In August 2014, I made the fateful decision to download MyFitnessPal. Little did I know, that this one decision would soon rule every choice that I made about food for the next two years of my life.
I had never been "heavy." In fact my weight was perfectly normal for my 5'7" frame. But, when all of your friends are dancers and athletes who can pull off any outfit they want with ease, it's not hard to feel a little left out of the loop.
This picture with my sister was taken on my first day of senior year, about three weeks after downloading MyFitnessPal.
I thought that downloading the app and counting my calories would give me some sort of boost in my body confidence, and for a while it did. In the span of a year and a half, I lost almost 25 pounds. People were quick to notice and quick to tell me how amazing I looked.
What people didn't realize was that while I had been doing "healthy" things to aid in my weight loss—like running on the treadmill a few times a week—I had also been doing some pretty unhealthy stuff to my body. For example, I would consider it a "good day" if I could eat less than 1,200 calories of healthy food, even though that is an incredibly unhealthy habit.
The weird thing is, the more progress I made with MyFitnessPal, the worse my body image issue became. I was obsessed with giving my body the lowest number of calories I could by eating healthy foods and would freak out if I even ate something moderately unhealthy.
Things only got worse when I started college. Late night pizza? Nope. Wouldn't fit with my fat limit. Ice cream in the dining hall? I could only have the smallest scoop to avoid going over the sugar intake that MyFitnessPal recommended.
Even when I was around my thinnest, I had to suck in for every picture I took (like in this one from a school rave). People kept telling me that they would kill to have my figure, but I felt like a prisoner in my own body.
Once freshman year ended, my parents took action. I resented it, but I could see their point, it's kind of hard not to be concerned when your daughter is sitting on her hands to avoid reaching for another piece of bread at the dinner table.
At the end of June this past year, I saw a nutritionist who diagnosed me with orthorexia nervosa. This diagnosis is an offshoot of the EDNOS category (Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified) and is characterized as an extreme fixation on healthy eating which often leads to some extremely unhealthy habits.
Not exactly what I wanted to hear. I didn't want to admit that I had a problem. I told myself that I could stop any time I wanted to, that I didn't need my app, that I just liked it. Just call me Pinocchio, am I right?
It was pretty hard to try and be a carefree college kid when I was dealing with this massive personal shit storm, but I still tried. And for me, being a "carefree college kid" was attempting to convince my mom to let me get a tattoo.
She gave me every excuse in the book as to why I couldn't get one: "It'll get wrinkly! You'll regret it! Not as long as I'm paying for your college tuition!" But after that trip to the nutritionist, she made a deal with me.
If I could work on fixing my eating habits, I could get my tattoo. I had wanted my tattoo for well over a year and a half, so I jumped at the chance to get it. It definitely wasn't an overnight process, but within a few months, I had deleted MyFitness Pal and was slowly reintroducing some foods I had cut out while on my diets (helloooo coffee creamer).
On August 24, 2016 I finally got the tattoo I had been dreaming of.
It may have only taken 20 minutes, but holy hell is there a lot of meaning packed into this little sucker. The coordinate points correspond to the town in Ireland where my grandfather grew up, so there's a lot of love and respect for my family tied up into that.
But the placement is just as if not more important. No matter what kind of body confidence day I was having, there was always one part of my body that I loved: my legs.
It might sound a little vain, but it's true. My legs carried me across the stage at my high school graduation, on countless family vacations, and into my first college dorm. They're honestly my favorite physical feature on my body.
So, the fact that I was able to get my tattoo there means so much to me. I could be having the shittiest day; I could be feeling guilty about eating a cookie with friends during a study session, or I could be really beating myself up for getting fries instead of a salad, but when I see those two lines of ink, I have to stop and smile.
I am so lucky to have a piece of art with such meaning on my body for the rest of my life. And it only helps that my family and friends love my ink as much as I do. When I look at it, everything else fades away. This tattoo represents where I'm from and where I'm meant to go in all aspects of my life.
Did this tattoo help me get over my eating disorder overnight? Absolutely not. But did it help me realize that I will always have something on my body that I can love for the rest of my life? One hundred percent, yes. And, as anyone who has struggled with body confidence can tell you, every little bit helps.