight, my BMI, my skin color, my hair color, my hair texture, the amount of calories I consume (or don’t) in a day…
Sadly, unlike Diet Coke, I can’t choose to quit consuming this poison. It’s unstoppable. These industries profit on making me feel bad about myself, and unless I live in a dark hole under the ground with earplugs and an eye mask, I will be exposed to messages that perpetuate the idea that I’m worthless and poison me in a very real way.
So. Rather than being beaten by it, I am fueled by it. I won’t let my guard down. I will fight against it.
That’s what this blog is all about: taking the poison fed to us daily and turning it into a passionate war against negative self image.
At the top of my blog it says, “On Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Self-Acceptance.”
We all have a right to accept ourselves and it ticks me off royally that we live in a society that makes money off of making us believe we can’t ever accept ourselves the way we are.
If all I ever do is write blogs about my struggles with this, that’s fine. If nothing else, at least there’s one more blog out there that speaks positivity and love against negativity and hate.
That’s what this is all about. I hope you’ll join me on the front lines in the war against self hate.
EDIT: And, of course, I have to mention that the name is an obvious nod to one of my favorite record labels, Fueled By Ramen. If I ever get famous enough and they ask me to change the name of my blog, of course I will because they were here first and are way more awesome than I’ll ever be.