When Your Stress Outlet and Anxiety Collide

What do you do when something you’re passionate about, and is a major outlet for stress, also becomes your worst enemy? Almost like a “frenemy,” or that girl in your life who you kinda love but kinda hate at the same time? Like you let her borrow your shirt but don’t want her to look better than you when wearing it?

Yeah, this is kind of how I am feeling right now.  

So here I am, talking about it in hopes that my rant will help me come to a conclusion. I have already been taking strides to release this anxiety, but I know that it will be a roller coaster ride throughout the process. 

First off, since high school I have struggled with disordered eating. This is something I am pretty open about, as I am not ashamed of this. So many girls, especially in college, and especially with the impact of social media, have eating disorders. It is something that has definitely gotten better throughout my years in college, but can bring me down every now and then. I can go more in detail about this in another post, but there have been two major breakthroughs I have made that have helped me recover from this eating disorder behavior:

1. Stop investing so much time in social media, which ultimately makes you compare yourself to others. 

2. Balance. Balance all types of food into my diet, and stop saying “no” to certain foods. 

Both of these have helped immensely with my restricted eating. I no longer worry about calories (most of the time), and I am not comparing myself to other girls as much. Obviously there are days where this is worse but most of the time I can overcome the invasive thoughts. 

I began my cooking Instagram and blog over one year ago, in hopes of destroying my food rules by cooking my own meals and taking pretty pictures to share with others. For the most part, this did not affect my self-confidence or self-esteem. It was the first time I had my very own kitchen in an apartment, so I was mostly just experimenting with the freedom of going to the grocery store and cooking whatever I wanted. I didn’t really understand what was “trendy” in the food community or what the hottest new item was at Whole Foods. 

It was much later when I began following more people, and discovering the “story” feature of Instagram when the downfall began. It became an obsession- every night I would devote 30 minutes before bedtime to tap through of the stories of all of the most well-known foodies on Insta. It was not much later that I found myself feeling bad about how little I worked out compared to them, how much lower my energy I felt, and how all of my food was not completely “clean,” “organic,” or cost three trillion dollars at Whole Foods. 

 

During this process, I began learning what all of their diets consisted of- some are paleo, some are vegan, some hate gluten, some hate dairy, etc. etc. It made me think about everything I was eating and if it was the “right” way to eat or the “most perfect” way to eat. 

Now, I am a perfectionist at heart, so that is why food became an obsession as well. I started cutting out foods again- but was using gastrointestinal issues as my excuse. Don’t get me wrong, I do struggle with moderate lactose-intolerance as well as IBS; however, this does not permit me (I am not a medical professional) to put myself on an elimination diet. But of course, that is exactly what I did. 

I first began with eggs, and then dairy, thinking these were the culprits to my bloating, weight gain, and digestive issues. When I found out those did not work, I switched to gluten and grains. “Maybe I have Celiac Disease! Maybe I’m gluten intolerant!” Worth a shot, right? WRONG. I’ll tell you why. 

Going on these elimination diets without the advice or encouragement of a medical professional is EXTREMELY damaging to your digestive system and the gut-brain connection. I soon found this out as I went through a cascade of different health issues during this time- chest pain, headaches, fatigue, lethargy, skin issues, etc. 

It was about a month ago I realized I have been looking at food the wrong way the whole time. Even though I consider myself recovered from disordered eating, I was still treating food like it was a chore. I began listening to nutrition podcasts and became really passionate about intuitive eating. Since then, many of my health issues have passed, and my mind has been at ease. 

It was also taking breaks from looking at Instagram that has helped immensely with this process. Don’t get me wrong, I still love to post almost every single day and scroll through people’s meal ideas. But I have gotten better about comparing myself or thinking I need to copy someone else’s “diet.” 

This will continue to be a process, but I am absolutely making strides. I have found other hobbies separate from cooking that take me out of the kitchen, and find that it is important to remember that a healthy lifestyle isn’t all about what you eat! This includes yoga, meditation, social relationships, and the list goes on. Instagram can still be a source of anxiety for me, but I feel like it isn’t as much of an impediment on my mental health as much.

So maybe I’ll give that shirt to my “frenemy” and instead of envying her, I will compliment her and make her feel good. After all, I should feel good about how I look in it equally as much. Support is important. Instagram can be an extremely rewarding and supportive community, and I am honoring the good aspects with the bad. Life is all about balance, isn’t it?

Katelyn Wilensky