By Annette Sloan, Guest Blogger
Have you ever wished that you could reinvent yourself and start fresh in a place where no one knows you? Are you looking forward to college for exactly that reason? When I was 18, I was right there with you. I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to introduce new-and-improved College Annette to the world.
I had specific ideas about what this new version of me would be like, but one word stuck out above the rest: healthy.
Flawlessly healthy, in fact. Everyone would admire College Annette for her willpower and commitment to healthy living (not to mention be jealous of the hot body and glowing skin that would follow suit). As a result of her healthiness, College Annette would be beautiful, confident, and happy.
Armed with this intention, I arrived for my freshman year, ready to impress everyone I met. Our first weekend in the dorms, my roommate and I stocked up on fruit, nuts, and other healthy snacks to have available in our room. In the cafeteria, I chose oatmeal, hard-boiled eggs, and half a grapefruit for breakfast. Lunch and dinner varied, but I always made sure to have veggies on my plate and to serve myself moderate portions.
The second semester of my freshman year, I took a nutrition class. As I learned about things like Omega-3 fats and phytochemicals, I integrated this new knowledge into my daily food choices. In my mind, I began to label all foods as either “good” or “bad” – and of course I made a point of choosing the “good” foods.
You may be wondering, “So, what’s the problem? You were educating yourself and making healthy choices. Isn’t that the goal for all of us?”
Here’s the problem: I wasn’t making healthy choices because I truly wanted to. I was making healthy choices because I thought I should. Somewhere along the way, I had equated healthy with worthy. As a result, I only believed I was worthy when I was eating healthfully. I employed immense amounts of willpower to force myself to follow my strict food rules – which inevitably left me feeling deprived. As a result, I began to eat unhealthy foods in secret (because I couldn’t let anyone else know that I was actually a willpower weakling). Over time, this turned into an ongoing, shame-filled struggle with binge-eating that lasted throughout college and most of my 20s.
Looking back, I can clearly see that my journey was doomed from the start. I know now that the root of your motivation matters. There is a profound difference between “I want to eat healthy because I know I’m worthy of feeling my best” and “I want to eat healthy so that people will admire me for my willpower and hot body.” The former stems from a strong sense of self-worth, while the latter stems from a low sense of self-worth.
If I could, I’d go back and give my 18-year-old self the following advice:
“Annette, I get that you want to be healthy – but you know what’s more important than that? Having a strong sense of self-worth. Your worth is not connected to what you eat, or what your body looks like, or what people think of you. You are worthy, exactly as you are – worthiness is your birthright. When you truly believe that, everything else falls into place.”
Let's chat! How do you show yourself self-worth? What can you do to say healthy that shows yourself self-love? Share with us here!
Annette Sloan is a health coach and speaker on a mission to help girls and women make peace with their relationships with food – and with themselves. Her business, (w)holehearted, specializes in compassionate health coaching for teen girls. Learn more at www.healthyteengirls.com.
image via webmd.com