Opening Up About My Eating Disorder

Until now, I’ve only made vague references and comments about this on my blog. Part of me was hesitant even to do that. There are a lot of reasons that I still feel somewhat uncomfortable sharing this story. Not only am I ashamed of the behaviors themselves and the seemingly benign catalyst to this downward spiral, but I’m also ashamed to label myself as someone recovering from an eating disorder.

Even though I definitely suffered from extremely disordered eating for months if not an entire year, I never felt like it was “that bad.” I know a lot of people internally minimize their own mental health issues especially when eating disorders are involved, but even knowing that, I didn’t feel able to consider myself one of those people. I’ve watched so many documentaries and series about anorexia and other eating disorders. I know how bad it can get. I know it can be life-threatening at times, especially in the cases that persist for years and years. I was comparing myself to those extreme cases and disregarding the suffering and severity of where I was physically and mentally for those months. I felt, like a lot of people do, that I wasn’t “that sick.” I wasn’t extreme enough in my behaviors. I wasn’t thin enough to have an eating disorder. It hadn’t been going on long enough.

It is easy for me to recognize these excuses and minimizing attempts in others, but only recently have I been able to accept that things really had gotten bad for me. And that I’m still struggling to regain healthy eating habits and not fall back into toxic self-talk. I wanted to write about my experiences today for all of those who may be reading that are like me. There is no “sick enough” threshold that you have to meet before you can get help. If you feel there is a problem, there is. You don’t have to reach rock bottom or suffer for a certain length of time before you can decide to love yourself, before you decide you are worthy of recovery. You are worthy of recovery right now. You are always worthy of love. Your suffering matters, regardless of whether or not someone else may “have it worse.”

My eating disorder began at the end of 2019. One of the parts I’m embarrassed by is the “reason” it seemed to have been triggered. I’m sure there were a lot of other underlying issues going on, and the isolation of the pandemic really made it a lot worse, but the day I recall that switch happening in my mind was a day I was pulled over. I am no stranger to speeding tickets, but this one really got to me for some reason. I was so ashamed and humiliated for getting yet another ticket and having to spend over $100 on something so stupid right before the holidays. As I cried big ugly tears on the rest of my drive home, my thoughts were swirling with negativity.

I’m never pretty enough to get out of a ticket I thought. A thought I have basically every time I’ve been pulled over. But that day it stung particularly badly. “I don’t deserve to eat tonight.” That was the thought that played on repeat. And I didn’t eat that night. Or the next. To my surprise, fasting made me feel a lot better. I felt powerful and strong. I felt sleek and beautiful. My mind felt sharp. I felt in control. I woke up more easily. I felt lighter during my morning workout. “This is great,” I told myself.

After those first two days without eating, fasts became a normal part of my weekly routine. At first I was fasting for one or two days every week. Then three days a week. Then it started to become more than just fasting. On the four days a week I allowed myself to eat, I had a very strict diet. I didn’t eat until 6 or 7 in the evening, and then I would basically eat things that had virtually no calories so that I could eat for hours straight without feeling guilty. Each and every day I ate, I would eat the same exact things, in the same exact order. First I would eat four whole cans of green beans with copious amounts of salt and onion powder. Then I would eat roasted zucchini. Then I would eat cabbage soup. Then lima beans. Sometimes these super low-calorie spring rolls. Then I would finish it off by gorging myself on vegan halotop ice cream, or banana nice cream.

Not long after that, I also starting binging and purging two of the four days I did eat. So I basically wasn’t getting any calories besides the few I would keep down two days a week. I continued to workout for an hour every day like always during this period, mind you. If for some reason I ended up eating with family or friends, that would inevitably be thrown up later. I was worried about the purging, but not much else. And even that was about my looks. I didn’t want my teeth to fall out. I knew that wasn’t going to be something I could do forever, but at the time, I still didn’t want to stop.

In the beginning, I felt amazing. I was losing more weight, more quickly than I ever had my entire life. Every week I was meeting new personal goals. I was elated each and every time I took out the scale to see a smaller number. Even so, it didn’t seem to be perceivable in the reflection I saw in the mirror. Even though I reached my lifelong personal goal for the first time ever, I still hated who I saw staring back at me. I still felt the same, worse even. I felt disgusting, fat, like my belly was grotesque, like I’d never be thin enough.

