Topic Tuesday: Food
“Food Saved My Life” (By: Alana Agnone)
Food saved my life. I can remember clearly the moment I realized this. I was in my final semester of undergrad and I was in a rehab facility for my eating disorder. I had never been to rehab before and the whole experience was incredibly overwhelming when I started. I went from hiding the biggest secret of my life for five years to suddenly discussing it with complete strangers for 30 hours a week. I remember feeling like I didn’t belong there, like I knew what I was doing was wrong but that I had control over it all. I didn’t think I was bad enough to be there. I wasn’t underweight and I wasn’t on my death bed. In fact, for all intents and purposes I was considered healthy to anyone who looked at me. But I wasn’t healthy, and though I knew this, I didn’t know what this place could possibly do for me that I didn’t already know.
I could logically argue all of the detrimental effects an eating disorder places on someone, physically and mentally. I could even tell my psychologist that I knew the whole idea of an eating disorder was crazy. I mean, I was doing this to myself! I knew life was precious and that there was so much more to life than how you looked. But eating disorders are more than just a desire to look a certain way, it’s a mental issue. For me, it was my life long struggle with anxiety manifesting itself in a way I could control. I was assigned a therapist, a psychiatrist, a dietitian, and whole other slew of people whose sole mission was to get me better.
Despite the many efforts my therapist made and many others like her who forced me to do expressive art and group therapy (which I despised, I’m an introvert), the one person who made a substantial impact was my dietitian. I met with her three days a week and each day she would talk to me, about school or life or anything under the sun. She got to know me and I got to know her. She created an incredibly open relationship and I found myself wanting to make her proud. I never wanted to lie to her about skipping out on something in my meal plan or how much coffee I actually drank that day. One thing she did in our sessions was educate me. She broke down the science of nutrition in a way that just made sense. She explained to me how certain foods keep your heart pumping and how other foods help you regulate hormone levels. She showed me that food keeps you alive from a purely scientific stand point and for some reason it just clicked.
That was the moment food saved my life. I looked forward to every handout or lesson she gave me, explaining all of the benefits of heart healthy fats and calcium. I began to look at food as medicine, a means for survival. I began to see food as NUTRITION, not something to be feared or controlled. I could see how eating right made me feel. I could feel my body getting stronger and my ailments fading away. My mood was lifted and my depression and anxiety started to slowly fade away.
I felt free for the first time in I don’t know how long. Suddenly there was a whole world of nutrition for me to explore and I can’t tell you how excited that made me. I began self-educating myself, soaking in as much information as I could find. I watched documentaries, read medical articles, and sought expert advice. The thing that had once been my biggest enemy had become my main tool in recovery.
After almost two years of self-educating, I finally made the choice to go back to school to receive a Master’s of Science in Exercise Science and Nutrition with hopes of becoming a registered dietitian. My dream is to someday open my own practice and to work with eating disorder patients, hopefully making a similar impact on people that my dietitian made on me.
I have never been happier since I made this choice. My eating disorder showed me my true passion in life. I don’t regret any of it and I encourage anyone reading this to find what it is that clicks for them. Don’t ever give up, don’t ever assume that you have it all figured out. I promise things get better, I am living proof. My eating disorder made me who I am but it was never who I was.
About the Author
Alana was born and raised in Ormond Beach, FL with her four siblings and parents. She attended the University of South Florida and majored in Public Relations. She moved to Nashville in August of 2016 and plans to go back to school to study Nutrition at Lipscomb University in the fall of 2017. In her spare-time she loves to hike, bike, read, and do photography. She wants to become a Registered Dietitian in hopes of someday working with eating disorder patients and those with other mental illnesses. She also loves to cook and believes learning about food and nutrition has been her biggest tool in her recovery process.