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How Being a Military Child Impacted My Relationship With Food

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Growing up as a military child, I never knew permanence. I felt like everything was being taken from me whenever we had to move to a new area. I missed my friends, my school, my local shopping centers. Everything was always so foreign and strange to me after moving. Along with that, whenever my father was deployed, my mother would fall into a neglectful state toward my siblings and me. Since I am the oldest, I always stepped up and cared for them. I was doing household chores and making food for my siblings in early elementary school. I felt like I had no control over my life. Everything just came at me full force. Moving was always intense, as well as trying to keep the house together. Then one day I decided I could control one aspect of my life. I began to control everything I consumed.

Around this time, I was in a new city, starting middle school. Besides the occasional anxious feelings I would get about being in a new state, I felt good about this move. I kept myself in a positive mindset and it seemed to be working. However, I didn’t know I was actually harming myself. I started to be very picky about the foods I brought for lunch at school. I would tell myself “just half a sandwich will be perfect for today.” By the time dinner rolled around, I was always so excited to fill up, but a part of me was telling me to slow down, maybe just have a salad. This “slowing down” on food thing happened over a couple years. Some days I skipped meals, and others I ate enough to be full. It wasn’t an image thing, I just liked to have control on how much I was eating.

Middle school wasn’t so bad with my disordered eating patterns. It wasn’t until the summer before high school when things got bad. We moved again, which meant I wasn’t going to high school with anyone I knew. This was very stressful for me. While we were moving, we went to stay with a relative. While there, one of my relatives said I was finally “putting on some weight.” For some reason, this terrified me. I couldn’t get that out of my head. I started to do random and intense exercises off Pinterest or YouTube. I never kept up with those though. To me, not eating was easier.

High school started and I never ate breakfast, and I typically picked at my lunch, having a couple bites and lots of water. Dinner was either nothing or a handful of lettuce. I loved feeling empty. The voice inside my head loved it too. I didn’t know I had disordered eating until my second year of high school. I realized that this behavior isn’t “normal,” but I couldn’t stop. I was controlling everything that I put into my body. Once I knew what was going on, I decided to research eating disorders. I thought that if I become an experience on the subject, I could do this forever. From then on, I let myself have one day a week where I would refuel and energize so I didn’t have to eat much or at all during the rest of the week.

I became close to this one guy, who became my boyfriend for several weeks. We were going strong, but then he was told he had to move. During our time together, he never forced me to eat, but he would make my food and made sure I always had something easily accessible. However, the break-up may have had negative effects on me. I started to lose the weight that I may have gained during those few weeks of being in a relationship. I kept pushing and pushing food out of my life. I felt like I didn’t deserve to eat. I felt unworthy of nourishment.

Finally, I moved for the last time. We came back to our home state and started a life outside the military. I found myself in a long-distance relationship for a year after moving, which was amazing. I started to eat in a more normal way, but I wasn’t perfect. It was very easy with my then-boyfriend. He helped so much with that.

Then I started college as a heartbroken, sad student. I fell right back to my old ways. It was easier to not eat in college. I kept myself as busy as possible. I was working part-time and doing school full-time. That first summer in college, I was working as much as I could, and one day I passed out. My body was trying to tell my something.

After that happened, I knew I needed help. I was able to get a few free counseling sessions, and I started to connect with some important people in my life. After focusing on controlling something else in my life, positive mental health, I wasn’t controlling how much food I let myself have.

Now, I am graduating in psychology very soon. I aspire to teach psychology as well. I have a healthy relationship with my body, and I now know I am deserving of nourishment, and you are too.

Getty image by LUMEZIA

Originally published: June 24, 2021
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