My eating disorder developed very subtly and took me a couple years to even detect. Counting calories is inevitably disastrous for a perfectionist, and all of the health crazes led me to develop orthorexia. I wasn’t starving myself and I wasn’t purging, but I was obsessing over healthy foods. Those who haven’t struggled with disordered eating do not understand how difficult it is. These negative thoughts seriously overtake your entire life and destroy your sense of self-worth and ability to normally function in everyday life. My orthorexia was left unnoticed, even by me, because most people knew me as the fit girl that was a picky eater. No questions asked.
After a series of difficult personal life events, unfortunately mainly involving shitty guys, my eating disorder worsened. My self-worth was based entirely on my appearance, and my disorder kept dragging me down further.
When I started drinking Shakeology and eating paleo in the summer of 2014, I started losing a lot of weight. I got a lot of compliments, which only encouraged my eating patterns. To give you an idea, I was replacing my breakfast with Shakeology and eating 2-3 no-carb meals, usually consisting of veggies and lean protein. While Shakeology can be great, usually not as a meal replacement but as a protein shake, this was a dangerous mix. Soon, I developed binge eating as a result. At night, my undernourishment would finally catch up to me, and I would eat a ridiculous amount of rice cakes to try to satisfy my hunger. Most importantly, I felt guilty and horrible about myself. I kept this up for a little over 6 months. At 5’10,” I weighed about 140lbs and my body fat percentage was around 15%. This is at the very low range for athletes – barely more than essential body fat. In my mind, I only needed essential body fat. As a fitness instructor, I was an “athlete” after all.
This whole time, I was constantly sick and injured. Granted, I have a history of a poor immune system, allergies, asthma, and I’m also a clutz, but my body was completely unable to fight off any infections or heal itself. I was a mess, on the inside and the outside. The worst part is that no one ever seemed concerned. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t blame anyone. I am bothered that society has not encouraged us to see these warning signs and take action. My peers would ask about paleo and the benefits, which I was happy to tell. Everyone told me I was so “fit.” Maybe people had other opinions behind my back, but no one ever openly suspected my eating disorder.
Over the Christmas break 2014, more personal life matters occurred and my eating disorder got worse. I become bulimic. To this day, it is still hard for me to admit this. The first time it happened, I claimed it was just one time. Every time I purged, I told myself it was the last time. While I was beginning to eat better, I was bingeing and purging. I was no longer drinking Shakeology or eating paleo, but I was bingeing and purging. I was constantly finding myself at new lows.
Unfortunately, this continued for the next year. I called my Wellness Center once to make an appointment with a therapist, but the initial appointment was met with extreme judgment, and I never returned. Several of my close friends knew at this point, but many people I had tried to tell told me that I was lucky. “At least you’re skinny.” “At least you look good.” “At least this is your biggest worry and not a real problem.” I was only ever taken seriously by those also suffering from eating disorders.
It is a mental disorder, and it has many bad side effects. For me, the worst side effect was my alcohol tolerance. Also during this time in my life, I partied. I partied hard. The problem with this is I hardly ever had anything in my stomach before drinking. Either I didn’t have carbs in my stomach or I seriously had nothing in it. I got drunk extremely quickly and got extremely drunk. I had several bad experiences as a result, including multiple instances of sexual assault because I was blacked out to such an extent. Even then, I was still viewed as the “fun, party girl.” I was so fit and so fun, how could anyone ever object?
It took me a year to finally find other ways to love myself, but I am proud to say it has been over three months since I last purged. I still struggle with negative thoughts, but I don’t think anyone can ever be completely cured of an eating disorder. The rational side of me knows that it is completely healthy for me to have gained 25 lbs since being at my lowest. It is healthy for me to remember how much I love food. It is healthy for me to have a layer of fat around my body. I’m never sick anymore. Even my closest family tells me that I have a glow in my face and eyes that was never there before. Still, it’s inevitable to sometimes think negative thoughts.
From a young age, I’ve been told that I was tall, skinny, and pretty. I’ve always been told I should be a model. Even if I never wanted to be a model, there was always a voice in my head telling me that I should maintain a model-type. My lanky body type wouldn’t look good with some curves. All through high school, dancing in sequin bra tops never bothered me one bit. I never felt like I needed to lose weight or look any differently than I currently did, because I knew I was still skinny and hadn’t fully hit puberty yet.
Once my body began to fill out, I began comparing myself to others. So many Instagram “models” made me question my body and find ways to dislike it. My parents often pointed out how much I could eat with my great appetite, even when I wasn’t eating enough. I had trouble finding clothes that fit my ever changing body, and I still have trouble. Nothing fits me right, and at times I feel like I need to change my body to fit my clothes. As a fitness instructor, I constantly feel pressure to look a certain way to be a fitness professional. There are so many external factors that influence me to dislike my body, and it sucks.
Despite the occasional negative thoughts, I know I am in a much better place than I ever have been. At 165lbs and I don’t even want to know what body fat percentage, I have curves and a lot of muscle. I am strong, and so much more capable. I currently work 4 jobs while being a full-time student. When I do have free time, I am able to go out to eat with friends, something I never felt comfortable doing before. I am able to have fun and enjoy myself.
My journey is never ending, and I can’t wait to see how much more I can improve in the future. For now, I am proud to have told my story. It may be messy. It may not make sense. Regardless, it is my story, and I am proud to be more comfortable in sharing it.