Anorexia Recovery: Defined by a Number
I was never big, obese or even close to overweight. But, growing up I always hated my body. It was about eight years ago when my body image disorder really affected me and thus what caused the past few years of my life to become living hell.
In Grade 7, I joined the gym and began to think about loosing weight. Though I never actually took the time to eat healthier and educate myself on what forms of exercises would help me reach this goal. In Grade 8 I began to workout a bit more, mostly in my basement but still ate whatever and whenever I wanted.
My mom made a comment to me one day, that really stuck with me over the next few years. She told me I should try and change the way I was eating, as it would “catch up to me”. This is probably when I began to start questioning how my body would change in the future, and I became panicked because I had heard of women hormones causing more weight gain at a certain point in their lives. At this time, I was eating pizza pockets, hot dogs, cookies, cheese and crackers almost everyday after school – not limiting myself on how many I would grab for at a time.
MY EXPERIENCE IN HIGHSCHOOL
So grade 9 came along. I was excited for my first year of high school! I wanted to meet new people, make new friends and I could not wait to see what it was all about. Especially after it being so hyped in movies, television and even seeing my brother go through it. But, unfortunately it was not what I expected.
Relationships came my way, I got invited to parties, and I was making a handful of new friends. Though my anxiety of how I looked got much worse. I began to convince myself that I needed to keep this ‘image’ others had of me up, in order to be accepted and liked.
This is when I became involved with Instagram – which soon became my worst nightmare. As I started to dance and join teams at school where I had to perform in front of an audience, I started to go to the gym more. Instagram had endless pictures of girls with unrealistic waist sizes, six pack abs and massive thigh gaps. I followed too many fitness accounts, googled so many diets and researched which workouts would burn calories the quickest. Day to night I would look at photos and compare myself to them. I was disgusted with how I looked and I started to define myself by the number on the scale.
By summer, I had lost quite a bit of weight. I went from 125 pounds to about 110. As the number on the scale dropped, my motivation to continue this dangerous lifestyle rose.
After my family trip to Florida in the summer going into Grade 10, I was told to see the doctor. I had never been so scared in my life. I was told I could not work out until I had gained back a few pounds. I was scared of carbs, I was scared of not being able to sweat. During this time, I was sent to the ER because my heart rate was extremely slow. I wore a heart monitor for a few days after this. But, soon my weight increased, my period came back and my relationship with food was pretty much back to normal. Though, the thoughts of being thinner still floated around in my head.
In Grade 10 and 11, I continued to live with the fear of gaining weight and others being disgusted with how I looked. My workouts remained intense and long all throughout high school.
Grade 12. Prom, grad trip and parties. As the year went on, I began to develop really bad orthorexia which caused my anxiety to rise. Orthorexia Nervosa is the addiction to avoiding unhealthy foods (such as high sodium, high fat, and carbohydrates with added sugars) and spending more time focusing on what you eat rather than living.
My body started to really change, and once again I started to watch the number on the scale drop. I was a lot more experienced with my workouts by this time, but did not compensate with proper nutrition to actually gain the muscle. I was slowly deteriorating, my body was shutting down, but I refused to see that. My mind was blinded. By the end of grade 12 I was weighing in at 105 pounds and once again everything went downhill.
THINGS ONLY GOT WORSE, & I WAS NOW IN UNIVERSITY
I went to see the doctor again in early October of my first year of University – since my menstrual cycle had stopped for the second time and my parents were really concerned with how I looked. I was referred to an eating disorder clinic and was warned that if I did not improve, I would be hospitalized. By this time I was around 90-92 pounds. I became someone I did not know. I was not in control of my emotions, what I said or even my actions. There is no way to explain what it feels like to have an eating disorder. I was so sick, always cold and I slept so much. But to me, that was a good thing. I never saw a frail, sick girl with bones protruding out under her skin. Looking back now though, I can see how scary I looked. My collarbones stuck out, my elbows were wider than my upper arm, I had dark, purple circles under my eyes, my face was gaunt and my ribs were visible. My hair also became dry and a lot of it fell out. I no longer had a radiating, healthy glow.
When I finally went to the Eating Disorder clinic I had to pass a couple of “tests”. These involved checking my body fat percentage, speaking about my daily food intake and answering short multiple choice questions. I also spoke to a few nutritionists, therapists and the main doctor. As assumed, I failed the tests, but, was given a chance to gain any weight possible in the matter of 1-2 weeks since my dad would be at home to supervise my eating habits.
During this time I was treated like a child and I hated it. I would scream, throw things and cry endlessly. My family would prepare my breakfast, lunch and dinner and I was forced to eat every last bite. It was hard. But I was lucky enough to not be hospitalized. Instead I had to go in weekly to see a therapist with my parents. I felt like I was in an assembly line, being treated like I was the same as all the other individuals at this clinic. Sure we all had a eating disorder but our triggers, our goals, our lifestyles and passions were all very different.
Over the course of January, till even to date, I was told my goal weight must be between 115-120. It was a long rough road, though I slowly began to love my body. There were many ups and downs, lies and fights along the way. Mentally? The only person who could change this was me. Physically? I was being forced. During this time I learned a lot more about nutrition and fitness and developed a deep passion for it. I began to have a healthy relationship with my body and soon I was allowed to introduce the gym again.
WHERE AM I AT NOW?
I can honestly say I am not happy, but, grateful that I had an eating disorder. It made me into a stronger, confident and happier individual. Being diagnosed with anorexia and having an eating disorder for half of my life allowed me to realize what path I have to take in life. It also allowed me to meet such amazing people over the last year who I can relate too, talk to and get the support I need.
I have become someone who appreciates the smaller things in life, and through this I was able to grow. My skin, hair and personality now glows so much more than ever before and I can now listen to when my body needs a break. It is rare for me to feel guilty for skipping the gym or eating food labeled as unhealthy now.
I still have triggers time to time that I need to battle, but, I do know that I never want to be in such a sick, unhealthy, scary lifestyle again. I’m envious of people who don’t experience this, I would give anything to know what it feels like to not be scared of food, or be able to go out without getting overwhelmed with how they may look. Somedays are better than others, some days are worse. But what I can take away from all this is that you have to keep fighting. You can’t let a bad day or the number on a scale control what you eat, how you act or how you feel.
I hope that my recovery can help others. Though it may not seem like there is a light at the end of the tunnel, I want those experiencing eating disorders and anorexia to know that it will get better. With that in mind, you can keep glowing.
If you are suffering from an eating disorder or recognizing early signs in either yourself or close friends and family, then I suggest seeking immediate support from someone you feel comfortable telling. NEDA (https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/) is a great place to get help and learn about eating disorders. They offer a bunch of information on warning signs, how to react and even offer a screening to see if you could possibly be experiencing early stages of one. They also have a help line – it is okay to say your not okay.