Ever since I learned to love reading, I've always found nutritional food labels fascinating.
Little did I know, this fascination can be dangerous if it's turned into obsession.
At the early age of 14, I picked up the hobby of scanning the nutrition facts section of every food product that piqued my interest like it was my only damn business.
I scrutinized every detail of them all. I focused solely on the caloric content.
Ninety calories was OK, but anything more than 120 was just too much.
That meant my once favorite snacks no longer made it to our cart of groceries. They were replaced by bland packaged goods I pretended to like.
Along with this newly discovered activity were other things I had trained myself to do.
I reduced my carbohydrate intake. I drank a big glass of water before every meal to prevent myself from eating too much. I refused to eat dessert.
Once I mastered the art of shrinking myself, people no longer saw the person I was before.
Every single change I made then really did help me lose weight.
I lost a lot of weight, for that matter.
In fact, I even needed to have all my uniforms altered because they no longer fit me.
People praised me.
My God, did they praise me.
They all wanted to know how I did it.
But every time they asked me these questions, I just shrugged. I told them it was no big deal.
In reality, I wanted to scream at all of them and tell them the truth.
I let them get the best of me.
I chose to change my ways because I saw the way they looked at me.
I was asked a couple of times what my secret was, but I doubt they really wanted to know.
I'm sure they were already aware of it. I starved myself to get the results I was strutting for their eyes to see.
If they really wanted to know what my secret was, they’d bother asking me if I was okay.
The truth is, I wasn’t.
For the longest time possible, I was too conscious of every food I had to ingest.
All my meals had to be planned out a day early. I listed every single thing I put in my mouth.
I worried a little too much about something that’s supposed to be basic.
These habits made me anxious and insecure. I began to wonder why people still looked up to me, saying they admired my discipline.
I was the only who noticed that I was starting to disappear.
At the early age of 14, I began to prioritize losing weight like it was my lifeline.
Nine years later, I have yet to revise it.
Yes, I admit it: I’m still struggling with odd eating habits.
I still leave my plates unfinished from time to time.
I still refuse desserts more often than not.
I still have debates at the back of my mind before I take my first bite.
I still have messed up eating habits, and I don’t need people telling me what they think of them.
I'm owning up to the fact that whatever damn opinion you’re going to have has probably crossed my mind a couple of times already.
I understand what you think about me.
But please understand I am trying my best to stop making it seem like my weight defines me as a person.
Because, clearly, people like you have taught me otherwise.
I'm not blaming anyone for the situation I went through (and am still going through).
But I hope this serves as an eye-opener to each and every single one of us.
We have to be careful with every word that comes out of our mouths because believe it or not, it’s true what they say: Words cut deeper.
As for those of you currently experiencing this type of condition, I want you to know that it helps to talk to somebody about it.
I’m no expert -- especially considering the way I’ve been fighting to free myself -- but I hope you’re aware that it’s going to be okay.
I don’t know when, but I do know how.
Learn to prioritize your well-being more than the criticisms you’re so afraid to hear.
Let’s take it one step at a time.