When Ashleigh Met Brittany

I once thought of food as a treat. I thought of food as the place to escape after a long day, and I still see that many people do. However, when I was growing up, that idea was almost taught. Not intentionally, but my parents would feed me for a reward, feed me if I was sad, feed me if I was mad (we would talk and vent while breaking bread). I became as equally lost inside of the idea of food, as I did of the substance of food. I was a lost child in the habit of food because that’s the only habit I have know my whole life.

I see now that girls say that they just go home and binge. Or if this sounds too structured and makes it seem like a disease rather than just a mindset that can be changed then I offer the thousands of printed t-shirts that say “fries over guys” and “donuts all day”.

I’m not saying that this is an awful mindset. I’m not saying I wouldn’t wear that type of shirt because I totally would. I’m simply saying that that’s the mindset I feel like no one else was in except me.

I was extremely alienated when I ate with friends because my friends were kindly skinny, or only had a little extra flesh, whereas by 9th grade I had already hit the 200 pound range and didn’t know what to do about it besides complain and blame.

I had a close friend when I was young. Her name was Carol and she had Polio when she was young. She landed in a wheelchair and then built herself up daily reminding herself how incredible she was, regardless if she could walk or not. Carol lived down the street and she paid me, a young possibly only around 8 or 9 year old girl, to help her clean her house and dance around to the latest Jams on the radio. She had the biggest sound system I’ve ever seen and she was so goofy. I remember thinking I was grateful for her. And I remember thinking that was one of the most adult thoughts I had ever had, gratitude.

She moved away when I was nearing 6th or 7th grade. She had me over a couple of times after to enjoy dinner with her and just be her company. I told her one day how I was feeling. How I felt isolated when my friends and I went shopping for clothes because I had to go to different stores than my friends. I couldn’t fit into anything from the normal stores, Hollister and Aero and all of those pre-teen brands, and I held her kitchen counter and looked down at her because I was finally taller than her, even with the help of her wheelchair, and I just cried and cried about the fact that I was so different and couldn’t “fit” into anything.

That’s around the time that I realized I had choices. Choices to break habits, choices to not get seconds, choices to walk for thirty minutes a day, choices to learn what it felt like to pick up a free-weight and not be scared of dropping it.

But I was still too young to really “get it”.

I could tell you all about the bullies in 9th grade that I cried over because they were once my friends. I could tell you about how I still pray for them every night and thank God that I gave them forgiveness before they even asked. I could tell you that I felt like every boyfriend I had could have had better, if not a boyfriend than even just guys I was talking to. I could tell you that every friend I’ve ever had I’ve never even tried to compare myself to because I always thought that every other girl was prettier than me. But instead I’ll tell you this, I met my best friend, Brittany, and she changed my life.

She changed my life delicately throughout the first two years I knew her. She still changes my life daily; I still see her effects on me daily by my way of words and my ‘instant forgiveness’ as she calls it. But that first year she changed my mind about food.

Food was a treat. I would eat for any reason, as most of the youth do, and I loved doing it. I loved cheese, tortilla chips, and heavily salted meats. Brittany is a vegetarian that was cutting cheese out of most of her meals, loved tortilla chips but chose to stay away from them, and she obviously didn’t eat meat (hence the veggie in a vegetarian). Before I met her, I didn’t really understand vegetarianism. I didn’t understand that a body could survive completely off of vegetables and healthy fats. Cutting meat out didn’t look hard for her at all.

I won’t go into extensive detail because its her business and this is my blog, but she had problems with food, too. The difference is that she only keeps a certain amount of the food around her tummy, which doesn’t make her look “bad” in the way that I felt like I looked “bad” because the extra food and caloric intake stayed around my whole body. Her momma taught me like my momma did: eat, eat whatever you want.

But she chose differently. Once she began to learn about the food industry, organic foods, the meat industry, the lack of cleanliness in it all, she chose differently.

She helped me choose differently after I encountered an awful case of stomach ulcers. She helped me put together a diet that was going to show exactly (take it or leave it) which foods were bogging me down and giving me a tummy ache.

That diet worked better than the pills that my doctor gave me. My doctor wrote me a prescription for a two years’ supply of Prevacid and told me to be on my way, call her if I felt like something ruptured.

That’s modern medicine. That’s Western. That’s American.

Britt gave me the ideals of a monumental new wave of thoughts and dietary intake: Eastern. Its only new because America hasn’t grabbed ahold of it yet. The East was built on this stuff. And I saw my body begin to flow correctly. I was having regular bowel movements. I was feeling lighter. I didn’t have acid every morning. I didn’t have as bad as breath as I used to. I could breathe better. I wasn’t catching near as many colds.

In fact, since I’ve met Brittany and became more mindful about what I’m putting into my mouth, I have caught possibly four or five colds. All from when I would be around someone that was extremely ill.

I used to get sick every couple of months or come down with a fever as the seasons changed from severely hot to severely cold.

This morning I have another of those adult thoughts. I’m thankful for my momma. I don’t blame her or my father for the habits. They were taught the same and they taught what they knew. I have gratitude that I had food. I have gratitude for Carol and her ear and her support of a small child that was made even smaller through her tears and bad feelings. I have gratitude for bullies, freshman year, boyfriends and best friends that were all beautiful in their own way. I have gratitude for Brittany Ann that came into my life as the Universe asked her to (and I love that we fell into a friendship and there was no choice, it just ‘was’).

Finally, I tell myself that I am grateful for myself for being the strong-willed individual that I am. I am grateful that I was blessed enough with a demeanor that tells me I can even when the thoughts appear that I can’t. I am grateful that I have a choice to eat what I want, but choose to eat correctly. I am grateful that I am now a 160 – 165 pound individual that doesn’t care about the number anymore, or even how I look, but I care about my mind, I care about my body, I care about my heart and soul being nourished to the highest degree.

I am. I am. I am.

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