Remember near the end of The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, where Frodo and Sam, covered in sweat and dirt, are climbing to the top of the volcano in Mordor? Sam asks Frodo, “Do you remember the taste of strawberries?” Frodo responds, “No, Sam. I can’t recall the taste of food.”1
I felt like Frodo three years ago, except I couldn’t remember what happiness tasted like, and the mountain I was climbing was a figurative one—a sharp incline created out of swirling thoughts about body image and food. I was in the darkest depths of an eating disorder.
It all started on my mission. Everyone told me I would gain weight, and our toxic diet culture led me to believe that my worth was tied to the number on the scale. So I ate as little as possible on my mission. Each meal became a silent competition to see who could eat the least: my companion or me. I always won (probably because my companions never even knew there was a competition), and I ended up losing an unhealthy amount of weight.
When I returned home, my biggest fear was gaining the weight back, even though weight gain isn’t always “bad” (it can be natural and normal due to maturation, environmental changes and stressors, etc.). But the diet culture and my skewed thoughts convinced me that being skinny would solve all of my problems—it was the key to happiness. Faced with this and some other distressing challenges in my life, I became obsessed with counting calories and exercising. Eventually, my body retaliated, and I started getting powerful urges to binge. I began binging, which terrified me, so I would restrict my food intake and skip meals to avoid weight gain.