The other week, I ate almost half a large vegan pizza, and I've never felt healthier.

Everything about that scenario might seem absurd, and truthfully, it absolutely is. I did eat an absurd amount of pizza, and I'm sure it was accompanied by an even more absurd amount of calories. 

As a dietetics student, I am very much aware that pizza is not a health food. In fact, I think nearly everyone knows that. 

So, how exactly does a greasy cheese pizza equate to me being the healthiest I've ever been? 

pastry, sauce, frozen pizza, pie, dough, crust, cheese, pizza
Emma Goll

To date, I am just a little over a year into recovering from my eating disorder. For two and a half years, my life was monopolized by food. For much of this time, my daily routine consisted of eating a couple pieces of fruit throughout the day and some vegetables at night. If I was really diligent, I'd eat nothing all day until dinnertime. And then, every so often, I'd find myself so ravenous that I'd wait until everyone went to bed, then I would hide in my kitchen and binge until I thought I might get sick. Eventually, I developed bulimia in an effort to combat the binges.

It is incredibly difficult for me to disclose my past with all of you, and I am not proud of who I used to be. However, I think it's important share my experiences and what I have learned in recovery so that it may encourage others who are struggling with any kind of eating disorder, mental illness, or body image issues  to seek help and find peace with themselves.

I have come to learn that health is a multi-faceted topic. It is not only a physical measure, indicated by the shape of my body or how much I work out. I am not healthy simply because I eat apples and broccoli.

I see now that true health encompasses mental and emotional wellness, too. In the depths of my eating disorder, I worked out and ate as cleanly as I could for two years, but at the end of the day, I'd look in the mirror and was unsatisfied with what I saw. It didn't matter how thin I got, because to me, there was always more to lose.

I think that was largely because all of my efforts originated from a place of hate. I was not eating or exercising to be healthy and happy, but more so to be someone other than myself.

I never was comfortable just being Emma, and I was plagued by this constant yearning to be someone else entirely, not just from a physical standpoint. I was also quiet, slightly awkward, a little dorky, and I desperately craved control to hide all of my insecurities. While my physical health did suffer, all of this anxiety manifested as a disorder that drastically took a toll on my mental health.

These destructive behaviors simply encouraged an endless cycle of disappointment. It became evident that I would never be content if was always seeking happiness in variable measures, such as weight or clothing size.

One day, it dawned on me. I was tired of hurting and worrying my family. I was tired of avoiding my friends because I was afraid to go out with them, fearing I'd eat something I wasn't supposed to. I was tired of going to the grocery store, spending an unnecessary amount of time analyzing and reanalyzing food labels, only to give up and leave with nothing. I was tired of refusing food offered to me that I so desperately wanted (and needed) to eat.

Ultimately, I was just really tired of wanting to be someone other than myself (because let's face it, I'm stuck with me).

With the support of my family and close friends, I sought professional help, which is something I never thought I would have to do. 

Looking back, I believe seeking help was best decision I ever made. For the first time in over two years, I was an active participant in my own life and it was empowering. 

Part of my recovery involved incorporating foods that scared me into my diet. It was a slow and stressful process, but eventually I could start to eat foods like grains, avocados, seeds, and nuts again without becoming extremely anxious.

And now?

I can eat foods like pizza!!

cheese, pizza
Emma Goll

But it's more than just pizza and junk food.

I can live in the moment, and be with my friends without being hyper-focused on calories. I can enjoy holidays with my family without excessively worrying about weight gain. I can focus on school without being excessively tired. I do my best to eat healthfully, but not obsessively and restrictively. I work out because I enjoy it, and only when my body is up to it (not because I feel like I have to).

My body is healthy now, but so is my mind.

I am starting to accept my insecurities, and have adopted a much more positive outlook on life. And because of these changes, I am a much fuller, motivated, human being.

That being said, I am not perfect. On many occasions, I still have to consciously choose to treat myself with love and respect (I even got a tattoo to remind myself to be kind). In fact, just the other day I found myself overwhelmed and panicked by nutrition labels on vegan yogurt in the supermarket. I let numerical values dictate my worth, and that is not an indicator of good health. 

Emma Goll

So, what do I do when I feel myself start to slip back into negative thoughts and anxious behaviors?

I acknowledge my fears, and take time to process my emotions. Sometimes that may mean writing out my thoughts, calling my oh-so-patient mother, reaching out to my friends, or taking a step back from things I can't handle.

meat, beef
Emma Goll

But acknowledging my anxieties does not mean I dwell or give in to them. It means I allow myself to grieve if necessary, but I forgive and move on. I accept that I am human, and cannot always live up to my expectations.

That being said, my recovery is not necessarily going to be your recovery. I am no professional, and all of our situations are unique. We come from different backgrounds, and so our approaches to getting well again might vary. Despite that, I firmly believe there is hope for everyone.

I encourage anyone who is struggling to reach out and seek help. Allow yourself to start anew so that you may look in the mirror, and accept the person you see.

Recovery is by no means an easy process, and does not necessarily yield perfect results. But is so rewarding and so worthwhile; I promise you that.

I truly feel like I am experiencing life in a new way, and I believe that is because I have evolved into a different person than I was even just a few short months ago.

If I could reach out to my younger self, I would tell her to seek help sooner. To take a breath, and know that even life's challenges are accompanied with adventure, learning opportunities, worthwhile relationships, and potential beauty if you open your heart to them.

But since I can't do just that, I am reaching out to whoever is reading this. I am reaching out and writing this for you.