As I sit in my seat, on my flight back to school after Thanksgiving break, I have time to think. To think about what I did while I was home (workout, eat, spend time with family and high school friends), how much work I have to do in the next few weeks, and how many days I have left with my boyfriend before he goes abroad. But what crossed my mind as I sat here waiting to take off that had not crossed my mind in a long time was how different everything is from last year at this time and especially two years ago at this time. Last year I was in the same position, but an anxious freshman awaiting her first set of finals at the University of Michigan. What I thought about, more importantly, was how my life was two years ago as a senior in high school. I have told my story before to you all about my struggle with an eating disorder in my last few moments as a dependent 17-year-old, but what I have not told you is how this disorder has been affecting me in college. Or dare I say hasn’t. Well at least for my freshman year.
Freshman year was full of immediate change that really could leave me in two different positions. On a plane home to my family because this eating disorder had gotten the best of me or with my great friends, taking interesting (ish) classes, working out as I pleased, and eating foods I had never thought I would eat before. I would have to say it was the latter. Freshman year I was joyfully indulging in all the change thrown my way and although I was overwhelmed at first I really got the hang of things. My urge to workout, in a healthy way, like I had learned to do at the end of my senior year maintained. Although at some points, I prioritized working out instead of spending extra hours studying, in general I was handling my freedom to exercise as I pleased as best I could have. I was eating as I did at home in the dining hall with my classic grilled chicken with vegetables and decked out salads but I was ending my meals with frozen yogurt, cereal, or even a cookie. I wasn’t thinking about how many calories everything had or how much I had worked out that day but was simply listening to hunger cues. Though disordered thoughts traveled through my mind, I was able to cope with these thoughts as I focused on my friends, being in a sorority, and my insane amount of work.
Months passed and I could not believe that spring break had already crept up on me and I was going on an extravagant vacation with my friends. I would be putting a bathing suit on for the first time in a while and I couldn’t help but just stare at myself in the mirror as I tried on bathing suits and inspecting every inch of my body. What I realized then that I had not realized before was that although I had been working out the same amount as I had at home, I was certainly not eating like I had eaten at home. Yes,
I was having my normal meals during the day but at night I was indulging with my friends (which of course if perfectly fine) but was very different than any behavior that I had partaken in in high school. As I stood there, uncomfortable and ashamed of my body, I thought of all the ways I was bigger, less toned, and how regretful I was of all the days (not many) I had not worked out and all the things I had eaten that I shouldn’t have. I went on vacation, enjoyed myself, ran in the scorching Arizona heat, and came home constantly thinking about how I was going to change my body. The last months of school I watched myself much more than the beginning of the year and worked out as much and even more than I had before. Not only did my body begin to return to how I saw it before going to college, but my state of mind had changed. I was thinking more about what I was eating, when I was going to work out, and was generally not as happy. I was awaiting that moment when I would find that balance. That balance that my friends had that would leave them happy with that they were eating, what they were wearing, how they were acting, and their overall daily routine.
Freshman year, in the blink of an eye, had come to a close and I was spending the summer doing an internship only 5 minutes away from my house. That meant the freedom to hang with high school friends, college friends that were working or living in the city, access to my favorite food spots, and workout spots (Flywheel and OrangeTheory). This summer would be the time to find that balance. The summer was spent with my daily routine of waking up, exercising, going to work, coming home, resting, maybe working out again, doing summer classes, and spending time with my mom. I had found that I was in a pretty good place, comfortable with my mindfulness, my body, my daily routine, and my all around way of life. But now was the hard part that came once a year. That immediate change when going back to college. As a rising sophomore, I was going to be doing things a little bit differently than the previous year. I was going to be living in a lavish apartment building with my best friends that had a study room, rooftop, kitchen and most importantly a gym. I would be taking classes more interesting to me, not be living in a disgusting dorm or eating that much in a dining hall and would have a car. A car that I would be able to use to go to OrangeTheory Fitness and the supermarket.
With the year coming to a close and 2017 in clear view I can reflect on the past semester and if I really found the balance I have been searching for. Did I find that balance? What I have found is that balance changes. Balance is about finding equality between mind and body in whatever circumstances are posed in that given period of time. My balance for freshman year would of course be different than that of sophomore year and the years to come. With the winter months unraveling as well as taking on a greater work load than the fall semester, my balance will be different than what I thought was perfect in the last four months. But you know what? That is okay! What I am realizing is that I have to be okay with change and not necessarily being “in balance” all the time. Each day, as I have found with past experiences, can be completely different than the one before and what will be the true test of what “balance” is, is if I can deal with this change and be my heathiest self through my exercise, eating, and studies. Wishing you (and me) balance in 2017!