Tomorrow ends National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. If you’ve checked out my About Me page before, you’ve likely read my own personal experience with eating disorders. Having recovered from anorexia and compulsive exercising two different times, spreading awareness about eating disorders is something that’s very close to my heart.
At just 13 years old, I started to struggle with my body image. I am only 5’2”, so while other girls my age were starting to get taller and thinner, I wasn’t. I certainly wasn’t heavy at 13, in fact I was a very normal weight for my height, but I wouldn’t consider myself “skinny.” And so began my unhealthy relationship with food and exercise. I cut myself back to eating only low-fat, healthy foods (a lot of fat-free yogurt, plain turkey sandwiches and apples). I also started running 5 miles a day, 7 days a week.
Well it worked. I lost weight. So much so that my parents grew concerned. By the time I agreed to go see my doctor, my weight was in the 80s. I rarely look back at pictures from ages 13-15 because I’m barely recognizable. My doctor sent me to a nutritionist that basically told me “eat more calories.”
For someone with an already unhealthy relationship with food, that was terrifying. I had no idea how to moderate my food intake, but I was scared to death that my body would start shutting down if I didn’t. And so I ate more calories. In fact, my food intake went to the opposite extreme and I started binge eating (but not purging)… gaining 30 pounds in a matter of months. At one point in high school, I hit 135, which is heavy for a 5’2″ frame. (I also don’t look at pictures from ages 16-18 because I’m heavy… to quite heavy.)
In college, my concerns were with school and my social life, so my obsession with food slowly self-regulated. I wasn’t too heavy, but I was chubby. I ate unhealthy, always eating out, but I was busy that I didn’t focus on food and just let my weight hover in the 120′s.
Fast forward to a year out of college and I’m working in my first big girl job. I had just started dating my (now) husband when my dad suddenly passed away from a heart attack. My dad was my best friend and I struggled to deal with the loss. I felt I had no control over anything, so I went back to the one thing I knew I could control: food and my weight.
When my dad passed away, my weight was right around 130. Within a matter of two months, I had lost 20-25 pounds and was continuing to drop. About a month after my dad died, I got back into running and I thrived on those endorphins. I continued to restrict my calories more and more and increased my running to follow. For months and months I allowed myself no more than 800 calories during the week and would not let myself run fewer than 40 miles a week. The weekends were my “splurge days” because my body was starving and needed those calories (my long runs were Saturday mornings).
I remember my breaking point. My weight had dropped to 99 pounds and I was miserable. I will be 100% honest with you here, I liked the way I looked. For the first time in years my legs look lean and I was sporting a size 0 (often a 00). But during the week I was weak and miserable and my body was hurting. I remember driving home from somewhere with Mark, crying in the passenger seat because I wanted to live a normal life and have a healthy relationship with food.
It took a conscious effort on my part to slowly stop counting calories and let myself eat. I slowed my running down substantially and incorporated in other types of exercise as well. I won’t lie and say it’s been easy and that I don’t have hard days still. In fact, it wasn’t until a month ago that I stopped weighing myself every day. Currently, I weigh between 108-110 pounds. My “goal weight” is 109.5 for my height, so I feel comfortable with where I’m at.
Do I have fat days? Constantly. Do I feel guilty when I eat more calories than I know I should? All the time. But I am continuing to form a healthy relationship with food and striving to eat naturally and intuitively. I know I will never have a 100% normal relationship with food, and that’s OK. And I want others to know that the helpless feeling associated with an eating disorder can be overcome.
One of my favorite things about this blog is some of the feedback (through comments and emails) I’ve received on my about me page. So many people out there, guys and girls, have dealt with or are dealing with an eating disorder. I hope you know you’re not alone and I would love to offer an open ear if this is something you’re struggling with!
If you’ve overcome an eating disorder, I’d love to hear about it in the comments section. We can always use a little encouragement!