Food has and will always be a passion of mine. Yet the pressures from our culture, society, and even families have led not only myself but also so many other young college students into developing negative relationships with food and their bodies. Although it is important to be mindful towards food, no one should ever feel ashamed for what they choose to eat, how much they eat, or how their physical appearance has changed over time.

My Journey With Food

Holly Park

Growing up in a world of sweets, treats, delicious comfort foods, and satisfaction, I lived my life as a care-free child—eating to satisfy hunger, stopping upon feeling full, and viewing food as energy. However, the journey into adolescence and adulthood was otherwise different for me.

Pressures from family, social media, ethnic culture, and society ultimately funneled into creating feelings of self-consciousness, dissatisfaction, and incompetence. A family member’s comment regarding the donut I was about to eat made me feel self-conscious, while exposure to the different diets and healthy lifestyles led by Youtubers and Instagrammers made me feel curious to change my relationship with food yet dissatisfied with my own body. Like most other teenage girls, my relationship with food became less intuitive and required more thought and action.

College Life Was Prime Time

Holly Park

Venturing into a college life free from the nurturing environment under parental care, I adopted the mindset of only including healthy foods into my diet, skipping meals to prevent gain of the “Freshman 15” and restricting myself from treats if I was craving them. In between meals that I had skipped, my stomach felt painful and bloated, and upon eating at dinner time, I felt the need to compensate the calories I had not eaten throughout the day by overeating to the point of extreme fullness when I had the chance.

At times, I acted this way when I felt too busy and unable to eat again. However, this soon became a habit, and I would binge whenever I had restricted myself to a certain food group. Despite the healthy foods I was consuming, my body took a turn for the worst, and I realized that I was jeopardizing my digestive health. My stomach soon became bloated and painful after any meal I was eating—leading me to finally become aware of the abnormal lifestyle I was living.

The Realization

Holly Park

I realized that weight gain and weight loss did not come as a result of eating healthy vs. unhealthy foods, but ultimately came about as a byproduct of caloric intake. The calories I was consuming to “overcompensate” were excessive and made me consume more than what my body was needing. For so many years, I had the mentality that food would cause weight gain—I believed that skipping lunch was the way for me to avoid weight gain and unnecessary commentary from my family. Yet, food was never the enemy. My body was screaming, crying in pain and agony to be nurtured during periods of hunger. 

Breaking up the Bad Habits

Holly Park

No bad habit is easy to break, and I realized that although healthy eating is still a passion and enjoyment of mine, the detriments of my physical, mental, and digestive health caused by disordered eating patterns were ultimately things that I could not jeopardize. 

I made the decision to adopt a lifestyle of intuitive eating by listening to my body when it was full, feeding it when it was hungry, and granting it the satisfaction it needed when I was craving little treats. After a week of tuning into my body's hunger and satiety cues—eating more frequent, smaller meals and snacks throughout the day rather than skipping meals—I noticed less pain and inflammation in my digestion and less of a tendency to overeat towards the end of the day. 

#SpoonTip: At each meal, incorporate a good source of veggies, protein, and carbohydrates for a well balanced meal. 

Holly Park

Ultimately, sometimes it is the culture and society in which we are raised in, the act of comparing ourselves to others, or simply just time and busyness that can affect our relationship with food. As every experience comes with a learning aspect to it, my own personal experience has taught me this: while our minds may categorize certain foods into "bad" and "good," everything should be consumed in moderation, and our bodies will respond by allowing us to feel physically stronger and healthier on the inside and out. 

This journey and battle of mine is not something uncommon amongst other college students, and it is essential to keep the conversation and awareness of healthy eating habits, body positivity, and mental health going amongst young adults in society today.