I love food and I always have—whether I was cooking for my friends, trying new dishes, experimenting with different flavors, or just cramming in pancakes. I truly believe that food is one of the greatest pleasures in life.

However, this isn’t an article about the many ways I adore food, though I could write about that for quite a few pages. Instead, it is about the disorder that twisted my love for food into an obsession, and drove my body and mind to the point of collapse— until I found an online food community.

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My culinary fascination began as soon as I could hold a whisk. I baked, mixed, sautéed, grilled, and whipped my way through most of middle school and high school. I counted flavor, not calories, and (almost) never refused myself a treat. I wasn’t Mr. Olympia, but I tried to eat healthy, played sports all year, and was generally a fairly healthy guy. 

To be perfectly honest, I don’t really know when I decided that just being healthy wasn't enough for me, but it was sometime around the end of my senior year of high school. It became obsessive faster than I will even admit to myself. It is an impossible feeling to describe, a horrible, compulsive drive to work out on a starvation diet because that will make you “better."

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And that’s where I was. Stuck in a vicious cycle that was slowly but surely pulling my mind and body apart at the seams. I was depressed, moody, and always tired.

My first semester at college exacerbated the problem since being on my own only allowed me to give myself over to every whim dictated by my obsession. This mental struggle was paired with the realization that I hated the college I was attending, and after a semester, I was so mentally burned out that I decided not to return for the rest of the year.

That's when I found Spoon University.

coffee, chocolate, cream, sweet, tea, milk
Parsa Lotfi

In January, during the worst I have ever felt, an article featuring a recipe for an absurdly delicious-looking Nutella mug cake popped up on my newsfeed, and I clicked on it for no other reason than because if I couldn’t eat good food, I still loved to look at it.

At the beginning, even though I followed the site religiously, it served more as a way for me to feel better about myself for not indulging in Nutella-laden recipes. However, I kept up with the site. Over time, after reading articles about college kids just like myself having their own struggles with eating and body image, I began to see what I had forgotten—that I was not alone.

coffee, beer, pizza, tea
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The pieces that Spoon published made me feel like I wasn’t facing this by myself, that other people had made it through worse than me and come out fine. More importantly, Spoon made me remember that I wasn’t nothing, that there was more to me and my personality than weights and calories. By reminding me of that, Spoon helped me come back.  

There were other factors that helped me along the way, of course, like my friends and family, and I can't thank them enough. However, I won’t lie and say that issues with food and body image never haunt me, but I’m not scared anymore.

I’m not afraid to step on a treadmill or pick up a weight and I don’t have a panic attack stepping into a restaurant. It was a long road, one that was dipped in some of the darkest moments of my life, but when I clicked on that first article back in January, I unknowingly made one of the most impactful decisions of my life.

beer, pizza, coffee
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I suppose the point of all of this is to simply say an enormous thank you to the staff at Spoon University for teaching me to love food again and that even the hardest times have a way out, even if it doesn’t always feel like it. 

As I head off to my new college, I can say that because of you, for the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m going to be just fine. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have Nutella to eat.

This article is courtesy of Evan Vehslage, our Nutella-loving friend who will always have a place at Spoon University.