I've always been pretty health-conscious. From the little girl waiting for the rest of the family to finish getting ready so we could gooooo in the car already, I'd be climbing over fences and trees, overdressed in the frilly lacy white dress; always play-fighting with the guys during school recesses; tournament-ing as the undefeated handball queen of school, with a mile long line up of guys who wanted a chance to face-off against me; relishing those gut-burning laps each morning in highschool; working out 3 hours a day, every day in university - the list goes on.
The physical aspect aside, I've always taken eating healthy seriously too. It just always made sense. I was born and raised a vegetarian, so the questions surrounding that eating lifestyle were only second to nature. Plus, I was far far far away from being the sort of child who had money of any kind to spend on anything, nevermind outside foods. I learnt to be healthy and thrifty - partly of choice, party of upbringing, partly of necessity.
I'd never been the kind who'd drop five dollars for a slice of cake, just because the opportunity was there. Nor did I relish the idea of even wasting that money on something so frivolous and unhealthy. It was simply how I was programmed.
Then, my circumstances and lifestyle altered. I had emerged from the cocoon of a student and was now working. I was making my own money - and despite the fact that I had a plan in place to save what I earned in order to pay off my student loans, as well as finance other important medical and home-oriented expenses - I started becoming a spender.
Ah - the feel-good thrill of being able to just take out your card and use it to pay for anything. My first passion was books, and soon I was a regular browser among the bins of books in the department store across where I worked. Then, there were the many clothes sales that one just could not help noticing. And, it was time! I was grown up and I needed to buy my own girly clothes, especially for work! Gone were the days of wearing hand-me-downs, or over-sized clothes bought by my clueless father.
Then came the food. With longer hours spent working, with the exhaustion of working, suddenly those sandwiches brought to work from home didn't seem so appealing. I'd end up taking a walk to the food-court, and one random purchase led to another, and another. I explored all the possibilities of every take-out joint and their menus. Taco Bell, Oriental Express, McDonalds, Tim Hortons, Second Cup, New York Fries, Pizza Hut, Pizza Pizza...the list went on, ...... and on.
Somehow the process of ordering and indulging in such foods seemed to fulfill a lack of something within me. There was my triumph in being able to do this independently, all resentfulness toward the lack of ever being able to fueling the process. There was the therapy in just indulging itself. I couldn't even explain what was going on in my mind - but as I write this now, I can tell you that it was a symptom of something not too healthy in me psychologically.
No; I'm not saying that I was a total psycho-case. But, I was depressed.
This habit wasn't really a total symptom of my depression, I will grant you that. It was just where a whole bunch of circles happened to overlap in the many Venn diagrams of my life. And no, you wouldn't have been able to tell that I was in any state of depression because I still laughed and smiled and conversed normally and was just as hyper and funny as I seemed to be.
I indulged, because it made me feel better, and I felt better because I indulged. The thing is, I was exhausted and while I was really active at work, I rationalized with myself subconsciously, and had stopped attending to my body health-wise. I had stopped working out, and I had started eating out more; on the premise that it made me feel better, and out of some sort of spitefulness within that I really couldn't care less about how healthy I was and I really couldnt care less about whatever was going in my body, because I was lonely and would remain lonely and I didn't give a damn.
The problem was, the sort of food that I was putting into my body was really deranging my mind; more than it already was. More lethargic, more sluggish. Less inclined to feel healthy and therefore to think healthy and feel healthy.
It was a sort of catch-22 of sorts; because I was damned if I did and damned if I didn't. I resented my loneliness, but wanted more. And I wouldn't get that more because I refused to change and get myself out of the bubble. So I ignored all voice of reason, and took pride in my unhealthy ways.
Then my bank balance hit 0.
Yes, you read that right. 0. ZERO. Nada, zit, nilch. $0.000000000000000000000000000000.
How, you might ask, could I let this ever happen? And you have to consider that this was an independent me. I never had relied on being given money from any parental forces. In fact, had never relied on support from any parental forces, or anyone at all. Which was, of course, of considerable significance in regards to why I was depressed at all.
So there I was: Kodak moment. A chubby-cheeked, tubby me. Nice new clothes. Awesomely done (new) makeup. Great bag. Great shoes. Pile of books. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks: all from outside. Bank balance: 0. Oh yeah, and to add insult to injury, don't forget the very unhealthy hair (loss) due to my awesome junk food diet.
Wait, what? I was saving for ..for.. those expenses....wasn't I?
Well perhaps I should have been more honest with myself. In my splurge of 'damned with it all' I didn't even intend to have any sort of future. I didn't care that much.
Maybe I should have. Maybe I should have stepped outside of this self-contained bubble of mine and took a good look at my lifestyle. I thought I had it bad - I didn't even know how much more worse it was going to get.
I'm going to gloss over the really depressing years of depression and homelessness here because yeah, it was bad.
But I learnt the hard way. I sat down, and did a tally of everything I had purchased over the years. And to this day it still shames me. I had always been the kind of person who said that I shouldn't sit in self-pity or self-indulgence because there were so so so many people out there who had it worse. Even at my worse, I acknowledged that I was living in a world of luxury. And there are those who believe that it is simply the way of the world and it isn't our problem that others are in poverty and it isn't our job to try to fix it. Oh, the little (or not so little) things we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel better about our own lifestyle. And sometimes, we only start to care when it happens to ourselves.
Now, I'm as beautiful as ever - not that I wasn't in the midst of my bad phase, but I didn't believe in it. Now I'm almost vain with how I see myself in the mirror, or check out my healthy body. Now I'm beautiful, now I am sexy. I don't need makeup or clothes to make me feel good. And it isn't just the physical aspect: I inside I feel more grounded and fulfilled. And once I started taking the steps toward a healthier me, I started appreciating life more, I started appreciating myself more. And somehow, in taking the step toward loving myself, things just started happening for the good. I embraced my lonleliness, but was proactive about the things I could make better, and then I wasn't alone anymore, I was loved.
Now, I sleep a full 8 hours a day, regularly. Sure there are those nights when I'll stay up longer, but those nights of staying up until the sun comes up are long gone. They weren't healthy. Now, I eat only what I cook or prepare myself. It's healthier, and more tasty, and definitely much less costlier. Why would I want to spend 5 bucks on one meal, when that's 5 bucks that would feed a whole family somewhere else in the world. Nevermind the 5 bucks a meal, but then there are those who spend that much on just a drink; which is why I am not a fan of Starbucks. If you can get a coffee elsewhere cheaper, say, for a dollar, why needlessly spend the extra 4 dollars for refined sugar and corn syrup? To have it then clog up your body and have you spend another fortune on gym equipment or membership, or on medication or surgery or pain relief as you grow older?
Yeah yeah, I know how judgemental and idealistic all this sounds. It's like good grief girl, lighten up! The sun is shining and life goes on. Sure it is, sure it does. But how much you appreciate that sunlight is a direct consequence of how you live your life. Enjoy the little things in life, but consider how much you really need something. We've long time ago recognized what a materialistic world we've become, and this also is another toxic cycle: we rely on materials and less on others; we turn inward and into our new technologies and devices and isolate ourselves; we become lonely, depressed; we turn to our short-term pleasure fulfillers even more. And so on.
Take the step yourself to break free. Do something healthy for yourself. Turn offline. Go for a walk. Grab a fruit. Drink some water. Breathe in, deeply, and remind yourself that you don't need to live today as if a tomorrow is or isn't promised; live today simply for today. Live.