An eating disorder made me lose myself completely
I would bounce from eating entire jars of Nutella and tubs of ice cream to nothing at all
“You look so skinny! What have you been doing?”
Many women struggle with their perception of their own body, constantly flooded with external messages that tell them they are not ‘attractive,’ or that they do not possess the ‘ideal’ body type. Like most women, I have struggled immensely with body image.
I’ve been involved in musical theatre since I was very young, and never had to worry about working out since I was dancing for hours a day during rehearsals. But after the last musical of my senior year in high school, I realized that I did not have the great exercise routine that I used to.
I moved more towards healthy eating, but I soon became fixated on food, and this fixation turned to a binging behavior. I would think for hours about how much protein I should be eating, what carbohydrates I was allowed to eat,and at the end of the day I would be eating entire jars of Nutella and tubs of ice cream, despising myself.
All of my best friends in high school were athletes who could eat virtually anything without gaining weight, possessing the tall and slender body that so many women desire. I was always the shorter, more curvaceous one, who oftentimes felt out of place, and I began to doubt my attractiveness.
During my first year in college, I found a strong love of fitness. But this love quickly turned to an obsession. I would spend three or more hours at the gym, lifting weights that were much too heavy for me, working my body until I was shaking and could only manage to limp back to my room and collapse on the bed.
Then came my dangerous eating behaviors. I downloaded an app on my phone that calculated how many calories you needed to eat in order to lose weight. However, even though I was already at a perfectly healthy weight for my height, I was eating only about half of my recommended calorie count. I would log how many carrots I ate, how much cheese I put on my salad, how many Cheerios I poured into the bowl.
This behavior was extremely dangerous and I began to trick myself into thinking that I didn’t have time to eat if I wanted to go to the gym. My food intake for the day became one small protein bar. I was miserable, spending hours staring at myself, grabbing and pulling at the ‘fat’ (which was really just skin) from my body, hating my reflection.
People started commenting on how flat my stomach looked, how slender my legs were, and asked me what kind of diet/workout routine I was on. All I wanted was to break down and cry about how miserable I was, but instead I forced a smile and said that I was doing more cardio because somehow, these pointless surface comments made my struggle worth it.
One day I couldn’t keep it up anymore, and that is when the binging came back. I would buy multiple bags of candy and containers of ice cream and, for hours, eat them alone in my room. I was struggling with a difficult relationship and the passing of my grandfather at this time, and eating was the only way I knew how to deal with my overflowing emotions.
When I came home for summer, I got back into a healthy eating and fitness routine with the help of my mom. I felt great and was really giving my body the love it deserved. But the next academic semester began three months later and one of the first comments I received from a former sorority sister was, “You were skinnier in May! Did you stop going to the gym?”
This comment triggered immediate self-hatred, and once again I began taking my emotions out on my food, eating anything I could get my hands on. Living in the sorority house was a very negative environment for someone like me, struggling with body image and raging insecurities about my appearance.
I constantly heard comments such as, “Ugh I have love handles.” “I was so much skinnier back in high school!” “I can’t wear this I’m too fat.”
This environment, along with an extremely dysfunctional relationship propelled me into the worst struggle I had gone through yet with my compulsive binge-eating disorder. My days would usually be fine, but at night the uncontrollable eating began. I would eat so much I would make myself sick. Instead of just eating one bagel or one cookie, I would eat five or six, unable to stop.
At the end of the year, I realized that I had completely lost sight of who I was. I was judging my entire self-worth based on my appearance. If I wasn’t up to some unrealistic ‘standards’ it somehow made me less of a person. I had never been this unhappy in my life.
I knew that I had to completely change my current path and environment so I ended my dysfunctional relationship, cut ties with my toxic social circle and started going to counseling.
An eating disorder is as much a physical disorder as it is a mental one. I used unhealthy eating behaviors to deal with my emotions, which only further contributed to a deeper state of unhappiness.
I can strongly say that I am miles better now. I use the gym in healthy amounts, I eat a healthy diet, but I no longer get angry at myself for taking breaks in my workout schedule, or eating treats. I realize that my weight will fluctuate day-to-day, but regardless of the number on the scale, I know that I’m still the same person, and I’m very happy with who she is.