I never thought it’d happen to me.
I didn’t start calling it an eating disorder until a few months ago. To be honest, I think I was in denial. I thought I was completely in control of my diet, and I thought an eating disorder could never happen to me… Sure, I read about plenty of eating disorders, but for some reason I was blind to my own. I knew I was binge eating and that was pretty bad, but I never believed I was dealing with something more than just overeating. Except I was, and now I know my eating disorder was happening in secret all along.
Denial, Denial, Denial
My eating disorder started the moment I began obsessively counting the calories and macros in an app on my phone, the moment I was feeling anxiety about spending nights away from home without access to “my” food. I was approached by a woman in the gym locker room who told me that I should be careful, and that her daughter had recovered from an eating disorder when she was younger. What did I do? I thanked her for her kindness in reaching out to me and assured her nothing was wrong, then I left in disbelief.
I kept working out like crazy, tracking my macros, and getting more and more obsessive over my weight loss. I thought she just didn’t understand that I was “healthy” and “fit”. I was “in control” of my own body – there was no way she knew anything about me. To be honest, I was kind of upset the whole thing even happened.
This was 4 years ago.
My Obsession with Weight Loss
When I look back, I know I believed with my whole heart that I was healthy. I had a six pack, my thighs didn’t touch, and I was lifting weights like I had never been able to in my whole life. I characterized my health by how skinny I was, and how loose my clothes fit. I was finally losing all the weight I wanted. I was one of those skinny girls I always wanted to be. I thought I was healthy and that the woman in the locker room, who reached out to me, just didn’t understand. She couldn’t possibly know the insecure place I came from, that all I ever wanted as a little girl was to be skinny, that I finally had the dream body I’d always wanted.
But she was RIGHT. Looking back I one hundred thousand percent had an eating disorder, but I didn’t know it. I was starving myself, overexercising, and losing my sanity to negative self criticism a little more every single day.
When I think about what I really did to myself, losing my sanity feels like an understatement. I was down right obsessed with weight loss. It was like no matter how much weight I lost, I wasn’t good enough. I remember seeing 106 on the scale at one point. I’m 5.5″ and I started my journey at 140 pounds. The weight loss was crazy to say the least, and 106 pounds wasn’t a healthy weight for me at all. Now I’d say I’m somewhere in the 125 pound range, but I haven’t weighed myself in a while. I don’t need to.
I Hated My Body and My Whole Life
If I look back, I know my obsession absolutely stemmed from my insecurities growing up. For almost my entire life, I can remember wanting to be skinnier. I tried dieting since I was in 5th grade, and I was constantly comparing myself to the pretty, skinny girls around me. I remember being in middle school and crying at night because I hated my body so much. I swore I’d never eat cookies again almost every single night; I wanted to stop eating sweets so that I could be pretty and skinny like the girls I was comparing myself to. But instead of keeping that promise, I’d only get more discouraged with my lack of willpower. I was ashamed that I couldn’t stop eating cookies, no matter how hard I tried. My torturous relationship with food was a vicious cycle of restricting myself from my favorite treats, then binging on the very food I was depriving myself of.
At first, losing weight was fine. I wasn’t overweight, but losing a few pounds wouldn’t make me underweight either. I started learning about nutrition and I gradually lost weight by working out and eating healthier. It was all good, and I felt pretty amazing about myself for being able to successfully lose weight for the first time in my life.
However, once I got to my goal weight, after losing 15 pounds, that wasn’t enough. I was looking at the fitness models I was comparing myself to, and I definitely didn’t look like them. I had to be skinnier. Leaner. Stronger. Better. It was like no matter what I did, I wasn’t good enough. I became a monster inside, and I had no mercy on myself. I stopped treating myself with kindness and I ignored all my basic needs in order to reach the extreme body image goals I had in my head.
I Was Starving Myself
My routine was insane.
I don’t know how I did it for as long as I did. I remember getting up early to go to the gym and do my lifting routine before I drove an hour to work. I had my 400 calorie dinner early the night before, went to bed hungry, woke up the next day still hungry, worked out, and then I wouldn’t even let myself eat my grossly under-nourishing breakfast until I got to work.
I was torturing myself, punishing myself in fact, in order to be skinny and “good enough”.
Finally, something had to break. I started giving in to my hunger by eating part of my breakfast (a banana) in the car instead of waiting until I got to work… because I was SO hungry and I felt like I couldn’t live another minute without eating. My hunger was so bad that I was eating both my breakfast and lunch as soon as I got to work at 9 am – but I somehow convinced myself everything was fine.
Then, when I got so beyond hungry that I couldn’t take it, I’d give in and buy an organic granola bar from the vending machine. But because I felt so guilty about not sticking to my calorie count, I’d only allow myself to eat half of it.
I was eating hundreds and hundreds of calories less than I actually needed to be eating because a fitness calculator told me I could only eat ‘x’ amount of calories if I wanted to lose weight. I wasn’t eating to support my workouts and I was literally starving myself. No wonder I was always exhausted, cold all of the time, and slowly losing myself to an eating disorder every single day.
Becoming a Warrior
Some people might read this and think: Wow, I’m only trying to eat less cookies. My life isn’t like that at all. And some women might think: Wow that’s exactly like my story… But either way, there’s something important to learn from my eating disorder.
It’s that no matter what your goals are, if you notice an obsession starting, it’s so incredibly important to recognize the signs and to seek help. An eating disorder is always knocking on the door when weight loss becomes an obsession, and an eating disorder is not something I would ever wish on anyone.
But don’t worry, there is a happy ending. It’s absolutely possible to heal from and eating disorder, and now I practice self love every single day. Recovering from an eating disorder is a journey and treating yourself with kindness is absolutely the most amazing way to heal from taking such a huge mental and physical toll on your body.
So what happened? I stopped counting calories and I lost my abs, but I gained my LIFE back.
I told my boyfriend all of the horrible things I had put myself through mentally and physically… and now he’s helping me love myself more every single day. Personally, I don’t think recovery has an end point, but I also think most people with an eating disorder would say that too. It’s a living journey, like a scar on your body, but it acts more like a scar on your soul. The wound will heal, but it’ll always kind of be there. The pain I went through reminds me that I’m a warrior– that I battled for myself, and I won.
My boyfriend, Mick, made this card for me so that I’ll always remember to be happy with myself. He made me write, “I’m happy because I love my body” then he laminated it for me. Now, I keep it with me every day as a reminder to love myself because I am loved.
This little act of kindness WORKS for me. When I’m feeling down, I hold that card close because I can feel the emotion and confidence in those words. I AM happy, because I LOVE my body. This card proves that you always have the option to change your mind and start loving your body – and believe that you can start that right now! <3
Eating Disorder Prevention
I’m thankful to be able to share my story, and to be able to use my blog, Simple Healthy Eats as my way to empower other young women, so they can see their own eating disorder and stop it in it’s tracks, heal from one they’ve already discovered, or even prevent one from happening in the first place.
If you feel like your obsession with weight loss is starting to turn for the worst, it’s never too late to get help – the best place to go is the National Eating Disorders Association’s website. No matter if you have an eating disorder already, or are simply afraid that it might be happening, please tell someone. At the very least you can absolutely talk to me. Send me a message here.
For further information on eating disorders and to learn where to get professional help, please visit the National Eating Disorders Association’s website.
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