Hi everyone! I originally had a really fun post planned for today, but after finding out that it’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week I’ve got something a little different.
I’ve been wanting to publish this for a long time. I’ve had it in the drafts for months, and I truly feel that I’m in a great place now and that I can write this without any old thoughts interfering with what I went through.
I struggled with an eating disorder. I want to share my story in hopes that it will be the spark to someone struggling to make a change to get their life back. I want people to know that you can get better, and that there is so much more to life than what you eat. Without further ado… my story.
I’ve always loved food. I love smelling food, I love eating food, I love thinking about food. Even in elementary school, I’d be the one at parties hovering at the snack table or having another slice of cake and scoop of ice cream. If there was food, it was my main focus. These weren’t even bad thoughts about food yet; it was just my innocent love for food. Everyone has something they like more than others, mine is food.
I stayed active throughout elementary and middle school, always having some kind of sports practice most nights of the week whether it be basketball, softball, or track practice. Any more exercise than that? Nope, which is just fine for a kid. I was happy to get by on as little movement as possible. I just wanted to get back to my Webkinz game.
While my eating wasn’t disordered yet, it was nowhere near healthy. Whole grains and veggies? What were those? For breakfasts I’d have Poptarts or a Danimals smoothie drink. Lunches were a package of mini chocolate cookies, a juice box, and fruit snacks. After school snacks were breadsticks and dinners were plain white pasta or pizza. And let’s not forget about that Cookie’s ‘n’ Creme chocolate bar every day at snack time during 5th grade.
This was my diet, and I didn’t think anything of it.
It’s not my parents’ fault what I ate. I was incredibly picky and refused to eat most of the things they made – a pretty typical kid.
By 5th grade I was feeling self-conscious about myself. I started comparing my body to all of my friends and wondering why I couldn’t have a flat stomach like them. I wasn’t overweight at all but just had a little belly that I couldn’t stand. I felt like everyone that looked at me in a bathing suit thought I was hideous.
Now when I think about it, if I see someone at the beach who doesn’t have a “perfect” body, who cares? I don’t think any different of them. As long as you’re comfortable with yourself and healthy, there is absolutely no problem with what your body looks like.
After being so disgusted with my body I decided to lose weight. I started doing sit ups every night before bed and eating Multigrain Cheerios or Special K for breakfast. I started taking PB&J’s for lunch, a wonderful food totally new to me because I refused to eat them when I was younger.
After a few weeks I started to feel a change and my mom even said I was looking more toned. Yet, I still wasn’t happy. Why can’t I have a perfect stomach? Why can’t I look like my friends? It started to be all I thought about. It’s a hard thing to admit, but when I looked at people all I looked at was if they had a “perfect” body. If they didn’t, I wondered how they seemed to not care. To me, the only thing that mattered was if you had belly fat. It started to become an obsession. I feel so bad admitting that, but it’s the truth. Eating disorders put these terribly misguided thoughts into our minds that we can’t help thinking.
This obsession continued into middle school. It really started to get bad in seventh grade. I felt like everyday was so monotonous. I’d make my way through school, go to whatever sport I had that day, eat dinner, go on the computer, and go to bed. I felt like everyday I had a checklist of things that I had to get through and I wasn’t satisfied until I was home and in bed, preparing for another day of events.
I didn’t have the desire to talk to anyone. I felt like no regular conversation would matter because there wasn’t a point to it; we weren’t talking about anything important. I thought all of the things I did had to be of importance, otherwise what’s the point? I lost contact with my friends because I put no effort into talking to anybody. People thought I was just crabby when really I was so wrapped up in my own distorted world that I couldn’t bring myself to talk to anyone.
I started getting into running the fall of 8th grade. I would run to the track at night after I was done with everything for the day and do laps. I was starting to enjoy running and the feeling it gave me, especially when I got up to 5 miles. I loved the solitude and crisp autumn air and the feeling of the town at night. I was even noticing an improvement in my body image, both mentally and physically. But something was still missing. There was this void that I couldn’t explain. I felt like I was just going through the motions of life and that there was no direction as to what I was doing.
I wasn’t happy. It was the same routine everyday. I barely talked to my friends or did social things aside from what was required. I didn’t know what the point of my life was supposed to be or what I was even doing. When I wasn’t thinking about that, I was thinking about my body or food – this time, not in a good way. I spent so much time thinking about what I would eat next. I was at a point where I had every meal planned three days in advance. If a plan changed and I couldn’t eat at the exact time or exact food I had planned, cue major anxiety. I would eat a meal that I waited hours to eat, and while I was eating that I’d be thinking about what was going to be my next meal.
