I have a late start to work today and it is the middle of NEDA Awareness Week, so I figured it is a good time to share my story. NEDA stands for National Eating Disorders Association, and yes I did struggle with an eating disorder- similar to anorexia. After about 4 years post-recovery, I am not ashamed of my story. I am proud of it. I hope it can shed some light on eating disorders and if you are fighting any internal battle, I hope I can help.
Hmm, where to begin… I guess I will start with high school. I was busy and active and ate like an unsupervised child in a candy store. I ate when I was hungry and I did not know a thing about protein/carbs/fat or calories. I was thin, had a booty, but did not worry about overeating. I just did my thing and it worked out well.
Then came college; let’s just say I did not love it. I attended Monmouth University, which is a very big commuter school and a small student body. I made a few friends, but did not click with them like I did with my home friends. I quit the cheerleading team very early. Basically, I never felt like I belonged there. I decided to focus on my schoolwork, but I became very bored at school. My grades were excellent, but my emotional state started to decline.
Monmouth is right near the beach, so I decided to take up running. The boardwalk became a perfect place to run. I started running once a week, and then it turned to every other day. I ran away from school, and problems, and worries. I was running about 7 miles every time I went out. I felt good and productive and thought, hey here is a new challenge for me. If I can not fit with my dark brown hair and current body, maybe I need to change this. “Yeah, then I will feel whole and I will feel good and I will belong.”
Hurricane Sandy Hit that fall and destroyed my boardwalk. I did not have a place to run for a while. I started hitting up the treadmill to run. I realized I was loosing weight and I liked it. I needed to expedite this process, so I studied how to lose more weight and of course, dieting came into play.
I downloaded MyFitnessPal and I started calorie counting. According to the app if I consumed 1200 calories a day, I would loose weight in just a few weeks. “I can totally do this,” I thought to myself. At first, I was easy on myself. When my family came to visit me at school, we would go to Stewart’s Root beer and I would get the usual. I went over calories pretty frequently but I did not freak out about it, I just told myself that tomorrow is a new day. Overtime, the addiction/obsession grew. I was consuming 100 calorie packs, microwave meals, and low-cal snacks to make counting easy. The salad bar at school was my go-to. I was staying at around 1200 calories, but I was running as well. The 1200 calorie limit was not enough for me, I wanted to do better. I was proud of myself if I was under 1200 calories. I counted the calories in a pack of gum. I could not sleep because my stomach was grumbling. I was cold all the time, I was cranky, and I was unhappy.
I saw results! I was skinny. People were asking how I did it and that added fuel to the fire. I look good! I can keep this up. In the back of my mind, there was a thought. This thought I pushed aside, but it screamed, “When will this end?! When will I have to stop counting?! At what point can I stop?!” I silenced that voice for a long, long time.
It became evident to my friends and family and peers that I had developed a problem. I was starting to look sickly thin, my hair was thinning out, my nails were falling out, and I was cranky. I went to bed early to avoid over eating and I woke up early because I was starving. Everyone noticed and knew, but no one wanted to say anything. They were scared.
One day, I was coming home from shopping with my Mom and I was super hungry. My Mom asked if I wanted Hansel and Griddle for dinner (one of my favorite spots). I checked my app, but I was almost out of calories for the day. My mind told me no, but my body told me otherwise. I was hungry and I needed food.
We parked and I started to cry- I could not bring myself to go get the wrap from Hansel. This may sound silly, but this was huge struggle. My mind raced back and forth between yes and no. I did not know what to do, and I had no where to turn. I yelled, ” I NEED HELP.”
I am fortunate to have a mother who genuinely cares and will do anything “for her babies!” My mom assisted me in getting the help I needed. I would be lying if I said it was a smooth and easy recovery. The path to recovery took time and every single day was a challenge.
It has been about 4 years since recovery. While I can not say, I am happy I had an eating disorder. It has taught me a great deal about life and what really matters. I am so grateful for the mindset that I have developed. I am stronger, both physically and mentally. I learned to love my body. I learned to appreciate everyday things- like eating pizza, bagels, and ice cream. I learned to appreciate the ability to hike, surf, travel, try new things, and to feel genuine happiness. I learned to let life happen and to stop planning my meals and my time.
I learned that I am enough- just as I am. No matter what the scale says, what my pant size is, or what color my hair is. I learned that life is happening now and tomorrow is not guaranteed. I spent too much time trying to be “perfect” and I realized that there is no such thing. I was skinny and blonde and guess what? I was unhappy. We have to love our bodies, because they are incredible.