Guest Post: An ongoing battle with an eating disorder in today's world
I remember it vividly. I was at my friend’s birthday party and decided I wasn’t going to eat meat anymore. A small decision that would have a huge impact on my life. Most of my childhood, I was the bigger kid in class and so one day I decided to change. It started with cutting out meat, then that led to cutting out chocolate and then anything that wasn’t too sugary or didn’t have a nutrition label. At the time I was 14 and food seemed like the one thing I could control in my life. I stopped letting my mom make me breakfast, used smaller utensils and dishes to eat less and kept up with my exercise routine. My eighth grade year was awful, I remember bringing a yogurt and pineapple to school everyday and isolating myself at lunch so people wouldn’t see me eat.
Getting through high school and learning how to binge
Flash forward to the middle of ninth grade, I had lost probably 20 pounds, but I still wasn’t happy. During soccer practice one day, I made myself throw up so I could go home. Everyone thought I was sick but in reality my brain was the only part of me that was sick. Once I realized that I could make myself throw up, the year and a half of starving myself caught up with me in a big way. I started binging on anything and everything I could, waiting until my parents went to sleep to begin devouring everything in sight. After stuffing myself so full, the only thing I wanted to do was make that feeling go away. So I would make myself sick. This went on most of high school, and I continuously lost more and more weight, but it was never enough. By sophomore year in college, I was 113 pounds, binging daily on anything that I wouldn’t normally eat and running 5+ miles a day to ensure I didn’t gain weight (mind you, I started my “weight loss” at 168 pounds).
Finally reaching out for help
That year I finally opened up to my mom and told her that I had a problem, my family gave me the ultimatum to go get help or to be cut off. I chose to go to therapy and worked with a therapist throughout the next two years of college. By the end of college I had gotten my shit somewhat together, however I was still so unhappy with my body. I had gained weight (approximately 20 pounds) and was trying to navigate how to eat normally again. For so long, I had no hunger cues and felt perpetually hungry.
How it has effected my adult life
In 2016, I had just started my career in the Army and told myself, yet again that I would be this disease once and for all. I got up to my highest weight but was still so disgusted by the body in the mirror. For 9 months in 2017, I had my longest streak of sobriety, but as soon as life felt out of control again I was right back where I started. The last three years have felt like a flash, and I’m still here fighting but each day I get a little stronger.
Having an eating disorder is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Unlike other addictions, you have to eat to live, it’s not just something you can avoid. During every social event, holiday, night out, breakfast, lunch and dinner I have to make the decision to eat, to not restrict and no matter how guilty I feel after, I have to make the decision to not make myself sick. Getting help is something I wish I had done sooner because even now at 26, I struggle daily to make healthy decisions for myself. The control and the pain I cause myself are the addictive parts of this disorder, it’s never just about the food. Throughout the last 13 years, I was never “sick enough.” I didn’t fit the stereotypical look of the skinny girl that looked like the wind could blow her over.
Taking the steps to a “normal”, healthy life
I have had to take my recovery day by day for over 3 years and I have slipped up more times than I care to admit. But my experience goes to show that no matter how someone appears, they might be hiding behind a mask distracting the world from ever really knowing what mental struggles they battle in their head on a daily basis. I am complicated, emotional, and generally all over the place, but every day I’m working towards getting my life back. I don’t know if I will ever be completely free, but I do know that I will continue to fight this war inside my mind every day. Deciding to cut out meat, turned into anorexia, which turned into bulimia and changed the course of my life forever.
For 13 years bulimia has plagued my life, and although it is a big part of me, it is not who I am or who I want to be. My eating disorder took some many things from me and continues to do so today. Isolation, anger, depression, anxiety, and a forever sinking feeling consumed me. I lost my menstrual cycle for 7 years, causing who knows how much damage to my reproductive system. Knowing that you may never have children because of what you did to yourself is probably the hardest pill to swallow. With that being said, each New Years I tell myself that I’m done with bulimia and every birthday I start over again.
Eating disorders in today’s society
In today’s world, getting help is something that most people struggle to do because of the stigma surrounding mental illnesses and eating disorders. Those people who desperately need help suffer in silence because they’ve been conditioned to believe that asking for help makes a person weak. The symptoms listed in the DSM that allow doctors to make diagnoses for patients are incredibly outdated and only chip away at the tip of the iceberg. There are so many types of eating disorders: bulimia, orthorexia, anorexia, binge eating disorder and many others that I don’t know off the top of my head but the worst part is this disease not discriminate based on gender, age or weight.
Notes from Okami & Co.
It’s difficult struggling with something as important as food. As Sara stated, you need food to live, so it’s not something you can just fix overnight. Having struggled with body image dysmorphia, I can relate to Sara’s journey of long nights of starvation, binging and purging, and excessively working out. It’s tough on your mental game, and it does require therapy to get through it. Just because someone looks “normal,” doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling. The biggest hurdle people may have that look normal is convincing someone they have a problem that they need help with. If you have any concern with your eating patterns and nutrition, please reach out for help.
About our Guest Author
Sara C. is a friend from high school, whom I’ve had the opportunity of attending military training with back in college. We reconnected through Facebook, and I reached out to her to share her story. She advocates for mental health through her Instagram showing her mental health journey and fitness journey. She is an officer in the United States Military. She is continuously striving to find balance in her mental and physical health while cheering on others to do the same. Follow her journey on her blog www.saraswayforward.com.