So, gnarly personal history time: I had an eating disorder when I was in high school. Now, I realize that it’s not all that uncommon for a teenaged girl to suffer from them and I know I’m no special occurrence. It went on for roughly 18 months. I can’t pinpoint an exact moment, day or whatever it started, but I just remember being in it.
I wasn’t overweight, to begin with. I was very physically active in my PE classes and am naturally athletic in build. But most, if not all, of my best friends at the time were under 5’6″ with what was at the time the “perfect body.” I was (and still am) 6′, athletic with muscular thighs and barely any chest to speak about. I wanted to be like them. They had the boys’ attention and desire, whereas I had more guy friends than love interests. That, coupled with no ill-intentioned teasing at home, it had an effect on me.
At the very height of it all, I would have a glass of milk for breakfast, two Handi-snacks for lunch (remember those things?!), and as little as I could get away with at dinner. I was also very active in classes and on my local track and field team lifting weights and training. I look back at my driver’s license picture from that time in agast. I was a shell, and you could see it. Yet, I seemed to be happy and doing well in school.
It came crashing to a stop one night when I was hanging out listening to music with my then boyfriend. He confronted me about how little I had eaten lately. It didn’t really even dawn on me that I was doing it. Then I started thinking back and realizing it. The causes were elusive to me, but what was going on was still apparent. And I didn’t want to be like that. So I made a change that day. Ok, I know. I’m an oddity. I always have been. Once I realize something that isn’t working quite right, it’s my sole purpose to fix it. I didn’t talk about it to my parents or family then. (Actually, I told one of my sisters two years into recovery.) I started journaling more and doing more self-reflection. I thought I had it taken care of.
Fast forward to college for my first relapse. The stress of graduating and moving out of my college apartment was taking its toll. Focus, recovery, eventual relapse. That was my cycle. Sometimes relapses wouldn’t happen for years, but there would come a day that the urges would come floating back up to the surface. I have sought out help of professionals and am always upfront about my history with anyone who asks or knows. Thankfully now my husband has heard my story and knows. Even better is his support when I tell him I have the urges. It made me ashamed and humiliated to actually acknowledge that I still think about making myself throw up or starve myself to help “gain” control over my stress and surroundings. To this day it does. But just telling someone about it helps put me back in charge of the urges. Weird, but it works for me.
Now that we have a young daughter, I’m even more hyper-aware of the urges and the thought process behind them so I can spot and avoid them with her. At her ripe and tender age, she comes home from school talking about the appropriate amount of protein and carbs she should be eating (thanks, gym teacher, for having one too many lessons about that…) which prompts a one too many of a kind conversation about healthy eating and moderation. These conversations are necessary, both from the school perspective and from the home front. Too many kids aren’t shown good examples of healthy eating nor do they practice them. I get that. What I hate is my 8-year-old coming home saying she has fat thighs because they jiggle sometimes. I guess this is the fight we all have to fight. And the culture in which we currently live, sadly.
Fast forward to last week. I’ve been working out pretty religiously for the past month thanks to Beachbody on Demand (love their programs) and trying to eat well, but not go overboard. I just do smaller portions because if I count calories, I tend to wade back towards the starving thing which is a no-go. I was scrolling through my Instagram one evening and happened across a friend’s post in which she tagged a lady by the name of Jennifer Rollin, who happens to be a very well known and prominent figure in Eating Disorder recovery. Down the rabbit-hole of Instagram I went, and I came out the other side with an e-book written by Ms. Rollin about Eating Disorder and Depression. After reading through it, I’m seriously wondering how “recovered” I am.
It’s a legitimate question. While I no longer severely limit how much food I’m allowed to eat, or cause myself to throw up, I can be obsessed about eating healthy and making good choices. That might not sound so bad, but when the thought process includes how un-processed a food item is, or how many grams of protein it contains, it can cause problems. Is my drive to be healthier and lose weight causing me to head into familiar territory? Did I simply exchange one version for another?