My Secret Eating Disorder
February is National Eating Disorder Month, and for the first time since owning FOTF, I am going to share my eating disorder story.
Several of my friends and family that follow FOTF are going to be reading this for the first time too, so this is somewhat of a confessional for me.
This isn't something I speak about often. It's not something I am proud of; in fact, it's quite the opposite. There's a lot of shame that goes into what lead me to go down the ED road in the first place, and there's shame while you restrict your diet, overexercise, and purge.
I'm sharing this story to spark a conversation. To help just ONE person. To create an open dialogue about eating disorders and guide you to a local resource... so, here goes nothing...
For as long as I can remember, I've had body dysmorphia. I would find a flaw in my outer appearance, become fixated on it, and soon it was the only thing I noticed when looking in the mirror. Usually it was a weight-related observation (e.g. "thunder thighs", thick middle, fat arms, etc.).
I can't identify the root cause of what triggered my various eating disorders (anorexia and restrictive eating disorder were my two main culprits), but I have a theory that I'm not comfortable discussing just yet.
At a young age, I was made to realize THIN. IS. BEAUTIFUL. Curvy girls weren't as celebrated in the 90s as they are today. At least not in my world. And before you start judging my family, know that EVERY woman in my family was curvy.
My mom got a membership at Women's Workout World (blast from the past, right?!) to help her "get into shape", so I asked to join with her as a freshman in high school.
We went to the gym everyday. I was barely over 100 pounds, what did I need to go to the gym for? I quickly became obsessed with working out. Like, OB.SESSED. But not to help me get stronger, no, I was obsessed with the weight loss I was experiencing. I liked being able to see my bottom ribs without sucking in. I needed that number on the scale to never exceed 105 pounds but always aimed for 1-0-0.
As time went on, I started restricting my diet to only greens (lettuce, celery, green peppers). If people were around, I'd graze on whatever was out to avoid questions or speculation. I was still hitting the gym every day... sometimes twice a day.
By junior year in high school, I had a great friend group who would be able to spot my alarming eating habits in a heartbeat, so I made sure to eat "normally" in front of them. Fast-food, Starbucks, Slurpees, donuts... all of the garbage. I wanted to make sure they didn't associate my body shape with any malnutrition.
I had a 500-calorie per day allowance. On days I exceeded that, I would try purging but didn't like the feeling of throwing up... so I hit the gym more often and for longer stints. As I matured, I began to realize that a 105 pound teenager didn't look healthy, so I bumped up my weight goal to 115, but made certain to not exceed that. I wanted to remain thin without looking like a poster child for an ED.
The only reason my mom knew something was up was because I was 16 and my period was over four months late. I hid my eating habits and exercise addiction for YEARS. From EVERYONE.
Similar habits followed me into college and adulthood. My brother had the audacity to tell me when I went off to college that I'd be "the type of girl to gain the Freshman 15". Who the hell says that?! In his defense, he didn't realize I was already battling an ED, but his one careless statement caused me to ensure I LOST weight my freshman year.
I was never obvious about my EDs. I never let myself get to the point that I "looked" like I had an ED, I was just willing to go to extreme lengths to appear skinny enough to not raise suspicion (and in the above situation, prove my brother wrong).
My obsession with weight and a slender appearance died down once I hit my early to mid 20s. Perhaps it was because I found a man who loved me for all of my flaws and imperfections (and trust me, there are a LOT of them), but it was when I became a mom to daughters that I knew I had to make some immediate changes to my mindset.
I knew I had to be verbal about loving my body. I had to be intentional and verbally explain the importance of HEALTH, not appearance. I had to show my girls through my actions that beauty in everyone is found from within. I had to teach them to have thick skin when others say something that causes us to questions ourselves.
I've never really been treated for my relationship with food or exercise, but I feel like I have better control these days. I'm not in complete control and I know that, but I have eased up greatly from the years of daily verbal abuse to myself.
Last spring, I began to hate what I saw in the mirror again. Not in an unhealthy way, simply the fact that three kids and lots of fast food with no exercise was causing me to be uncomfortable in my own skin. I knew I had to change something.
To be honest, I was terrified to start working out again. I feared becoming addicted to it like I used to be. I feared I would start counting calories again. I thought everything could easily spin out of control again. Before I started working out and making healthier choices in my diet, I asked my husband with tear-filled eyes, "Watch me. Watch what I eat. Watch how I workout. Listen to what I say. Don't let me go overboard."
I was so afraid that working out in any form would trigger me and I'd get back into my food restrictions and heavy workout regimen again. Luckily, I've been keeping myself in check (most of the time).
I'd be lying if I said I never heard that nagging internal voice telling me to go just a little longer on the treadmill... suggesting I not eat that snack... analyzing my "pooch" when I look in the mirror at myself.
I know I have work to do on myself to TRULY become healthier, but I am more self-aware in my 'old age'. People with eating disorders don't brag about their efforts (unless they are in the comfort of a private chat room on AOL with other 'Pro-Ana-Mia' folks... seriously, I was sick).
I share my story to help you:
realize eating disorders can impact ANYONE (even boys).
be able to identify some actions that could be a sign of someone struggling with an ED.
because I know we have a lot more in common with one another than we like to think.
because by sharing my story honestly, I could be helping ONE person get the help they need... and that means the world to me.
It's not easy to spot, especially when it's someone close to you. Luckily for us here in the Fox Valley, we have TriCity Family Services to help. This area non-profit has all sorts of resources to help area families, but they have a special team designated to helping those that have concerns about a loved-one having an ED, or are seeking treatment themselves for an ED.
Don't hesitate to reach out to TriCIty Family Services (or any other helpful organization for that matter) and get the help you or a loved one needs immediately.
TriCity Family Services
1120 Randall Ct, Geneva, IL 60134
To all of you out there struggling with an ED or watching someone you love go through this, remember... you are beautiful, worthy, and deserving.