"What are your interests?" I was asked this seemingly casual question on a casual Monday afternoon. For most people, the answer...
…when it all started; before I knew it, I was in over my head. Slice of bread for breakfast. Apple for lunch. No dinner. Sleep the hunger away. Repeat.
I developed the twisted notion that compromising my health and well-being to fit into a smaller size would make me happier, but it just made things worse. The funny thing about eating disorders is they slowly creep up on you and then proceed to spiral out of control so much faster than you can comprehend.
Negative body image is undeniably a factor in the emergence of eating disorders, but it isn’t the only one. Many people who struggle with disordered eating also present psychiatric conditions like depression, anxiety disorders, and OCD, and the habits — restricting, binging, and purging — often develop as dangerous coping mechanisms. The most important thing to know is that it isn’t just an extreme attempt at weight loss; it’s a legitimate, diagnosable (but treatable!) psychiatric disorder.
It progressively got worse; I would weigh myself religiously every morning, beating myself up if the number on the scale didn’t go down. I would avoid all social situations involving food, losing touch with a significant portion of my friends. I felt weaker during afterschool lacrosse practice, unable to keep up with my teammates. The entire time, I knew what I was doing was wrong, but for some reason, I couldn’t stop. I felt in control. I felt that this was only a temporary coping mechanism to some end goal.
Sometimes I wonder if recovery even exists. If I’m ever going to get rid of this. I feel like it will always be on the periphery, a thing inside of me. It will always be there within me and every day I will think about it as it looks me in the face. It is about food and it is not about food at all; it has nothing to do with food, but with things even more primal and closer to the essence of being human. It is about control, and desire, and denial, and all I can do is wrestle with it. This isn’t something you can “snap out of.” I can’t count the amount of times that people assume that I’m some sort of snake that can just shed this skin of sickness off. This is something I live with.
This is my story. I am not going to omit parts of myself to make you more comfortable. I am also not, however, going to allow my wounds to turn me into something I am not. Since then, I have chosen recovery. I have chosen love and nourishment. It’s not a destination, but rather a long, arduous journey. I must choose recovery every day, despite the ease with which I lean towards the opposite. That’s the part about recovery that people don’t tell you; you have to think so much more about NOT thinking about it (counterintuitive and frustrating, I know). After a lifetime struggling with disordered eating, I’m still figuring out how to have a healthy relationship with my body and what I feed it. I’ve come a long way, and for that I am proud, but I still have a long way to go.
Life isn’t about losing weight; you are so much more than that, and you owe it to yourself to do what makes you feel alive. You are not the number on the scale, or the size of your body, or your resume. You are the books you read and the songs you sing. You are your hopes, dreams, and passions. You are already enough; don’t let it take a lifelong diseased obsession to let you figure that out.