I have always been a firm believer that eating disorders are a two-part disease; the unhealthy relationship one has with food, and the “self-loathing piece” (the cognitive stuff). Both parts are a battle.
Trying to Control the Uncontrollable
My story dates back to middle school; I was in a stressful home environment and began restricting and purging as a source of control. Looking back, I never took issue with my body or the way that it looked, however I was desperately looking for stability and knew the only way to get my needs met was to take control of something. Unfortunately for me, that was my food intake.
I started restricting my calories, skipping lunch when I was at school and lying about being “too full” to eat dinner. I realized that what started as a need for control was spiraling very much out of control.
My unhealthy relationship with food continued for years. One day I woke up and realized that I was a skeleton of myself. I had always been a small girl (I was an athlete) but I no longer looked strong, I looked emaciated. People started to take notice and it went from bad to worse.
He Called My Mom
My soccer coach brought me in for a sit-down after someone went to him with concern about my increasingly smaller frame. I don’t think he realized how deep in the disease I was, however somewhere in my soul, I knew how far down the rabbit hole I had fallen. He got the same excuses I gave to everyone else… “I eat, I’m just naturally thin,” or “I’m a dancer, it’s hard to put on weight;” I’m not sure he believed me, but he gave me a chance to turn things around.
I kept a food diary and was weighed once a week to check my progress…can you guess what happened next? I failed miserably. I lied on my food diary everyday but somehow managed to maintain my weight for the first few weeks; unfortunately, that didn’t last long. One week after reporting that I had spaghetti, fried chicken and nachos (I didn’t think that through), I had a 5-7lb drop in my weight and he lost it. His face was full of terror and disappointment and a small blowup ensued; I knew in that moment that things were about to get really uncomfortable.
He brought me back into his office and told me that he was going to call my mom, I begged him not to – but he did it anyway (thankfully). He was scared; at the time, he was fresh out of college and didn’t appear to have any experience with something like this (but who does?). In all honesty, I wasn’t angry at the way things happened and I wasn’t angry with him for calling my mom; I guess I knew deep down that it was the right thing to do. If I were in his shoes, I would have done the same thing.
The Initial Talk About My Eating Disorder
I came home prepared to head to dance class as if nothing had happened; however, my mom quickly swooped in and told me to have a seat. Dance class was clearly off the table. My heart sank to my stomach and was beating a million miles a minute; I knew that she knew, and I wasn’t ready for the inevitable conversation we were about to have.
We talked, there were tears, it was painful, and we decided that I needed to get some help. They thought keeping a closer eye on me would be sufficient, it wasn’t. I ate just enough to gain and maintain about ten extra pounds but was throwing most of my meals up when no one was looking.
I vividly remember my best friend telling me that I looked emaciated and gross, but I didn’t care. My sneaky and unhealthy behaviors (weighing lettuce, chewing food and then spitting it out, etc.) continued for a couple of years before I had to take the next step and really get myself together.
The disease that I brought into my life to ensure control and stability had betrayed me; it turned me into a person that was very out of control and vehemently hated their body. I would give anything to go back in time and tell twelve-year-old me that it isn’t worth it. I feel so sad for my friends and family that had to see me that way, it’s certainly no way to live.
My Life Now
Fast forward eighteen years later and I’m still trying to figure it all out. There are times when my disease is relatively quiet, and then there are times when it’s extremely loud. The last few years have been much louder than I would like, but I suppose it’s all a part of the process.
My motto has always been “progress not perfection”, and I can tell you that progress has definitely taken place. There are days when I wish that I was further along in my recovery, but I guess I should count myself lucky to have experienced recovery at all. Not all eating disorders look the same; they don’t only affect women, and they don’t have to destroy you for the rest of your life.
Through countless hours of self-exploration and loads of therapy, I know recovery is possible. It’s not easy and it’s certainly not as straightforward as I would like; there are days when I feel like I might not ever get there, but I choose to believe that it gets better; at some point, all of this hard work will pay off. I’ll be honest, some days eating disorders really gets the best of me; however, in those times of despair, I try to show myself the grace I deserve.
Recovery isn’t a straight shot and it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. So for now, I will take the progress I’ve made, hold on tight, and use that to push my recovery even further!
Please Ask for Help with Eating Disorders
It is not shameful to be struggling with eating disorders. Please reach out for help if you, or someone you know, may need it. There are trained therapists and medical professionals to help cope with eating disorders.