[Note: This post may be triggering to those who have or have experienced an eating disorder. Read at your own risk]
Even though NEDA week has technically passed, after seeing others posts and after my own experience with an eating disorder, I feel the urge to do a post of my own. Better late than never, right?
For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, you probably already know of my past struggles with an eating disorder. Except for that awkward puberty phase, I was always really thin growing up but it was never a problem because it was just the way my body was built. Regardless, I don’t remember a time back then when I was happy with the way I looked. I always thought I was fat even though I was far, far from it. I had a good relationship with food for the most part, but not perfect. Growing up, my mom was always on some kind of diet. I guess I just thought it was natural? I have a vivid memory of being about 10 or so and typing out this list of “good” and “bad” foods and how much I could eat a day, etc. But it wasn’t until 11th/12th grade that a real problem developed. I can’t exactly pinpoint where or when or why it began, but began it did. I think it mostly started as many other’s do, as a desire to be “healthy.” I started exercising, cut out red meat and junk food, etc. I gained muscle and lost fat and everyone told me how good I looked, which made me feel GREAT. I looked GOOD. But then, I kept going. Restricting more and more and more. The problem really became a problem when my best friend at the time started regressing into her past eating disorder. Hers started the same way… as a desire to be “healthy” and get into shape for sports. She began to live solely on protein bars and shakes, mostly snack sized. Her tall and athletic frame dwindled to a scary 100 pounds. The ironic thing was that I recognized she had a problem. I fought with her, urged her to just eat, almost destroyed our friendship, all the while ignoring that I had my own struggles. Yes, I did eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But they consisted of exactly 1 serving of low cal cereal, 1/4 cup of nonfat milk, yogurt, Lean Cuisines, and whatever my mom could urge me to eat at dinner. I’ll never forget how dinner was always a daily fight and I can’t even bear to think of the pain my parents must have gone through to watch me slowly kill myself. Eventually, I pretty much stopped eating all together except for a little breakfast and something for dinner to make my parents happy, all the while exercising excessively. My body weight dropped to a dangerous low, I felt awful, I was always cold and cranky, my hair was falling out, and yet I thought I looked GOOD.
Looking at pictures from that time (though there are few) makes me shudder now. How could I do that to myself? I looked sickly and bony and just bad… It’s amazing how much the view of yourself is distorted.
In any case, the tipping point came when I was with my best friend after a basketball game one night. She was changing in the locker room and it was the first time I had seen her like that since she had gotten as bad as she had. And the image of every single bone in her body protruding will haunt me forever. I remember thinking she looked so brittle… that just one small move and she could break in two. It broke my heart. I can’t even put into words how that felt. And then I took a long, hard look at myself and realized I had a problem of my own.
As far as recovery, I’m still not sure how it happened. I never saw a therapist or anything like that. After high school and going our separate ways, both my friend and I began to get our bodies to a healthy point. After years and years, I finally had a healthy relationship with my body and food and I give that credit to running. It gave me something to work for, something to get my body healthy FOR. And I know that without my faith, I would have never got through. So, I became healthy and happy.
At least on the surface.. Mentally, I still struggled with extreme guilt and whatnot due to food. A healthy relationship with food, I did not have. There were still certain things I wouldn’t let myself eat.. or certain amounts. If I ate more than I thought I should, or things I thought I shouldn’t, I would be overcome with extreme guilt that would cause me to over exercise. And then running, which first started off as a stress reliever/life saver at the time, turned into yet another thing just to burn calories. I burned WAY more than I was taking in with running 20+ miles a week and I thought I finally had a handle on everything until I was hit with earth shattering news in December of 2009 – the stress fracture. No more running. No more intense cardio. No more nothing. How was I supposed to burn calories? And then, then, I was put on bed rest… at first, I freaked out. I thought I was going to gain weight and be fat and etc. and really struggled. And then I found out that one of the causes of my stress fracture was my eating disorder. And that put things into a different perspective. I truly believe that my stress fracture was my wake up call. If it hadn’t have happened, I have no idea where I would be now. Do I have a good relationship with food now? Mostly. Certain people that have come into my life since then (and even some that have left) have helped me in my struggles more than they will ever know. Like any normal woman, I still have my “fat” days and I still struggle with food guilt sometimes. But I know that I need to fuel my body properly and get it to a healthy place if I’m ever going to be able to run again. And so my message to those of you that do not have a healthy relationship with food, it impacts more than you know. It’s not worth it. It’s really not.