As a twenty-something-year-old female, I fortunately or unfortunately consider myself to be a health-conscious individual. In college, I played a division one sport and constantly had to monitor my nutrition and diet in order to be able to perform at a high level. But, like most girls my age, I also became sort of obsessed with food. Growing up, I ate whatever I wanted. My best friend and I would drive home from volleyball practice and stop at a Wendy’s to order double cheeseburgers, fries, chicken nuggets, and Frosty’s as a snack before we ate real dinner at home with our families. When we did think about food, we thought about what we wanted to eat instead of whether or not it was good for us or not.
Everything changed when I started college. I became more and more conscious about what I was consuming. I stopped drinking soda, except for the occasional gin and coke. I stopped eating ice cream every night even though my dad and I had done that since I was little. Words like “treat”, “indulge” and “splurge” made their way into my vocabulary to describe the times I would permit myself to buy a pint of ice cream after a tough exam or a bad date. One semester, I even used an app on my phone to help me count calories. Kale worked it’s way into my life.
College became an experiment, a balancing act, between the eating the “right” things and allowing myself to eat what I really enjoyed. Sometimes, most of the time, I don’t think women my age are very good at the balancing act. We follow the advice of magazines or internet columns and end up eating in a specific way—gluten-free, paleo, more protein less carbs, no protein no carbs, less sugar… you get the gist—for a couple of months, until something triggers an “indulgence”, or in the case of my friends and me, a wine-night with chocolate, cheese, bread, cookies, candy, ice cream, and any other food we had restricted ourselves from eating the past couple of weeks.
After four years of this so-called balancing act, of being so aware of everything I consumed and whether it was good or bad for me, I needed a change. I wanted to go back to when my best friend and I drove through Wendy’s. I wanted to eat a bowl of ice cream with my dad without feeling guilty. After graduating in December, I traveled through Europe for two months and decided this was the opportunity I had been secretly hoping for to free my mind from the constant obstacle course of eating healthy. For the entire month of February, I woke up every morning and explored whatever country I was in to find the best, biggest, chocolatey-est croissant to eat, not considered a “splurge”, guilt-free. I shut off the negative voice in my head and enjoyed every bite of all 28 of my croissants without thinking twice. And I think they tasted better for this reason. Everyone worries about what they eat and how to diet for different reasons. However, I think most of those reasons stem from body-image and appearance. None of the diets I have ever heard of or participated in centered around feeling happy and free. In the month I ate chocolate croissant after chocolate croissant, I received more compliments than I had in the past year. Have you ever heard the idea that people are the most beautiful when they smile? I was carefree and happy, and that made my appearance, my image, beautiful. While I know not everyone can go to Europe and eat chocolate croissants for a month straight, I do think that everyone can give themselves a month to be free. I don’t propose eating fifty pizzas or gaining fifty pounds, because I don’t think that would put a smile on anyone’s face except a football player trying to get drafted. However, a break from the stress of being constantly aware of every item consumed, from the balancing act, is worth some consideration.