“You were sick, but now you’re well again, and there’s work to do.” ― Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake
I want to start this post by saying that we are in the middle of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week and if you think you might need some sort of eating disorder support please know that there is free help available. And if you don’t think you need support, please consider donating so that those who need help can continue to access it.
I never once expected to “come out” on this blog. In fact, until this very second I thought that I had already told everyone I ever would about how deep my eating struggles run. But here I sit writing this because my resolve to stay healthy gets firmer every time someone has the strength to put their struggles out there and maybe someone will read this and be motivated to take a step towards recovery. I also want to add here that I’m not going to share my diagnosis only because I don’t think it matters (also, you’ll probably figure it out in the very next paragraph). I really hope that anyone who has problems with food finds something they can relate to and that this inspires even one of those people to seek help. Recovery is worth it.
I don’t get full. I mean, I feel physically full but I don’t get full. I can eat anyone under the table. When I was really young people could chalk up my hearty appetite to growth spurts, but eventually it became clear that my eating was different. I distinctly remember crying in my mother’s arms as an 80-pound 9-year-old. Based on my BMI I was overweight but based on my self-image I was a whale. I also remember that day as the day I went on my first diet.
Dieting was always a special kind of frustrating. I am great at following directions so I’ve actually lost weight on every single diet I’ve ever tried. The problem is sustainability. No matter how many macros, calories, points, or carbs I count. No matter how much HCG I inject, how many hours of exercise I do, there will always be something inside of me that doesn’t get full. So while I was following the directions of whatever diet I was living at the time I could be successful and lose weight but eventually the monster inside of my stomach would come back full force and I’d gain all the weight back and then some.
This lack of control wasn’t just about eating. It created in me the most negative self-image and immeasurably low self-esteem. I hated myself for not being able to control myself. I honestly believed that my eating problems were the root of everything that was wrong in my life. If I could lose the weight for good I’d be happy, I’d be a benefit to society, I’d be smarter, I would finally have a life worth living. As I write this now I can see how completely twisted that thinking is. No one’s self worth is at all related to their body shape or size. But that was exactly what I thought – as soon as I was skinny my life would magically be better. Of course, here’s the kicker, I was underweight for a few months in my senior year of high school and my parents actually had an intervention because they were worried that I was losing so much, and even then I wasn’t happy. That should have been a warning to me, but really I thought it just meant that I wasn’t skinny enough.Food issues don't discriminate, so spread the word about National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. #NEDAwareness Click To Tweet
I won’t go on with all the details but that was my life for 32 years until I finally took action in 2014. I sought help from a variety of people – some paid professionals, some friends and family – and slowly I am learning that food doesn’t control me and my weight has nothing to do with my personal value or pleasure in life. I’d be lying if I said it was easy. Two years later, I still have days where I feel like I’m being physically tied down by negative self-talk, but those days come less frequently and more often I’m making up for lost time by trying new things and gaining new skills.
Since seeking recovery I’m learning so much about myself. For starters, I always thought I had a bad memory but I actually have a great memory, I was just creating massive brain fog with food and negative self-talk. I’ve discovered new hobbies and I’m planning to take up even more. And my relationships have changed. I can be a better friend to people when I’m not always thinking about my own insecurities. For years I never went out because I hated being that fat girl and I just knew that everyone was staring at me repulsed by my appearance. But now I go out almost every night and I even flew to Colorado to celebrate Allison’s major academic achievement and I NEVER would have done that before – I actually tried to get out of my law school graduation because I was so mortified to be seen in public. I relish things the way I imagine a baby does when experiencing them for the first time.
I personally believe that disordered eating will always be a monster that I battle, but that monster will continue to shrink until it’s the size of a field mouse instead of the dragon that it once was. I still have weight to lose, but I just don’t care anymore. I get to be beautiful and fun and happy no matter what size I am. Yes, I said it before and I’ll say it again. Recovery is worth it.
If any part of my struggles resonated with you, I want you to know that I love you and you don’t deserve to feel that way. There are places you can call for help, like the National Eating Disorders Association. There are also support groups all across the country and 12 Step programs. You aren’t alone and you can recover.