It's National Eating Disorder Awareness week. Every year, since I have become comfortable sharing my story, I like to dedicate the time to continue to raise awareness about the prevalence of ED's, by sharing tidbits of my own journey.
From a YOUNG age, I developed a warped perception of food. The first time I viewed my weight as a negative, I was only 5 years old. Comparison ruled my entire life as I grew up in the dance industry and constantly had to look at my body next to other's in the mirror. I had a tiny best friend that I used to wish I could look like, but I was always told "you will never look like her." Part of me always wanted to prove them wrong.
When I was 10 years old, I decided to go on my first "diet" even though I had no clue what that meant. I thought diets meant salads, fruit and no dessert.
When I was 12 years old, my brother was traumatically killed in a car accident. That's the first time I remember turning to food for comfort.
At age 14, I binged for the first time on clam chowder, a bread bowl and a mile high slice of cheesecake. I also tried to make myself throw up for the first time that night and thankfully, was unsuccessful.
My eating disorder fully developed after that night. I began to starve myself, depriving my body of calories on an extreme level. I consumed less than 500 calories per day for over 8 months. I lost 40 lb in 3 months and along with that experienced major fatigue, deep depression, crippling anxiety, insomnia, hair loss, and bouts of fainting due to malnourishment. I lost my period and lost my will to socialize.
There were times my mother would beg me to smile, but I couldn't. There were times I wished that I would just disappear. I knew I had taken things too far when I reached 85 lb but I couldn't stop. I was petrified of what would happen if I relinquished the control I had over food...when in reality, food had control over me.
Finally, when I was 15, my parents confronted me and told me they were bringing me to get help. I slowly started "recovering" for their sake. My body image was shot and I still battled anxiety and some depression, but I began to heal. As I started to put on more weight, I got attention from boys at school and that helped to keep me afloat in knowing that I appeared attractive to people, even if I still despised my appearance.
High school popularity kept me afloat from 16-18. I had my firs bout of love in the summer between graduation and college. Those were some of the best memories of my life, but they did not prepare me at all for what was to come.
College flipped my world upside down and on top of that, my first love shattered my heart into a million pieces. I searched for any familiar form of control...and therefore, I relapsed. This time, I sought food for comfort and would binge incredible amounts on food, before overexercising and/or making myself successfully throw up. My weight didn't shift around too much so it didn't cause people any external worry - until I fell into the darkest depression of my life. Finally, I decided that I needed help and so I found a therapist who changed my life.
The summer between my freshman and sophomore year in college was monumental for me. I finally was on the mend from my relapse and I found a new venture in self-love. I dedicated myself to my health and ever so slowly, I started to allow my body to have the food it needed. Because my metabolism was thoroughly out of whack, due to years of abuse, I put on weight quickly - about 25 lb. I hated and struggled with seeing my body grow and become bigger than it ever had been. I had several panic attacks over it and fought my thoughts of relapse countlessly.
But, I persevered and told myself my body needed to learn to trust me again. Slowly, my weight gain plateaued and then, began to fall off. This was only AFTER finally establishing a healthy and CONSISTENT exercise and fitness routine. There were times I wanted to strictly diet and get the weight off, but each time I tried, I knew that I was only holding myself back from optimal health and a harmonious balance between body and mind.
I'm now 23 years old, with the NEDA symbol for recovery tattooed on my arm as a reminder that I overcame this fight, battled hard and came out a recovered warrior. I still struggle with my body image, but I look at food and fitness in a new light. A light of self-improvement, not self-destruction.
Now, I share my story in hopes that I can help make someone feel even 1% better, 1% more understood, 1% more worthy of self-love. It is my purpose and drive to teach others how to properly nourish and move their bodies, so that they never let themselves or their future generations suffer from disordered tendencies.
Eating Disorders and disordered eating tendencies are insanely common, especially in women. It doesn't matter your age, race, gender or level of fitness, though. Anyone can be thrust into an ED, even if they are not predisposed to it.
I post this not for your pity, but to raise awareness and open a conversation that isn't talked about enough.