MY NAME IS KAT ZOSCHKE, AND I HAVE AN EATING DISORDER.
I have been meaning to write this for several weeks now. However, I’ve put it off. Today, I am putting it off no longer. Taking the first step to wage war against the battle inside of my mind.
I used to be the girl who could eat whatever she wanted, whenever she water. In fact, I was the girl who would challenge any line-backer to a Taco-Bell party pack eaten contest, betting money that I’d win. My mom even said I had a hollow leg. Yes, I loved eating. It was fun! It brought people together.
That is until I left the country in May of 2014. When I left the country, I knew I would’t be back for 7 months. Before even leaving, I had decided I was going to come back “new & improved”, “KAT 2.0”! Not only was I going to be the cool, free-spirited, down to dart, cultured girl, but I was also going to look good. In my mind, looking good meant I was going to be 2 sizes smaller, with a super cool, alternative hair style, and all brand-new edgy clothing to match. You know, the kind of girl you see on the runway or in a magazine.
I got to South Africa, where I ended up teaching kids about art. South Africa was full of life and full of joy. While I was there, I roomed with a vegan. She taught me a lot and I was fascinated by it. I ended up not buying animal products, not because I believed it to be healthier, but because it was way cheaper. I ate food that was given to me when it was presented: sweets, meat, coffee-whatever! I did not restrict myself. At some point, I realized I was eating a lot more than I normally did (as is often true in travel) and decided to start working out to compensate. I LOVED it. I could feel my body getting stronger and decided to also start eating clean. I did this telling myself that I was going to feed my body what it needed. I was going to give my body the best possible fuel for it…. This, deep down, was not the real reason I opted to eat clean. I started researching “clean-eating” and found the 7-ingredient rule, “Don’t eat it, if it has more than 7 ingredients”. The thought is that the more ingredients it has, the more processed it is…. Well, let me tell you. Nearly EVERYTHING, has more than 7 ingredients in it. But I stuck with it.
For about a week. Shortly after, I arrived in Australia. It was a lot harder to eat clean there. There were more options.. exciting options.. What’s “pavlova”? (food of the gods) What’s all the hype about Tim-Tams? (the peanut butter ones-OMG) It got to the point where I said, “Hey, I’m traveling! I only get these things while I’m here!”, and I indulged. For the record, I am glad I indulged! Sure, I gained 20 pounds, but I had so many fun experiences…. Banana Fritters? ON POINT. The thing was, at the time when I was doing all this, I decided to become a Vegetarian- unless there was Kangaroo around, because have you ever had that? Crikey, it’s good. However, at the same time, I was reading more and more about veganism. I was reading more about nutrition, in general. Animal products are bad for you. But soy is bad for you too. Oh yeah- and sugar? That’s poison. EVERYTHING IS BAD FOR YOU.
So, I came home with all this knowledge and my extra 20 pounds. I hated it. I had never struggled with insecurity before. I had never really struggled with body image before. I knew what I had to do. I had to work-out, and not eat meat ever again. In fact, if I wanted to be serious, I wouldn’t consume any animal products.
Well, the 20 pounds melted off like it had never been there…. but it wasn’t enough. More. More. More. Thinner legs, smaller waist. My mind was consumed with self-depricating thoughts about my body and food. Food was no longer fun. I would eat ice cream or pizza and feel shame. I didn’t even want to go out with people sometimes because I knew that we would stop somewhere like my old stomping grounds, “The Varsity Truck”, and I would buy a grilled cheese mac and cheese (without bacon, because ‘I’m a veg now’).
The problem continued, and one day I found an article about ORTHOREXIA. The NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) describes orthorexia nervosa as, “Those who have an “unhealthy obsession” with otherwise healthy eating may be suffering from “orthorexia nervosa,” a term which literally means “fixation on righteous eating.” There was a section asking you to ask yourself these questions,
- Do you feel guilt or self-loathing when you stray from your diet? check.
- Have you put yourself on a nutritional pedestal and wonder how others can possibly eat the foods they eat? …check.
- Are you constantly looking for ways foods are unhealthy for you? check.
- Are you planning tomorrow’s menu today? check. (I actually plan my breakfasts as I’m going to bed.)
- Do you skip foods you once enjoyed in order to eat the “right” foods? sigh.. check..
It’s exhausting just reading that list. I hate that food became like that for me. For so long, I denied that anything was wrong.I denied that I had disordered thinking about food because I wasn’t all skin and bone and I didn’t throw up after I ate. But reading that list, it should be clear that I was (am?) messed up in how I thought not only about my food, but my body. If it is not clear to you, I would challenge you to take a closer look at yourself. Is it possible that you may also be unhealthy in your perception of food and your body? Do you love yourself? Do you love food? Are you labeling yourself? Are you creating barriers for yourself?
I am so grateful, that I discovered Orthorexia, because it shed light on a dark place in my life. Now, I’m on the journey to healing. If someone wants to go get ice cream or a slice of pizza, I will gladly accompany my friend and not just eat it, but enjoy it. I will still eat things that are vegan and vegetarian, because I think that it’s fun. I like it! It’s all about balance. There are some days where I will even say, “I’m going vegan”, but I have to repeat to myself “IWILLNOTBEVEGANIWILLNOTBEVEGANIWILLNOTBEVEGAN”. Because for me, that it unhealthy. Labels, walls, and barriers may help you shed 20 pounds, but they also destroy your mind and your emotional stability. There is no love. There is no grace.
So here, I am, before the entire internet, with all my issues laid bare. It is my pledge to you that I will strive towards health, but I will also strive towards grace. I will remember that ultimately, whether I am a size 0 or a size 14 doesn’t matter. I will remember that people do not love me because I am shaped the way I am shaped, but because I am KAT. And that Jesus doesn’t look at me and condemn me because I ate an egg with 2 strips of bacon or a creme filled donut, He says “Kat, I love you. And you are enough. Quit striving. Come to me, and I will give you rest.”
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m about to make a salad and then get a concha from my favorite Bonito Michoacan. Or maybe I’ll get a cuernito de creme… I haven’t decided yet!