This guest column is written by Kendra Mittermeyer, administrative assistant at DailyBurn. Follow along on her journey towards health, wellness, self-improvement and the perfect push-up. (If you missed the start of the series, catch the beginning here, and her new motivation for healthy living here.
When I was a senior in college I did just about the stupidest thing on the planet. I crash dieted.
My boyfriend’s fraternity was having a fancy end of year ball and I was dead set on impressing the lot of them. I was going to be a stunning, svelte partygoer if it killed me. It very nearly could have.
With three weeks to go before the dance I decided I could undo four years of social insecurities and unhealthy habits. Can you do the math?
Being a good college student, the first thing I did was research! Lo and behold the Internet has a host of horrifying ideas and tips for weight loss.
I read somewhere online that if you had carrots, celery and a protein shake before every meal you could drop major pounds fast. The idea was once you got through all that you’d basically be full and not eat much after. For every meal.
So I bought some super cheap, chemical-y “protein powder” and bushels of the prescribed vegetables and went to town. This was all I ate for the better part of a month. It was so bad. Towards the end I could barely swallow the carrot sticks. I took to half masticating them and then chugging water until they went down. Uber glamorous, eh? And more than that super smart.
Of course, my mania didn’t stop there. I was also working out an hour to two hours a day. I was YouTube-ing every workout video I could find, and logging a minimum of 45 minutes a day on the school’s elliptical machines. I didn’t take breaks; I didn’t think I deserved them. I had a matter of days to enact change and absolutely no sense of how to do any of it in a healthy manner. The truth is, I was furious with myself and thought an aggressive attack was warranted. I also thought it would work.
Please keep in mind I was a double major as well as an active member of the campus theatre department. I was already under-slept and overcommitted. Now I was just running on fumes, frustration and nutritional crap, which I would then attempt to systematically burn off.
None of it was sustainable of course — that never even entered my mind. The whole idea was to fit into a dress. A beautiful blue and black lace dress I had spent every penny on months prior. I bought the lofty dress several sizes too small under the delusion that something hanging in my closet could spur a long-term lifestyle change. It did not of course. In the short-term however, it did cause me to completely lose track of my self-worth and sanity!
I don’t really remember the last few weeks of college. I’m not sure I had headspace to truly embrace the projects I cared about or the friendships that were clearly about to transition come graduation. I do have vague memories of gnawing hunger, of dreams haunted by bowls of spaghetti and of general crankiness — what a stupendous farewell to my college life! (OK it is possible some of the fuzziness on the memory recall has to do with time passing. Maybe.)
I also remember that foul, false sense of control and empowerment.
I think the worst part, looking back, is realizing how much I must have hated myself, how mean I was to me. That’s not empowerment — that’s gross misconduct with my mind, body and soul!
In true afterschool special form, all the crazy behavior did not in fact “pay off.” I did not magically fit into the illustrious dress on the big day. I could almost hear the dad from 7th Heaven telling me how risky and ridiculous my choices had been, as I stood makeup and hair done in a dress that was just not zipping up.
What to do? The solution was unbelievably simple. I borrowed a dress from a friend and went off to have a fabulous night. I’m glad for that much, that once the ludicrous dream was crushed, I let it go. I couldn’t argue with the zipper, and I couldn’t turn back the clock. (My foolish attempt had at least made that much clear.)
I wasted so much time assaulting my body with brutal expectations, I’m glad once they shattered I didn’t waste anymore of it. It turned out to be a terrific night, focused on all the right stuff: friends and fun.
I probably gained back all the weight I had lost during my break from sanity in a matter of hours, and then some. The pictures taken mere days after relaxing my regime are just mindboggling. I swear it looks like I had an allergic reaction of cartoonish proportions. But I also look happy. I’m enjoying the end of school festivities. I can’t claim I was super healthy after this episode, I clearly still had issues of balance and self-esteem to sort out, but I’m glad to know I’ll never again allow vanity or self-loathing to pull me that far off balance.
You know I’ve still yet to wear that dress? It’s been years. If clothing could feel, imagine the poetic inferiority complex I’ve inflicted on that poor innocent garment! Ignored indefinitely? That’s way harsh. Sorry, dress.
I have an event coming up in early November; perhaps it’ll finally get some use then. I would really like that. But I like me and my sanity more. If I’m not there yet living the right way (kind and mindful), there’s always another dress, another day and another chance to not sacrifice my sense of self.