My Eating Disorder and Me
Trigger warning. This is my story of struggling with body image and eating disorders.
Experts say girls as young as 5 and 6 develop eating disorders. They worry about their figure, they pick out clothing they think looks “slimming,” they even cut down on foods they think are “fattening.” I don’t know about you, but when I was six, I was more concerned about going to the gas station with my grandpa to buy debbie pies, and whether or not my younger brother had gotten into my things. It is indescribably sad, that any girl at such a young age should ever have to worry about such things.
I was not one of the six year olds that walked around with self-inflicted hunger pangs. I was, however, one of the thirteen year olds that walked around with self inflicted hunger pangs. I would like to begin this story by saying I was never taken to an expert to be professionally diagnosed, however, it’s safe to assume that when you starve yourself to the point you can not move, there’s something wrong.
To this day, I can not accredit my eating disorder to one specific thing. I didn’t flip a switch one day and decide “I want to have a life threatening mental illness.” Of course, I can assess triggers from darker periods in my life. I could blame the friends i surrounded myself with. The people I was around were no help to my already crumbling self esteem. I had friends who would rather obsess over the fat on my collar bones than their deteriorating family life. I could blame my genetics. My mother struggled with weight in high school and dieted through the majority of her childhood. Shoot, I could blame the weather. The thick of my eating disorder occurred during the dead of winter, when seasonal depression rates skyrocket.
Blame aside, I struggled thoroughly with disordered thoughts. I recall the day I decided to lose weight during winter break, I was determined to return to my seventh grade classroom skinnier than I’d left. Was I a chubby kid? Hard to say. If you ask my grandma she’d say “Of course not!” Ask my mother she’d say “No, don’t be silly.” But as I dug up old photographs from past halloweens, I did have a bit of chub. But as I grew into a preteen, I evened out, I weighed a healthy one hundred and six pounds and stood at a nice five feet two inches. But, for whatever reason, I decided I was fat. If you had asked me, I would validate my thoughts. “If I wasn’t fat, I wouldn’t have thick thighs right?” I’d reply. “If I wasn’t fat, why do I have such chubby cheeks?” I’d shoot back. These of course, were the horrible, dark thoughts that sent me spiraling down a dark hole.
I started simple, I’d eat something low in calories for breakfast (egg white), then something small for lunch (boiled egg, nuts, a square of chocolate), and then at dinner I’d pick around, and track what calories I could. I remember these meals vividly, I remember feeling this sense of accomplishment as I packed these minuscule portions for myself. I lost a bit of weight, I didn’t weigh myself very often, if ever so I do not know the exact amount. But I remember the effects it had on my body. I was tired, I gave myself a strict bedtime of nine o’ clock, and I was incapable of dragging myself out of bed nine hours later at six. I remember sitting down and seeing my thighs were smaller, I remember being pale. I remember the concern from friends.
Then I decided skipping meals would be better. I would wake up, avoid breakfast and lunch, and eat whatever my parents had at dinner. This is when my mental and physical health truly began to suffer. I was even more tired, I had to be in bed at nine or I would panic, consequently I had to be at home by eight to shower and get ready for bed. If I asked my mother what our plans for dinner that night, we had to stick to those plans, or I would have a breakdown. What was I to do if we were to eat something I didn’t know the caloric value of? I would snap at classmates and my siblings, and my grades began to drop. The president of the BETA club was now making twenty percent on math tests. At this time I was also being offered opportunities to model, and do pageants. This of course only fueled my issues, as I wanted to be the prettiest girl there. During this period of time, I remember I had skipped all my meals for four days, and I woke up one morning shaking, I physically could not move. I hauled myself out of bed, freezing cold, and sat in front of a space heater in my room before I decided this was the result of malnutrition. I got a bowl of cereal to fuel myself, I remember even knowing that this was keeping me from collapsing at school, I felt guilty. This is also when my periods became less frequent, I would spend days anticipating it, but it never came. The times it did come were rare. I began to wonder if my eating disorder had made me infertile.
However, I hate reading these stories without the uglier truth. I binge ate. When you starve yourself for five days straight, you get hungry. So, when I would come home on the weekends, I ate, and ate, and ate, and ate. I remember feeling so disgusted with myself, I could not understand why I was consuming so much food. (Of course as time went on, I discovered that the more I ate throughout the day this would occur less). This was the routine, die on weekdays, feel like death on the weekends. I never ate so much I was uncomfortable, I just remember consuming thousands of calories per sitting and fretting over it for the rest of the week.
Spring came, and I decided to feed myself a bit more to prevent the binges. I limited myself to five hundred calories per day. This period of time was still dark for me, but I do not recall as much. The school year began to fizzle out into summer. And I found myself at home for weeks, surrounded by food. And so this began my summer, I binge ate almost everyday, and on top of that I was constantly anxious over going to the beach, wearing shorts, the basic summer things. I recall I found a pair of short overalls that showed just enough of my legs, and made me feel comfortable. I wore those overalls every day. Every, single, day. I was too scared to wear anything else.
And that leads me to where I am today, I wish I had an encouraging recovery story. Alas, I do not. I eat normal amounts now, I don’t obsess over where and what I will eat in the next seven hours. Do I still struggle with body image? Of course. What young girl doesn’t want to look like Kendall Jenner? But, do I understand that I can control so much more than my body? Yes. I am more than my body, whether I weighed seventy pounds, or two hundred and seventy pounds, I would still be the funny, talented, girl I am. If you know someone struggling with an eating disorder, reach out, give them help and support. Understand that you can’t fix them with healthy meals and pills, you may need to be their support system, and that is all you can do at the time.
And to the thirteen year old that could be reading this, going through the same things I am. This is for you, I see you, I understand how you feel. And I know recovery doesn’t seem like fun. But you deserve it, your family deserves it, you can get better.
National Eating Disorder Hotline: (800)-931-2237