How I Searched For Control Through My Unhealthy Relationship With Food

by Hayli Goode
Jaki Portolese

I don’t like to say I had an eating disorder because it was never diagnosed.

Instead, I prefer to call it a disordered relationship with food.

My disordered relationship didn’t stem from a desire to look a certain way or gain attention — as it often is the case for anorexia — but because I was a control freak.

Because high school peers are so clever, I received the nickname goody two-shoes (my last name is Goode) my freshman year.

By my junior year, even my teachers referred to me by this moniker.

But instead of becoming fed up with the label, I used it as a point of pride.

Yes, I was a hard worker.

Yes, I was a motivated student.

I studied for tests days before they were given.

I was known to stay after school to work on the student yearbook.

I tried to get internships at national magazines in high school (rare, but not unheard of), and I applied to any and all scholarships I could.

Essentially, I wanted to live up to the name, even if it was a joke.

In and outside of school, I was trying to be this perfect human: perfect daughter, student, girlfriend and editor.

Perfect Hayli.

But, I kept failing.

My older sister and I have always been best friends.

In my eyes, she was beautiful, smart and witty.

She received the same, if not better, grades, but she did not have to try nearly as hard as I did at school.

Once she warmed up to a social situation, her charm attracted all the people.

In my eyes, she was the perfect human.

Even perfect Hayli could not measure up in comparison.

That failure not only felt defeating, but it affected my body physically as well as emotionally.

In high school, my genetically thin stature remained, but I gained a more athletic build with the help of cheerleading, gymnastics, soccer and tennis.

My sister, however, stayed thin without the help of sports.

In terms of body types, I realized she was slender, and I was muscular.

I naturally took that as another defeat.

When I couldn’t control my grades, scholarships or social situations, the one thing I could control was food.

I was really ignorant about not eating.

Because I didn’t want my friends to question my lack of eating, I would get something small during lunch time.

I'd get a salad so I could at least make look like I touched it.

I'd get a giant cookie for dessert and lie to my friends that I would just eat at home, but I'd actually stay at school to work on yearbook stuff.

With my family, my disordered relationship with food was more difficult to hide.

We typically ate dinner as a family, all around the dinner table.

By senior year, however, my sister was away at college, and I was busy trying to be a perfectionist with all of my activities.

Family dinners became more and more sparse.

When they happened, however, I was able to push food around or hide pieces in my napkin, priding myself on the fact I was clever enough to get away with it.

I wish I could say there was some dramatic change that caused me to stop caring about controlling my food intake or how others perceived me.

Instead, when I went to college, the problem had to get worse before it got better.

Remember how college academics are so much harder than high school?

I wasn’t used to receiving average grades or not being the hardest worker in my class.

So, entire meals would get skipped because eating would be the only action I could control that day.

About a month into college, I began to pick up more of a social life.

I made friends with the girl next door.

I joined Cru, which taught me more about self-respect and giving up control to God than I had truly ever believed.

In return, my spirits were lifted, my grades and extracurriculars improved and I gained the freshman 15.

But, I didn’t care about the freshman 15.

Though I had not withered away with my disordered eating habits, my issue was never about how I looked or if I caught a second glance from a guy.

It was because I wanted to control at least one thing in the day.

And if that thing had to be my meal, then goodbye French fries.

Now I know perfect Hayli doesn’t — and can’t — exist.

I am not supposed to control everything.

My relationship with Jesus has always been the first priority in my life.

I thought being perfect would make me more worthy of His attention, but that is the opposite of what the gospel preaches.

Instead, I have learned that I am perfect in my imperfections because He loves those as well.

Even though the temptation to skip meals sometimes persists, I now know I am not meant to be perfect, and I cannot be perfect.

And missing out on good pizza won’t make me more perfect or let me have more control.