Written By Aspen S. – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series 

Very recently I found myself in an in-depth, witty mirror conversation with myself, Issa Rae style. In the span of two weeks I got emergency surgery, graduated from my Masters program, moved 1000 miles from Florida, and started a new job. A lot has happened in such a short time and the chance for me to really sit myself down and reflect on the past two years of my life was long overdue. So, it is no surprise that this conversation with myself led to much deeper self reflection and a chance to figure out how I want to live this new chapter of my life.

I decided that this is a new beginning for me and I thought about how I would to bring more positive habits into my daily routine. Despite the many things that I don’t have control over in my own life, one thing that I do have control over is food. My love for food has always been a constant in my life, even in the times in my life where I shamed myself for that.

But my love for food lacks boundaries, which seems whimsical and exploratory at first, but I’ve since realized that this relationship has been far from healthy. I eat when I’m happy. I eat when I’m sad. I eat when I’m content. And more than anything, I eat when I’m bored. On top of this, I tend to eat far beyond my feelings of fullness because I tell myself that the food I’m eating is just that good even when it’s decent at best.]

Ever since I was young, I have used food as a coping mechanism and have always had a bad habit of overeating. The truth is that my using food as a crutch is my go to method to handle any form of stress in my life and my stress has spanned far beyond these past two weeks as I spent all of March and much of April traveling from state to state as I searched for a job. I was exhausted both physically and mentally and as is natural, I found comfort in food.

My food choices in the past few months have been anything and everything and it shows. When I started my graduate school experience, I was eating primarily plant-based. Plant-based food consumption is similar to veganism in that it is mostly comprised of foods that do not include meat or dairy. However, it is not as strict as veganism and is much less involved in lifestyle choices, primarily focusing on healthy and sustainable eating practices.

During my time as a grad student, stress got to me and pizza and chicken nuggets seemed more and more appealing. When I spent a summer in Arizona for an internship, I convinced myself that in order to experience true Phoenix cuisine, I had to have no limits.   This mindset led to Domino’s pizza and Chik-Fil-A every other day. I can’t back to my second year of grad school with this no-limit mentality. I ignored all of the signs that this had to stop, including but not limited to: acne, weight gain, and chronic sinus congestion. And this goes without saying the endless digestive problems that I was experiencing daily.

The impact of the poor diet spanned beyond the physical. I noticed that I was starting to lack energy in my daily life in a way that I never experienced when I ate plant-based in years prior. This lack of energy led to me spending far more time in bed than was healthy and spending far more money on fast food because I just didn’t have it in me to cook a meal and I somehow found success scavenging for food if I wasn’t able to purchase something, only going grocery shopping two times in over three months. I was addicted to fast food and my own self sabotage and I needed something to divert me from this spiral.

Fast forward to just a few days ago. I woke up on the first day of my new job and decided that there was no time like the present. That would be the day that I would completely eliminate meat and dairy from my life. This was beyond ambitious. I tried very hard on that first day but the thing that caused the most difficulty was the battle that I felt with myself about my actions. This time was much different than when I ate plant-based prior to grad school. It felt forced and like I was restricting my eating. As someone who hates being told to do, I recognized the problem at hand. And furthermore, I realized that this inner struggle was also largely due to the confidence in my body that had gained in my grad school journey.

During grad school I had the opportunity to examine my relationship with my body and I have come to love my body in all of its glory, scars, curves, and stretch marks included. I have been given the opportunity to present on body positivity and intuitive eating, and to navigate self-love with my friends, peers, and colleagues. So to suddenly enact such unhealthy and restrictive behaviors on myself seemed like I was betraying myself and the people around me that have served as my support in my journey. I just couldn’t do it.

I made the decision that I would still move forward in limiting meat and dairy from palette. But I will do it on my own terms, and my own way. It is not about making hard remarks about what I can and cannot eat, or how much I can eat. It is not about losing weight or trying to look a certain way. This is solely about listening to my body and giving it the nutrients that it is asking for and avoiding the food that add stress to my body, both physically and mentally. I will lend myself some grace in this journey and be comfortable with slip-ups as I focus solely on loving, respecting, and listening to my body because it’s the only one I have.  

Aspen S., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

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