At a certain point a month or more in, my family and friends started to express their concerns. They were not hesitant at all about asking me point blank if I had an eating disorder. Of course I lied and said I was just being very careful not to eat as much as I used to, but that I was completely fine and healthy. They didn’t seem to believe me, but they didn’t push the issue either. Their concern only made me hate myself more. I felt guilty and embarrassed that they knew I wasn’t okay. I felt like a failure that the comments I received were concerned instead of impressed. I also felt immense pressure at that point to keep the weight off. I was horrified at the idea I may gain it back and people would notice that too.

I had always dreamed of being thin. Ever since I was a little girl in elementary school. I still remember that when I found out about eating disorders, I genuinely wished that I could have one. I felt like that was the only way I’d ever be able to get skinny. Sadly, I made that wish come true through years and years of exposing myself to “thinspo” on Instagram and Tumbr. It always felt like the horrible mental side effects of these disorders just wouldn’t happen to me, or that they were an okay price to pay for beauty. After experiencing the mental and emotional agony I went through, I can say with absolute certainty that isn’t true.

I had sold myself the lie that being skinny would make me happy for my entire life. It was absolutely devastating to confront that lie. During these months, my mental health plummeted lower than ever before. I absolutely hated myself. I was utterly disgusted by every part of myself. I hated my reflection even more than I did before I lost the weight. Each and every moment of the day was consumed by thoughts of food and outrageous levels of anxiety. This was supposed to be how I found happiness, but I found only misery. It felt like happiness didn’t even exist anymore, or at least I’d never find it.

I honestly don’t know how I found the strength within me to finally work on more healthy eating habits again, but somehow I did. It was a slow process, and I still haven’t made it back to “normal” yet. But I am so proud of myself for deciding that I was worthy of my own love. Even though my eating is still a bit haywire, I feel like I have a healthier relationship with my body than I ever thought I would. Now when those toxic thoughts about my body come up, I remind myself that being skinny isn’t going to solve all my problems. It didn’t solve them. It just made life a living Hell. I remind myself that I get to choose whether to be happy or not, and it is in no way correlated to my appearance. In fact, I’m happier now than I’ve ever been.

If you’re reading this right now and see yourself in any of what I’ve written today. Please get help. Even if that’s just deciding to try to help yourself. Don’t wait until things are unbearable to change course. Because the sooner you are able to turn around, the easier it will be to reclaim some sense of normalcy. And trust me, if I was able to do it, anyone can. You are beautiful for who you are, not what you look like. You are enough. You are worthy of love. You are worthy of happiness. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you’re struggling. I would be honored to answer any questions anyone might have or offer my support to anyone who needs it. Thank you for letting me finally share my story.

Eating Disorder Awareness: Spread the Word - Bayridge Counselling Centres

Tired of My Own Shit

Over three months into 2021 and I haven’t made nearly as much progress towards my goals as I had hoped. I had such grand plans to stop smoking and get my eating habits back on track. Yet hardly anything has changed at all. I suppose I am slightly proud that I have managed to stop smoking in the morning and all day at work. I’ve gotten back to only drinking sugar and creamer in my coffee on my days off. I’ve also managed to at least reimplement some healthy meals back into my diet, despite it overall still being extremely repetitive, shamefully odd, and unhealthy.

When I’ve stopped smoking cigarettes in the past, it has been because I would suddenly realize that this activity that I once relished and looked forward to, had become something to dread or at least feel indifferent towards. This same weariness has crept into all of my once cherished, bad habits. It is quite a strange realization. When once I could justify these behaviors to myself because they brought me some semblance of joy and calm, now I have no excuse. Now instead of feeling like I’m indulging myself and being cheeky, I feel as though I’m a slave to these compulsions.

To me, these feelings are similar to what some people call “rock bottom.” In that sense, I do understand why a lot of people say you must reach rock bottom before you are willing to change. Once you’ve gotten that low, it seems equally difficult no matter which path you choose to take. There is no longer a path of least resistance. It is just as hard, if not harder, to continue the negative behaviors than it is to change. Changing can almost become an exciting idea again, a real possibility, a real path back to some sort of happiness. After all, nothing could feel worse than continuing down the road you are on.