You hear that eating disorders are a lot about control and that is 100% true. My food was the one thing I could control, and if I didn’t have that, then what did I have? Nothing, to me. Everything I did in my life was revolved around what I ate. I didn’t go to social functions because it didn’t work around my meal. If I was going to a dinner, it would be all I thought about for the days leading up to it. Sure, it’s alright to look forward to a meal, but not in the way I was. It was ALL I thought about. If I was hungry before it was time to go, I couldn’t eat because if I had even a little snack I thought I wouldn’t be hungry for the meal. I would be so lightheaded because I was so hungry, but I had a rule that I couldn’t eat 4 hours before or else I won’t be hungry to eat.
Rules. They’re a huge part of eating disorders. Some of mine were as follows… No eating unless you’ve waited 4 hours. Don’t eat too much during the day or you might not be hungry for dinner. No eating two hours before bed. No more than one refined grain a day. Burn more calories than you eat. There was a day that the only time I sat down was to go to the bathroom. I needed to burn as many calories as possible, and standing burns more than sitting.
Even with these obsessions it still felt like there was a big void in my life. I had slipped into not only an eating disorder but also a depression. I was weak, had constant headaches, and probably was starting to lose bone mass. Even though I wasn’t technically underweight, I didn’t weigh enough to be at my body’s happy place. Still, there was something that drew me to getting smaller. I checked my thigh gap all the time. I could barely run without feeling like I was going to pass out, but I needed to have that feeling of being a twig.
The depression fueled the ED and the ED fueled the depression. I started thinking that every bad thing I ate would go right back to my stomach and that I would be fat. I started worrying about not being hungry for the next meal. I thought I was “special” and that I didn’t need as many calories as the next person, even with how much I exercised. I only felt like I could eat if I ran that day. There were so many misguided thoughts in my mind. I felt like if only I had the perfect body, everything in my life would be fine.
I knew I was battling depression and an eating disorder. I didn’t do anything about it because I didn’t know how my life could ever be normal again. I thought I was going to live the rest of my life in that sad, lonely kind of world. I knew that I could get help by just asking, but I didn’t care to because I refused to help myself.
I didn’t think I had enough of a problem to be worthy of help. I wasn’t anorexic or bulimic, so I didn’t feel like my eating disorder was of enough importance to be treated. I didn’t think my depression was bad enough to require help from a professional. You guys, please understand that NO case isn’t of enough importance. Everyone deserves to be helped no matter how severe they are struggling.
I finally decided that I needed to recover after confiding in my parents. My recovery was a long, LONG road but there isn’t a part of it that I wouldn’t go through again to be fully recovered. My life now is incredible and I do think that it made me a better person by going through those things. I’m still planning on writing a more in depth post about my recovery as there is just so much more to it than a small paragraph right here. I don’t want you to think it was easy. I was stuck in pseudo-recovery for quite a while, but luckily I was able to come out of that.
This all brings me to where I am now. I’m happy. While there are days that I don’t have the best body image, I just think about how lucky I am to have plentiful food and eat nutritiously. I don’t follow a specific diet. I watched Food Inc. over Christmas Break and as much as that makes me never want to eat meat again, I know I couldn’t do that just for a Vegan or Vegetarian label. I know that if I label myself it will bring on eating disorder tendencies and could lead me to a relapse.
The only diet I follow is mine. I know when I eat lots of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables that I feel great, but I’m also not going to give up the small pleasures like Grandma’s Lasagna or a real dessert with sugar every once in awhile. Life is too short to deny yourself some things – mental health is just as important as physical.
While depression and eating disorders are terrible, miserable things to go through, I will be forever grateful that I went through those times in my life. They’ve given me an appreciation for how blessed I truly am. They’ve shown me how incredible my body is and all the amazing things it can do – no matter if I have a “perfect” belly or not. They’ve given me a love for fueling myself with healthy food – with the occasional indulgence. Without going through these things, I would never have started blogging or met all of the wonderful people I now know.
I know this will be here forever. I feel really vulnerable posting this. But it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I’ve overcome depression and an eating disorder and I hope I can help others who might be struggling like I did. I’m telling you: Life is worth it!