For nearly 10 years of my life, food was the enemy to me. I looked at it with fear, with disdain, and even sometimes with terror. During this time, I traveled to countries like Mexico, Croatia, Italy, Ireland, The Netherlands, Uruguay, Brazil, and Argentina. With each country, I would avoid the local delicacies, looking at them as though they were the devil. I had a hunger for travel itself, but because of my eating disorder, I avoided the food from these countries like the plague. My relationship with food actually stopped me from exploring travel to a greater depth, unable to swallow my own demons. Looking back, I wish I could give myself a big hug and tell myself that it would be ok. I wish I could tell myself that food was not the enemy, but it was in fact a place of pleasure, of self-discovery, of relationships, of education, and most of all – of love. But I wasn’t ready yet. I first had to learn from this horrible battle against myself and hopefully emerge from the other end, alive – albeit with scars to tell about it.
I grew up in an Italian family where food was king. My mother was (and still is) a great chef and like most Italian families, dinnertime was a time for the family to share in a home cooked meal together. But as I got older and became a top-ranked track & field athlete, my relationship with food began to change. Just as I expected excellence in my athletic performance, I too expected it in my body. As I entered my Ivy-League university as a Division-1 athlete, my coach started to put pressure on me to lose weight and to look like I did when I was 15, all while expecting me to lift heavy weights, get good grades, and compete at one of the world’s top Ivy League universities. As a Type-A personality, I thought I could do it all. But I began to crack. And the one thing I attempted to gain control with was my food.
In order to please my coaches, I began purging after I ate. And well, it worked – to the untrained eye. My coaches began praising my new physique, telling me that I’ve never looked better, and to “stay at this weight.” My eating disorder consisted of binging and purging, eliminating most of my calories multiple times a day all while keeping up a full academic schedule, two hours of training on the track, and an hour of training in the weight room. I wanted to be the best and if that feat required binging and purging, I accepted that challenge willingly.