I feel like right now I am just on the precipice of that place. I can feel myself hesitating at the fork in the road before me. On the right I can see ahead of me more of the same drudgery, the same guilt, shame, and pain I’ve become so accustomed to. On the left, however, the path is completely obscured by a dense fog. At what point does the fear of the unknown become less terrifying than continuing on the way you have been? It feels like I am about to find out first hand. I hope that I am about to find out.

I promised myself that if I was still struggling after starting the new year that I would begin therapy. Even though I desperately don’t want to, nor do I really have the money to, I think it may finally be time to make an appointment. I’ve got to get a professional, outside perspective in order to help myself. I am too lost within the delusions of my own mental illness. When I first began these disordered eating habits, I told myself that it would be worth it because I would finally be able to be super skinny. And I was for at least a month or two last summer. So much so that my friends and family began to worry about me. Yet it didn’t bring me any happiness at all. I was more anxious and miserable than ever before. I still hated myself. I still hated my body and the way I looked, maybe even more than before. Somehow even though I felt bony and stick-like, I never stopped feeling bulbous, bulky, and too big.

Now I’ve basically reverted back to my normal weight (I’m too afraid of the scale to know for sure) but I’ve been unable to shake my disordered eating. It feels like all of that suffering was ultimately for nothing. I’ve maintained all the negatives, but none of the “positives.” And even though I keep reminding myself that my weight did not correlate with my happiness at all, I am too afraid of gaining more to take proper care of myself again. It’s been so long that I’m not sure I ever remember how to. Food used to be my crutch, my comfort, but now it has also become my greatest fear and my greatest shame. The damage I have done to my relationship with food and with myself seems impossible for me to fix alone. I need to push through my anxiety in order to ask for help, to get an outside voice to help overpower the unhealthy one in my head.

I just want to trust myself again. I want to reconnect with my body’s wisdom, with my intuition. I want to feel healthy again, mentally and physically. I want to love myself. I want to take good care of myself. It is insane to me that the fear of being fat is able to overpower all of my more positive impulses and instincts. I know that I have to overcome that fear in order to get back to a healthier place. I need to accept that I’ll probably have to gain weight in order to set my body right again. Why on earth does that feel like a death sentence?

I want to stop focusing on weight all together. It doesn’t matter. It is meaningless. I want to focus on the things that really matter in this life, like being kind to myself and others, being a good person, a good daughter, granddaughter, sister, friend. I want to live a life that doesn’t have to be a shameful secret. I want to live a life that I can be proud of. I want to get excited about my life again.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Thinspo

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Since I was probably 16 or 17 years old, I have been obsessively smothering myself with images of perfect, thin women. In the beginning I was really having fun. I had no idea this was something anyone else did or that it could be harmful to me. I would scroll through the skinny tag on Tumblr or Instagram to get me motivated before running on the treadmill every morning. I thought it was harmless. I thought it would help me even.

Fast forward to today and I still have Tumblr filled with skinny women to scroll through nearly 10 years later. I try not to actively seek out these photos anymore. I’ve cut out Instagram entirely. But still… I don’t make any real effort to avoid these images. I still get a sick satisfaction out of looking at obscenely skinny young women. I still compare my reflection to them each time I glance in a mirror.

The only difference is that I can see now that I will absolutely NEVER be able to look like the women in those pictures. Even if I starved myself until I was on death’s door, I would not look like them. It is still hard for me to accept. My body is just structurally different in too many ways. My ribcage is too big. My boobs are too small. My hips are too narrow. My chest is too broad. Things that frankly I’ve realized stand out in even starker contrast when I am at a very low weight. My body looks better when I am actually healthy. When I allow it to hold onto the fat it needs to function and support me.

I tell myself that I accept this. But deep down I still can’t. My eyes still fall enviously on all those online images. I need to start actively filling my feed with other things. I’d rather be looking at cute kawaii drawings, inspirational messages, beautiful homes, and snapshots of nature. At the very least I could follow some beautiful, average sized influencers. One of my favorite healthy inspirations is Autumn Brianne. She started a YouTube channel originally focused on eating disorder recovery. Now she focuses on more esoteric, spiritual topics, which I also love.

