My eating disorder has been my friend for a long time…. A toxic friend. I feel that my eating disorder has kept me company on days where I felt lonely, sad, or uncomfortable in my own skin. My disorder, right next to me, tells me I should restrict, starve, and fast because that will be a comfort. And it does provide a familiar comfort. When I feel hunger, it feels good, almost like a high. That’s the best way I could explain it. Yes, I neglect my body from receiving nutrients, energy, and hydration. That’s why the disorder is so toxic. Why would I restrict my body from obtaining nutrients that will help me thrive? Well, because of the fear of weight gain. My disorder that was keeping me company was also slowly trying to kill me. It caused me to be so sick but, yet I felt so much reward and accomplishment by losing weight and starving myself. In my mind, losing weight equaled success.
Messed up? Yes, definitely to those who do not struggle with an eating disorder but, to those who have normalized disordered eating, it is common. Not eating for over a day, purging, measuring every bit of food down to that last almond or half of a peanut, was normal and acceptable in my mind. How did this happen? In my case, I had some determining factors as to why my disordered eating fell into Anorexia Nervosa.
Eating disorders are commonly seen in athletes such as: runners, dancers, gymnasts, figure skaters, westerlers, etc . For me, my risk factors were that I was a figure skater, a distance runner, rigid in my routine and schedule, who has anxiety, depression, and good ole obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
I remember being as young as nine years old when I first wore baggy clothes to hide my body from people seeing my body. As I got older, progressed throughout my sports, my schedule got busier, the pressure of growing up, and the need for success, disordered eating turned into an eating disorder. I remember going for a thirteen mile run after a full day of school, because I ate “too much” at lunch. Why did I think it was “too much”? Well, at the time I was vegan, and vegetables have a lot of bulk with little energy to them. Lot’s of nutrition but, caloric wise, too little to fuel for an active female. So, my meal looked bigger, and it sent me into a spiraling mode. It was literally vegetables and quinoa. Another day, I ran eight miles, bike three miles, lifted weights, and went to a ninety minute hot yoga session all on an empty stomach and appetite suppressants. I don’t know how my body did so well under the circumstances it was under.
Quietly, my body was yelling at me to eat. When I was hungry, it was a pain that did in fact feel that my stomach was trying to eat itself. I lost my period, my body telling me that I could not carry a baby if I wanted to. I had small fine hair all over my body known as lanugo, my body growing extra hair to keep me warm. My bloodwork came back stating that I was most definitely anemic. I had cystic acne and I felt weak. I was only floating through life, no sense of the present moment or experiencing it. These were clues stating that I needed help because my body was in survival mode.
I have this fear that since I am known to be in recovery from anorexia, that my disorder will be forgotten. I perhaps fear the expectation of being “completely” healed. I still have triggers, I still have days that I don’t eat three meals and snacks, and I still have days that I avoid the mirror. As many of us have heard, recovery is not linear. I for sure have learned that due to experiencing the good and bad days. On good days, recovery seems so easy, it’s the bad days that make recovery feel near impossible. But bad days aren't bad! It is only part of the recovery process!! And the hard days are truly the hurdles of recovery that make you stronger. Looking back at only a short time ago, I was very sick mentally and physically. Now I am on track with recovery! That doesn’t mean I am “all better” but, rather I am taking in much better nutrition, not using exercise as punishment, and learning more about myself and what I want out of life. I still have days where I am very particular in the way my food has been processed, handled, and prepared. I still have days where I want to restrict myself because I look into the mirror and see a distorted image staring back.
This is why choosing recovery was one of the best decisions I have ever made. To learn that I am worthy of love and appreciation. That I matter to my friends and family and community. That I have so much to look forward to in my future and to simply enjoy the little moments that life has to offer. That food is fuel and is so delicious. That my body is my soul’s home. So don’t let your eating disorder bully you! Choose recovery because my goodness it is rewarding.