Eat Your Heart Out :: Part 3

Ashley Taylor

I believe that “eating disorder” is a misnomer. The actual disorder is in how a person views their self-worth in relationship to the influential factors in his or her life. Parents, schoolwork, environmental stresses like dorm life or a Greek house, dating, roommates and pledging, for example, are all where we, as college students, find our value, our place and home at our universities. When a person’s relationship with any of these or similar factors are unhealthy, this can easily be manifested in that person’s relationship with him or herself: body, mind and spirit. Once that relationship is off-balance, the risk of projecting the need for control on one’s own body is almost too great to suppress. A person’s relationship with the outside world so directly affect’s his or her relationship with his or her self, and has the capacity to shred his or her self-image.

I have already outlined general concepts on healthy eating and working out. This installment is supposed to tie those two together to promote a healthy self-image, without which food and exercise are valueless beyond their material qualities. What is the purpose of eating? What is the purpose of exercise? If these sound like silly questions, then I dare say that you’ve never been asked them before.

If the point of eating is to fuel the body to exercise, and working out is properly process the food, then it is a seamless cycle. And a bit futile. Both notions are essential not only to this physical health, but to mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Both are such convenient, available and seemingly controllable outlets. It is so easy to deal with stress by eating too much or not at all. The gym could be classified as therapy for getting out so many frustrations, or the opposite, completely unappealing to someone in a high-stress environment. But no big deal, right? Everybody is different, so everyone is going to deal with insecurities and life issues differently.

It is a big deal. You can’t get away from your body, and since it’s always with you it should be under your control. So you take out irritations, excitements and emotions on it, because when you can’t control the world around you, you have to be able to control yourself. The purpose of food ceases to be to nourish, it becomes to comfort or to reject. The purpose of working out becomes a self-maintained mandate. You catalogue every calorie, and set maximum allowed calories per day (ie 700) and minimum required workouts (ie 90 minutes cardio daily…the same girl). The human body was not made to be in bondage to such laws!

I wish there was an easy solution to anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and every other unhealthy manifestation pertaining to self-image. I wish that the logic of the necessity of food, and the freedom that comes from not binding oneself to arbitrary self-governed rules about necessary life functions, was powerful enough to break those bonds. I wish that teaching the merits, facts and figures of a healthy and practical lifestyle would be enough to undo years of cultural lies about what constitutes an attractive human form. And as frustrating as it is that there is no pat-answer, which does not mean by any degree that they are insurmountable.

The well-being of the mind and body are directly related. The human mind needs the human body for its nourishment and sustenance, but the body needs the mind to know what is reality in terms of physical needs. A mind that is chained to an unhealthy self-image will never have the clarity to run the body appropriately. A healthy mind that balances environment against self and does not allow outside circumstances to control it will allow the body to work in a manner in which it will flourish, and this will cyclically continue to encourage healthy thinking in the mind.

Ashley is a senior biological anthropology major at UCLA. She is the health and fitness chair of Alpha Delta Chi and the safety officer on the Bruin Water Ski Team. She loves running and wakeboarding, and is passionate about encouraging women in confronting and overcoming eating disorders.

One Response to “Eat Your Heart Out :: Part 3”

  1. health recipes cooking » Eat Your Heart Out :: Part 3 Says:

    [...] nutrition.guide@about.com wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptI have already outlined general concepts on healthy eating and working out. This installment is supposed to tie those two together to promote a healthy self-image, without which food and exercise are valueless beyond their material … [...]

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