She is an incredibly beautiful woman. Perhaps even more so now that she has allowed her body to be happy and healthy rather than starving and stick-thin. Just watching her videos is a great comfort to me. She seems truly happy, truly loving towards her body. I aspire to be more like her one day. To love myself for what I am, rather than criticize and punish myself for what I am not.

However, there is a small voice inside me that keeps holding me back. It is the voice of my fear, of my ego. It tells me I’m disgusting, that I’ll only be more repulsive if I allow myself to put on any weight. But I know I have to keep moving forward despite that insidious voice. I genuinely don’t have a clear concept of what my appearance is anyway. I probably have body dysmorphia to some degree. My main goal is to stop focusing on appearance all together. What I look like doesn’t even matter! What matters is how I feel. What it’s like to live my life from day to day. How I treat myself and my loved ones.

I have been walking this addictive road for 10 years now. It is going to be extremely hard to start down a new path and break out of the deep grooves I’ve made. But it will be worth it. I hope that this serves as a warning to anyone just starting down that same path. Merely looking at pictures. It seems so harmless. It seems even positive at first. Thinsporation! A way to light that fire within. Giving yourself a goal to look forward to, to motivate you. But you’ll soon find yourself warped, tormented by an impossible ideal. No progress will ever be enough. And the happiness you started out to find will become muddled and lost along the way.

I would like to say that we are all beautiful just as we are. But even that, I feel, is missing the point. I’ll say instead that beauty isn’t everything. There is so much more to life than appearances. Make sure you don’t allow yourself to become so obsessed with the surface that you forget to look deeper. Make a list of what really matters in this life. I assure you, how you look won’t be on it. Let that list be an anchor when you start to feel adrift.

I start focusing on the wrong things. And then the wrong things become everything.

The Front Bottoms – Help

Confronting Internalized Sexism

I’m not shy about publicly proclaiming to be a feminist. Most of my social media accounts even have it mentioned in my bio. I am probably even one of those crazy feminists that turn most people off of the movement if I’m being honest. Occasionally I’ll even admit to pushing the pendulum to far the other way and being overtly critical of all men while placing all women on a pedestal. And while I recognize this, it’s hard for me to talk myself down sometimes.

Yet on the other hand, in my personal life and view of myself there are major inconsistencies. You see, I’ve always idolized the idea of being skinny. I love looking at beautiful, extremely thin women. I have always wanted to be one of them. Today I really sat down with myself to ask myself why that is.

I have nothing against women of any shape or size. I genuinely believe all women are worthy, valuable, and have the right to exist anyway they choose, the right to respect and equality. But I don’t treat myself as if I believe that. When it comes right down to it I’ve been lying to myself. I say I want to be thin for me, or maybe to be physically irresistible to a future partner, or for some abstract aesthetic. But when it comes right down to it, I think the real reason I want to be thin is because I feel I’ll have more value that way.

I am embarrassed and ashamed at the idea of what society will think of me if I’m not pretty, young, and thin. I imagine my life will be better if I am those things. I want those things for the power and perks I imagine them providing me. And while I don’t believe it to be right or fair, I live my entire life in accordance with the conviction that society functions on this principle regardless of what I think.

It is hard for me to accept that I have internalized the very sexism I speak out against. I am afraid to live by the courage of my convictions. Because of that I am endlessly torturing myself, trying to force myself into a mold I wasn’t made for. Not for myself, but to prove my value to others. A value I ultimately feel I lack naturally.

How sad. How twisted. How wrong.

It is time I face this damaging delusion I’ve held onto for so long. Because no matter what I’ll have to in the end. Beauty and youth cannot stand the test of time. These things are not what give me value. I am inherently valuable. Just as every other living creature on this earth is. No more proclaiming all bodies are beautiful, all women are worthy, while simultaneously hating my own body for not being good enough, thin enough.

My worth is not contingent on my size. My value is not linked to my age, my bone structure, or my body. If I truly believe this about all other women, it is time I start living this truth for myself. It is time for me to believe in my own inherent worth as a human being. It is time for me to love myself, respect myself, allow myself to simply exist as I am. In whatever form that may be. Now and in the future. It is time for me to lead by example, live by my beliefs. Society be damned.