Becka Wall – @beckawall

During the first Presidential Debate, Hillary Clinton talked at length about Donald Trump’s misogyny and sexism, highlighting his mistreatment of 1997 Miss Universe Alicia Machado. Machado won the “Miss Universe” title while weighing about 120 pounds. She had bulimia and anorexia, and suffered from an eating disorder. Once she sought treatment, she gained some healthier eating habits, along with some weight. About 50 pounds, to be exact.

Donald Trump, who owned the Miss Universe pageant at the time, called her “Miss Piggy,” “Miss Housekeeping” (get it, since she was Latina? UGH) and an “eating machine” in the media. He gave interviews talking about her eating habits, and invited the media to watch her at the gym, where he made her work out with a personal trainer.

Reading all the news coverage and watching the viral videos, I started getting a weird, queasy feeling as I realized: Alicia Machado and I lived parallel lives. Except, you know, without the Miss Universe thing on my end.

“I remember being proud you could see every bone in my neck and collarbone, and that I had only eaten 200 calories for breakfast that day and had woken up super early to work out for 90 minutes.”

About three years ago, I was diagnosed with an EDNOD – Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Diagnosed. I didn’t have bulimia and anorexia, which most people have an understanding of from pop culture. What I had was a little different.

In 2011, I weighed quite a lot more than I do now. Beyond that, I had very unhealthy habits – I never exercised, I ate terrible food and refused to try anything new or remotely healthy. A switch went off in my head one day, and I decided it was time for a change. Having been burnt by numerous diets and routines,food journals and point counting programs, I tried to do something simple and easy – counting calories.

At first, everything was fine. I was losing weight at a healthy pace, working out regularly and eating back calories I expended from exercise. A year later, I took a turn for the worse.

I started working out for at least an hour and a half every day, including weekends. I stopped eating back calories. I started counting every single calorie – every stick of gum, each individual jellybean, each breath mint. I blew past my first goal weight, then my second, then I was making up new, incredibly low goal weights just to see if I could reach them.

In April 2013, I realized I had a problem when a nutritionist asked me to eat at least 1,600 calories per day and I had a panic attack on her couch. I was afraid to eat more. When I tried, I started doing jumping jacks to burn off the one cube of cheese I had just nibbled on.

Me at my thinnest during a family vacation to India.

So, I got help. I went to a nutritionist and a therapist, who work together with people who face issues with food, body image and weight. I saw them once a week, sometimes calling them on weekends when I was at brunch and afraid to order the pancakes (this was a dark moment in my life. I WAS AFRAID OF PANCAKES, WHICH ARE THE BEST BREAKFAST FOOD IN THE WORLD).

They talked me through it. They taught me every food has its merits – carbohydrates give you immediate energy boosts. Steak is packed with iron. Peanut butter has healthy fats, protein and fiber. Slowly, I stopped planning out each day like crazy. I started learning to go with the flow. To eat the foods I craved, and to listen to my body – Eat what you’re in the mood for when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re full.

When I sought treatment, I weighed about the same as Alicia Machado did when she won Miss Universe- 120. When I was done, my body and Alicia Machado’s settled at similar healthy weights.

I know how hard that recovery is. I sacrificed so much in my life to get better.

Enjoying a few treats at my current healthy weight.

I may weigh more now, but I am strong. I run in a 10k every year, always working to beat my time. I eat healthy, and I enjoy my life. I try new foods, and I’m not afraid to order my favorite indulgences off the menu anymore because I trust my body to stop eating when it’s full and to crave something healthier for one of my next few meals.

To imagine adding, not only the public pressure of being Miss Universe, but to have Donald Trump telling people I was an “eating machine” who lost control would have unraveled me. I would never have made the progress I have in accepting my body. Things could have gotten much, much worse.

Donald Trump is an asshole, and we can’t change that. But here’s what we can change: whether or not he becomes president. Make sure you’re registered to vote.