I’d say it all started at the very end of my junior year. Junior year was a tough year academically, and towards the end of it, I was feeling down. I remember sitting in English class with my now best friend and another girl who we were working on a project with, and somehow started talking about losing weight and eating healthy. I wasn’t a very healthy eater at the time, and didn’t exercise much besides the dance classes I took once a week. I always felt a little “chubby” and wanted to become healthier and maybe shed a few pounds in the process.
My English group and I started talking about losing weight and sharing ideas about becoming healthier eaters and such, and from that day forward, it was my mission to drop a few pounds.
At this point it wasn’t a bad thing. I had a little extra weight/fat I wanted to get rid of, and I just wanted to tone up a little. I started to become conscious of what I was eating and tried to exercise more. Junior year I ate fast food a lot. My dad traveled all the time and my mom worked long shifts, so we were usually on our own for dinner. I didn’t have a problem with this most nights because that meant I got to get takeout, which of course I loved. My dinners consisted of a happy meal from McDonalds, chips and queso from the Mexican restaurant, or orange chicken from my old favorite Chinese restaurant.
When I realized this food wasn’t the healthiest, I started to change what I ate. I rarely ate breakfast, because I was never hungry in the morning (oh how things change). I also wasn’t a big lunch person. When I started being more conscious of what I was eating, I started to pack my lunch. Somedays it would consist of applesauce, cheerios, and a 100-calorie pack, or somedays 1/2 of a sandwich and some fruit. For dinner I’d have whatever my mom made, and just tried to keep it at a healthy portion. I also remember reading somewhere (probably a magazine) that it was important to drink milk everyday, so I remember trying to make sure I drank a glass of skim milk with my meals.
I kept this pattern up (not eating breakfast, eating barely any lunch, and a decent dinner) for a while, but once summer came (aka summer before senior pictures and senior year) I started to get into cooking.
I ordered a few cookbooks off of Amazon and wanted to start cooking for my family (this is one of the positive things that came along with my ED, I found my love for cooking). A month or so into the summer, I made the decision to become a vegetarian after reading Alicia Silverstone’s “The Kind Diet“.
With being the only vegetarian in my family (plus my sister for the few months that she didn’t eat meat), I cooked dinner a lot for my family. I liked this because then I could control what I was eating. I knew how many calories were in the food I was eating, and I wouldn’t eat more than I was “supposed to”.
During this dark period if you want to call it that, I was very aware of calories. I wanted to know how many were in each food item I was eating, and I didn’t want to eat too much. I never really cared about how much fat I was eating, but I usually opted for fat-free things just because they generally had less calories.
That summer (2010) I finally started seeing results. I was losing weight, working out about 3-4 days a week (I followed some plan from Seventeen magazine), and was loving what I was seeing. I could finally fit into a size of jeans that I thought was what I was supposed to be in (I wasn’t) and I was excited about the upcoming school year.
It may sound all rainbows and butterflies, but it was pretty much the opposite. You see, when you have an eating disorder, nothing is ever good enough. You’re brain messes with your eyes and you don’t see what others see. You have to keep going because you want to reach “that goal”. But little did I know, that goal was never going to be attainable because it was never good enough.
So senior year started and I was at my goal weight. But I thought, if I was able to get here, why not keep going? So that’s what I did. I kept track of what I ate, eating “healthy foods”, and exercised regularly. Another misconception a lot of people have about eating disorders, are that the people who have them don’t eat. That’s not true. Sure they may not eat a lot, but they eat. I was eating what looked like to be decent sized meals, but they barely contained any calories and left me feeling hungry. I don’t think I ever felt satisfied after meals. I was constantly thinking about food and when the next time I could eat. Another thing, I was always cold. Like, freezing. I remember I had to wear layers of clothing to keep warm. I would wear leggings under my jeans, and multiple sweatshirts just to make it through school. I was miserable. But because I could fit into my “skinny” jeans, I made myself be “happy”, which I was far from.
Late December (2010), my mom started to become concerned about me. She of course noticed I had been losing weight, but didn’t think too much of it since I seemed to be eating normally. Then she asked me if I had gotten my period lately. The truth was, I hadn’t had it since July or August. I knew something was wrong when it went away, but I didn’t really care. As long as I was skinny.
That’s when she made me go to the doctor. I was scared out of my mind. I knew what they were going to tell me, but I tried to think positively. I remember that day like it was yesterday. Stepping on that scale, my mom in shock of how little I weighed, along with my doctor who was scared for me. My heart rate was also so low, that she said that if I kept my lifestyle that way, there was a chance my heart could stop. That’s when panic overcame me. I knew I had to change. I didn’t want to, but I had to. I remember leaving the doctor that day in tears. Why was life so unfair? I had just spent my entire summer becoming “healthier” and losing weight, and now I had to gain it all back?
I listened to what my doctor said though. I wanted to be healthy. I wanted to make my mom proud and not have to have her worry about me being okay. I wanted to be happy. I was anything but that. I was miserable. I had low self-esteem. I was sad. I was depressed. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. If senior year isn’t hard enough, going through it with an eating disorder is ten times more difficult.
My doctor also suggested that I go to an eating disorder clinic and talk with a counselor. I was not fond of this idea. I’m a shy person and hate talking on the phone to my own grandparents. How was I supposed to open up to a complete stranger? I dreaded the days I had to go to that dark, depressing place. The one and only thing I looked forward to was the time I spent with my mom and the Starbucks drinks we’d get after.
Not once did I tell my friends what I was going through. I had to miss school a lot for appointments, and when they asked why, I never really told them. I was afraid they’d judge. I was afraid they wouldn’t understand. I think I was afraid of them caring about me. It was like I didn’t want to be cared about or loved. Because I didn’t even love myself.
As time went on, I gained weight. It took time, as all things do, but I did it. Over time, I started to feel like myself again. I become friendly, I wasn’t as depressed, and I felt like I could start accepting love again. One of the biggest things I take away from that year, was the relationship I gained with my family. My mom and I become much closer through all my appointments, and I felt like my family bonded as well.
I guess you never really know when you are fully “recovered” from and ED, but I’d say the summer of 2011 (after I graduated), I felt so much more like myself, and at a better place. Sure I still had troubles with food (and sometimes still do), but was at a much better place in my life. My period took a while to return, even though I was at a healthy weight. This may be TMI, but I actually remember getting it while I was off at Purdue, the day I found out my sister had gotten engaged to my now brother-in-law. That was a good day indeed 🙂
It’s now been about a year and a half since I “recovered” and I can honestly say I enjoy life now. I have a much better relationship with food. I believe I am a much happier person. I can also say that I love myself now and I never thought that day would come. I never wanted to believe that quote “no one can love you until you love yourself”. I believe it now. This doesn’t have to be about romantically loving someone, but just friends and family in general. If I don’t love myself, why would someone want to love me? It all makes sense now.
Looking back, I am proud of all I have overcome. Through my entire journey with my ED I found my love for cooking. I found my love for vegetarianism. I found my love for exercise. I wouldn’t take those things away for anything. Could I have ran three half marathons with starving myself and being miserable and weak? Not at all. I truly believe God puts everything in your life for a reason, and there was a reason I had to go through all I did. I am a stronger person because of it.