How Quarantine Affected My Eating Disorder

Pandemic Anorexia

How Quarantine Affected My Eating Disorder
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

The first time I thought I took up too much space was when I was nine-years-old. It was silent reading time in Mrs. Boucher's class and children were seated in groups of four. Slouched in my chair, I looked at my stomach rolls in my pink Hollister t-shirt and cleverly placed my book to hide them. That was 15 years ago. I've silently battled eating disorders for eight years.

Before the pandemic, I hadn’t starved myself in months. I work in a restaurant, and found a healthy balance practicing intermittent fasting. Even though I was fasting, I wasn’t exercising outside of work and I wasn’t eating healthy. On March 14th, before anyone even had time to process what happened, we were laid off and the whole city was put on lockdown. Desperately clinging to any sense of normalcy, I tried to continue intermittent fasting and to add in some exercise.

When I started exercising again along with intermittent fasting, I became obsessed. The only thoughts on my brain were ‘when can I eat?’, ‘what should I eat?’, ‘if I start eating now, then I can eat until x’, ‘i have to exercise before I consume anything’, the list goes on. I’ve been living with these thoughts for most of my life, so I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. I wasn’t fainting, like I publicly had in the past. I didn’t realize until I ordered dinner that night. It was my cheat meal and I woke up thinking how excited I was to reward my exercising and barely eating with a huge meal. I didn’t eat anything all day in preparation for it, just water. And by the time the food got to my apartment, I was so nauseated by the sight of the food I couldn’t eat it.

I had starved myself so much that my body was nauseated by the sight and smell of the food. And in true millennial fashion, I googled my question to the result: anorexia nervosa. I immediately started crying out of frustration. Each time I fall back into it, I don’t realize it. And some people don’t even believe that I struggle with this. They don’t know I had a “thinspo” Tumblr account, that I was in an online community of anorexics who confide in each other and often glamorize the disorder. They don’t know how I’ve remembered all the times older men have been inappropriate with me and my developing body, or how insulting it felt to tell me at 16 that I had “a woman’s body”, how I saw my curves as my biggest physical flaw. How my mind was consumed by food and eventually, my life. And the times I wasn’t starving myself, I was binge-eating, trapped in a prison in extremes of eating way too much or way too little.

I made a commitment to take better care of my body that night. I put the food away and had a small bowl of soup and lots of water, the only things I could get down. And the next morning, I opened up that cheat meal and ate it without guilt. Okay, maybe I felt a little guilty but you can’t expect to change overnight! And I didn’t binge that day. I didn’t starve. I stopped fasting and continued exercising to build my strength and nourish my body, not to accomplish any superficial goals. Most importantly, I came home to be with my parents. For the first time, I didn’t try to take all of this on by myself and now my mom is now helping me get better, as my accountability buddy. We’re going to exercise together, cook together, and hopefully the only thing we’ll binge is a good Netflix series. If you have an amazing mom like I do, hug her extra tight when you can.

Dealing with issues like this in every day life— when things are normal— is tough. Being on lockdown doesn’t make it any easier. It certainly brought up issues I thought I had put behind me. Its hard not to obsess over food right now, being home all day every day with not much else to do. We’re enduring a stressful time right now, there is a lot that is unknown, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still improve ourselves and get better. If you’re struggling, or know someone who is, remember that we are in a pandemic, not a productivity contest. The only person you are really in competition with is yourself, and small steps are steps nonetheless so give credit where its due. If you’re concerned for yourself or someone you love who is battling any eating disorder (binge, bulimia, anorexia) please contact at (800)931-2237. You are not broken, and you don’t have to stay that way.

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Hallie Manchester
See all posts by Hallie Manchester