It's Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Here's My Story

It's Eating Disorders Awareness I thought this was an appropriate time to talk about this. The fact that I had an eating disorder and refused to really acknowledge it until after I recovered. Even now, years later, I feel uncomfortable typing these words.

I don’t really know how to start this post because I never elaborated on this before. I never wanted to tell anyone because I was afraid I would be accused of wanting attention, as every girl is when she expresses herself. I never got proper help on this so I don’t know if even should be saying anything because, well, what the hell do I know? 

Then I saw a tweet by Tavi Gevinson that changed my mind. It stated: “If you’re digging and you hit something that makes you feel embarrassed, you’re probably hitting a good vein.”

That’s the thing. I never talked about my eating disorder because I was embarrassed. I was trying to make a name for myself and I didn’t want this plague of insecurity to define me. What would people think? How would they treat me? 

But stories are important and they’re meant to be told. If I can help someone out there, then I must write about it. I can’t take this to the grave.

I had an eating disorder for years and I was in denial. It all started with counting my calories. Although I was just 120 pound girl in high school, I wanted to be skinnier. I wanted cheekbones and a flat stomach. I wanted to look like the girls I saw on thinspo blogs. Looking back, I know how disgustingly sad it was, but at the time? No, all I wanted was to erase every centimeter of fat on my body until I saw nothing but skin and bone.

I thought it was normal for a girl to want to be skinny and pretty. That’s how we gain acceptance, right? That’s how we know how much we’re worth, right? As Daisy Buchanan said in The Great Gatsby, ‘the best thing a girl can be in this world is a beautiful little fool,’ right? Nope, nope and nope. I was so wrong. 

When it comes down to it, we are a diet-obsessed society. Whether ‘diet’ means health, losing weight, a change of lifestyle or binge-eating fast food everyday, a great part of our life revolves around what we eat and how it affects us. The latest diet fads take up most of our advertising. Almost all restaurants list their calories on the menu now. Every magazine and blog is always raving about the latest fat-burning superfood. And, of course, celebrities are endorsing waist trainers and skinny teas all over instagram. 

Therefore, when someone skips a meal or starts dieting, we don’t even think for a second something is wrong with them. We don’t even bat an eyelash. Maybe that’s why I thought I was normal. Maybe that’s why it took me so long to get help and recover. No one saw me as a girl with an eating disorder, so why would I see myself that way? I was just a girl who just so happened to care about her body and her health a lot. Or so I thought.

As a millennial, I feel I was exposed to eating disorders a lot growing up. From TV shows, to my favorite childhood stars coming out with their story, to health class telling us what not to do. But the way they portrayed eating disorders was so extreme. It was either a grown woman who weighed 60 pounds and took 15 laxatives a day without eating, or a grown man who ate McDonalds for every meal and somehow managed to weigh 900 pounds. 

That’s not always the case. You can be an average weight (or any weight for that matter) and still suffer from an eating disorder. I saw my behavior as normal, so I didn’t get the necessary help for my problem. I fell deeper and deeper into this disease which made recovery a lot more complicated than it needed to be. 

Everyday at lunch, I was either not eating at all or eating very little. It started off as half of a sandwich with pretzels and hummus. Then I was eating nothing but a small cup of blueberries and diet coke. Sometimes I wouldn’t eat at all. Then sometimes turned into most of the time.

Anytime I gave into hunger, I kicked myself. I would lay in bed all day avoiding food and praying my stomach would get flatter. I would start planning my meals and calories. I still have some in my notes from 2012.

A typical day of food for me:

breakfast: green tea
lunch: banana and apple slices!
dinner: one piece of pita bread

Can’t forget my passive aggressive notes to myself:
you woke up and ate brownies and chips. now you feel fat, depressed, and like a failure. today, don’t do anything but drown in your own sorrows of fat and worthlessness. don’t eat for the rest of the day.

Why in the world did I think that was acceptable behavior? I was hungry for the metaphorical applause I would get every time someone would say “You’re so tiny! Did you lose weight? Your waist is perfect.” I still remember how happy I felt when people praised how perfect my body was. 

In those moments, I thought Kate Moss was right. Maybe nothing really did taste as good as skinny felt. (years later, I can assure you that is totally wrong. Mexican food is better than forcing yourself to be a size zero.)

The timeline is debateable, but I had this eating disorder for approximately 2 years and didn’t really acknowledge it until now. I never was officially diagnosed with anorexia, and I think you need to have a certain BMI to be diagnosed anyways, but the flawed BMI system never stopped me from realizing my habits were terribly unhealthy and life-consuming.

I spent more time counting calories than actually paying attention in algebra. I spent more time going to the gym trying to get a flat stomach instead of actually going out with my friends. I spent more time staring in the mirror every night waiting to see results than I did working towards my goals of career and college. Youth should not be wasted on something so irrelevant.

I think the thing that bothers me the most is how no one really noticed or tried to help. What about the kids I sat with at lunch that saw my lunches get smaller until they disappeared into nothing? What about my friends that heard my rude fat-shaming and weight-obsessed comments? Or perhaps those around me that saw me avoiding dinner and making major changes in my diet? Not even everyone I went to school and worked with who saw me lose weight. I was never even remotely overweight, yet I dropped 25 pounds. That’s hard to do at 120 pounds! With all of that, no one showed their concern. People gave me more attention because I was skinnier, which only made me want to keep going. 

I’m not blaming anyone specifically for what happened; I’m blaming the diet-obsessed society that sees my past behavior as normal and even inspiring. 

I rapidly dropped to 95 pounds and was starving myself until I snapped. I knew I needed to change my habits. I couldn’t live like this anymore. Like I stated before, I was wasting my youth. How is that normal?

I now can proudly say I can eat thousands of calories without shame. It took time for me to adapt to this healthy yet normal lifestyle again, but it’s definitely possible. I did it. Little by little, day by day. I don't even bat an eyelash anymore. Recovery is possible.

Although everyone recovers differently, I’m kind of glad I did it on my own. I didn’t really journal much about it. I didn’t make a my_recovery_xo instagram account to track my journey. I didn’t see a therapist and I didn’t talk out my issues with everyone I knew.

Personally, it made my recovery a lot easier. I got to take my time and let it occur naturally and gradually. I didn’t have anyone to impress. It was my journey and I got to live it out as long as I needed to without any pressure from my peers.

Just because your eating behaviors aren’t extreme, doesn’t mean they are normal. 

You shouldn’t feel like killing yourself after eating a donut. You shouldn’t kick yourself over not exercising constantly. You shouldn’t think about your diet more than your actual life. And before you doubt yourself, know that there are thousands of other people out there that have dealt with an eating disorder and successfully recovered. There's hope for everybody.

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