Living with an Eating Disorder
A few weeks ago, at night, I had ice cream. I was traveling, and the state I was in had fantastic ice cream. I got chocolate cheesecake ice cream with hot fudge on top in a kid’s size.
I enjoyed it at the time. It was the first time I had ice cream in well over two months. As someone recovering from an eating disorder, eating ice cream is a very difficult thing to do. As soon as I threw away the cup and the bit of ice cream I left in there, I started feeling gross and guilty. I made plans to calorie restrict the next day, and then right after changed my mind and made plans to let myself have a cheat day because I needed one so badly. I went back and forward between these two options for a long time, and it was all I could think about. I was going in circles, and examining my stomach for potential bloat every time I walked by a window I could see my reflection in. I could barely focus on the beautiful streets my friends and I were exploring.
I definitely calorie restricted the day after ice cream. I had a much smaller breakfast than usual, and a lunch consisting of a bid of salad (without dressing, so it was essentially lettuce) some beans, a bit of rice, and an apple. I felt accomplished, making up for my cheat the previous night.
Later that day, I urgently started snacking on nuts and fruit. I was super hungry and having intense cravings. I needed bread. I wanted pizza. I’ll probably have some tonight, I thought. I wanted to go to starbucks and gobble up 5 muffins. It was a scary feeling.
I am not anorexic nor am I bulimic. I never had any intention of calorie restriction when I actually had my disorder, and I still generally avoid counting calories. In fact, I had no idea I had an eating disorder during the bulk of it and had no idea how unhealthy my diet was, especially for a growing teenage girl. Only three of my friends are aware of what I went through, and two of them don’t go to school with me. Those friends knew because I told them, and only one of them previously noticed something was off. The other two didn’t see it coming.
I was always petite, and I was certainly never fat. I remember in sixth grade having friends who would always comment on how skinny I was. I barely knew what the words “eating disorder” or “anorexic” meant and didn’t pay attention to body image or being skinny at all. My family eats healthier than most, but overall I just have a fast metabolism. This spring, I knew that in the back of my head, but the little bit of baby fat on my stomach messed with my brain.
For the last few years, I had been working out on and off and had always been a bit insecure. I became serious about changing my body this past spring. I would buy really unhealthy snacks at school and felt unable to control my food intake in general, and didn’t feel great. I remember one day, my friends and I were feeling each others’ abs. My stomach was squishier than all of theirs, and it felt awful.
Instead of trying to eat healthier and learn to moderate myself so that I’d be satisfied rather than overly stuffed, I became falsely convinced I was fat, and was determined to change that. I literally said to myself, “I am going to develop an eating disorder.” I was traveling during this time, and I tried to make myself throw up a few times. (It didn’t work.) When I got home, I decided to try a diet that certainly wasn’t meant for growing 15-year-old girls, especially those who were late to puberty and periods like I was.
During the month of this diet, food was literally all I ever thought about. I would repeatedly plan out what I was going to eat and when. I thought I was happy and I thought I felt good, and I truly thought I was eating enough. In reality, I was miserable and my body was dying little by little from the lack of nutrients. My friends had no idea what I was going through, and most them still have no idea what I went through. That’s not because their bad friends. They’re amazing people who I’m so lucky to have. You never know what people are suffering from. Eating disorders are more common than one might assume and come in many forms.
I felt weirdly lonely, isolated, and disconnected from my friends but I wasn’t sure why. Now, of course, I know my extreme lethargy was because of my diet. My mom knew the way I was eating wasn’t right, and decided to have me see a specialist. Coincidentally, I saw her on the final day of my one month diet.
I hadn’t weighed myself during this month, but I figured I should before I saw the nutritionist. When I went to weigh myself, I saw that I had lost 10 pounds. I also hadn’t had my period in 4 months. I knew I had to gain weight, and that these symptoms were problematic. What I wasn’t aware of was how severe my issue was.
I thought I was seeing a nutritionist who would write me a meal plan for fitness purposes or whatever like I saw all the fitness youtubers do. My excessive fitness video watching is a whole other story. When I got to the office, though, I found out she was an eating disorder specialist, and was there to help me “recover,” a word that wasn’t on my radar at all.
I complained to my mom that I didn’t need to see her because I didn’t have an eating disorder or any problem at all. I truly didn’t think I had a problem. That night, I had my favorite macaroni and cheese, my first processed food in a month. I didn’t finish it, but it tasted delicious. This was a really big deal for me. I was proud.
Fast forward a bit, I came to terms with the fact that I have a problem. I’m not going to go to deeply into science, but my body was in a state called ketosis, meaning that I wasn’t getting enough carbs. My diet was so poor that my body was starting to use my muscle tissue as food. The psychological part was a massive issue as well that I’m still working on with my nutritionist and therapist. I’ve been adding much more healthy calories and carbs to my diet, and my lethargy, depression, and isolation has gone away. After just a week of eating more carbs and calories, I began to feel more like my happy, social self again.
My story isn’t over yet. I’ve been traveling for a couple weeks now, and I’ve allowed myself to eat a lot of sweets and bread. Because of my daily indulgence, my abs aren’t as defined as they were before and I’ve been frustrated with that. Each time I’d eat something unhealthy, the more I’d crave similar food and the more upset with myself I’d get. Although I enjoy the treat, I get into this panicked mental state after. The day before yesterday I had a really difficult day, and tried to make myself throw up three times, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it.
Overall, though, I’m proud of allowing myself to indulge a bit. I’m on the path to recovering, and I’m doing a good job being less obsessive. I want to be strong, not weak. I don’t want to only think about food all day. I will continue to eat healthy, because I feel good that way and have always felt good that way, but I am on my way to accepting that the occasional sweet won’t hurt me.
I wanted to share my story for a few reasons. First of all, diets and eating disorders aren’t worth it. Having whatever one defines as a “good body” will make you happy for literally a split second and the rest of it will be misery and stress. Trust me. It’s important to be healthy, not skinny. If you are considering any form of diet for the sake of weight loss, I beg you to reconsider. You never know what you deem a simple diet will lead to.
Second, I wanted people to be aware of the fact that eating disorders don’t necessarily mean that you could see people’s bones because they weren’t eating anything at all. Like I said, people didn’t know I had this disorder. You never know what people are going through, and you never know what you yourself are susceptible to.