Eating Disorders are a distorted perception of your body, one often caused by the unreasonable expectations women feel by society. Each image of a slender tall model seen on an advertisement impacts you. Social media influencers of beautiful women and the comments made by their followers impact you. In the back of your brain these cultural beauty standards make you question your self worth. Am I good enough? Why don’t I look like that? These can slowly root and distort your concept of a perfect body, till it’s firmly a belief accepted and unquestioned, by you. Most women at some point feel like their body isn’t good enough.
The contemporary disorder that I am focusing is Anorexia Nervosa. Anorexia Nervosa is starving yourself. It is a weight loss goal that when surpassed still continues. It is is a need for control that slowly feeds on any part of who you were before it. These disorders become your identity, your desire, your passion. As it grows stronger you begin to hide behind it, isolating you from anyone who might ask if you need help. Ultimately leading the disorder as your only companion.
Anorexia became mine.
Although I had never been jealous of my best friends’ looks, I had secretly wished I was as small as her. When we ate junk food I felt resentment in the back of my mind, that I would gain weight, while she would remain the same. None the less, I was a 14 year old girl and my confidence wore thick. I was more than comfortable with my body, and how I looked, and yet before I knew it, in what felt like a single moment, I had forgotten was it was like to love myself.
I began to slowly walk down the staircase towards the living room where my mom was sitting watching tv on the couch with our golden retriever. She could tell I wanted something, which only made my tone less confident. Just say it, just say it, repeated in my head as I looked at her with blank stares.
I was able to mumble a few words, explaining that volleyball season made me want to eat more, and since it was over it had been hard for me to stop, I felt hungry all the time. My mother continued to look at me waiting to see what my drawn-out reasoning’s were about. I looked at the ground as I asked for diet pills shamefully. She reacted calmly, only wanting to know why diet and exercise wasn’t the best option. Inside I felt the confidence seep back into my bones and looked up at her explaining that it was only for me to get my cravings under control, and after a week or two I probably wouldn’t even need them. We went back and forth for a while until she agreed to at least go to the store and see what was available.
That night my mom came to my room and pulled out a bottle from a grocery bag and told to me they were only to help suppress my appetite. She told me to take them twice a day, for a couple weeks until I had it under control. I remained calm, but inside I felt powerful, like the world hadn’t truly seen what I was capable of yet.
So much so, I couldn’t sleep. I felt this intense urge to begin my diet immediately. I grabbed my computer and googled weight loss exercises, and quietly slipped out of my bed and started to do abs on my floor. I looked in the mirror. I wanted to remember exactly how I looked in this moment. I pictured myself five pounds lighter and started to smile.
The next morning I woke up, rushed downstairs, grabbed my first diet pill and took it. I waited anxiously for 30 minutes, then grabbed my cereal. I couldn’t believe it, I had barely touched my bowl. After a few bites and I felt like throwing up. Usually I was on my second helping. I grabbed the barely eaten bowl of special k chocolate delight and poured it down the sink. As I walked away an incredible rush of confidence flooded my body. I knew that I looked the same. I knew that I hadn’t lost any weight, yet it felt as if everything had already changed. It was like nothing I had ever experienced.
After a few weeks, I had shed off at least five pounds. I stood in my room, looking at myself in jeans that once struggled to get up to my waist and button now slip on, with a slightly loose waistline. Adrenaline swooped over my body with gratification filling every inch. I grabbed all my jeans from my closest. Each pair fit better than the last. I couldn’t get enough. I Imagined what the jeans would look like after another five pounds gone.
It was my little cousin’s birthday and we were going out to eat for pizza. I begged my mom the night before to let me skip, but she said I had to go. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to see my family, because I did, but going to a pizza place felt like I was asking myself to gain weight.
I asked my mom to back me up if anyone asked if I wanted more than a salad, because I was still on my diet. It was the first time I hid my true feelings. It wasn’t just the desire to not eat pizza I was worried about, I was terrified to. I knew this was not a diet, because I had no intention of stopping at my goal weight, in fact it wasn’t just about the weight anymore. I was hooked on the control it gave me.
I began to feel anxious, praying nobody would say I looked good or skinny. I couldn’t have anyone asking questions that might lead to suspicion. Plus it wasn’t their business, my eating disorder was personal, they weren’t allowed to have any part of it. Honestly, I had only lost seven pounds, which wasn’t much anyways. I felt ridiculous even worrying.
The salad bar had tones of options, I grabbed a bowl and filled it with lettuce to fill me up. I added a pinch of cheese and a few croutons. I decided to add a couple peanuts on top so the protein would help curb my appetite. I was barely taking my pills. My body got used to me eating so little it didn’t need them anymore. Which was great, because I could tell my mom I stopped using them.
As we ate I looked around and felt sorry for them. If only they knew the intoxicating pleasure of refusing food. I was the lucky one, because I was able to see the gift of control while other people stuffed their faces with pizza. I knew they would never be as happy as me. How could they when they had no ability to stop eating whatever they wanted knowing the consequences.
I always spent a weekend during Christmas season at my Grandma’s house with the rest of my family. The fear of family dinner had worsened since the birthday party, it now outweighed my desire to socialize. It was almost as if I felt a tattoo saying, I have an eating disorder but don’t want anyone to ask me about it, would somehow appear on my face the moment I arrived.
I instantly could feel the sensation of anxiety creep at every cell in my body as I entered the door. I was on constant look out to remain aware of everyone’s consumption and whether mine would stand out.
The night of Christmas dinner was the final stretch. After three long days of avoiding my family shoving Christmas cookies down my throat, and asking me if I had enough to eat every 20 minutes I was exhausted. As I helped myself to a dinner proportion of my acceptance I felt every eye ball on me, I repeated in my head, its the last roadblock, then no more uncomfortable social interaction and back to focusing on my weight loss.
I felt like a criminal by not over indulging myself while everyone else did. I never realized how much food is around, it was like I couldn’t do anything without people wanting to gather around and stuff their faces in the highest calorie food they can find.
I had worked pretty hard to lose more weight before this cotillion dance, where all the 9th graders in school got together to learn dances. I bought a black dress with one strap, and dangle earrings to match. I wasn’t much for high heels but after seeing my legs look slimmer , I was more than convinced it was the right choice. My Mom helped me curl my hair, and for once in my life it actually stayed curled. I looked great and I felt even better. After my weekly self weigh in I discovered I was down to 105. It wasn’t exactly my goal weight, but I had to give myself credit, I was two pounds away from losing 25 total since September. I can’t believe I ever let myself weigh that much, it was disgusting.
My mom took me to my friend’s where we started to take pictures, a lot of pictures. I was getting tired. I was happy my mom was there, I honestly didn’t want her to leave. Apart of me didn’t want to stay the night anymore, I liked being at home, playing games with my mom. It was the best way to make sure I never ate my food earlier then the set time. Plus, now that I was counting calories, it was harder to spend the night places.
Later at our sleepover I was lying in bed with my friend trying to sleep when my stomach started to growl. Luckily, she had already fallen asleep. I looked through my bag on the floor next to me and grabbed some peppermint gum to suppress my appetite. I felt homesick, why did I stay, I couldn’t wait for this nightmare to end. I never slept over at friends after that.
I was 101 pounds now and didn’t see myself ever stopping.
I was completely alone. Isolated by my own self destruction, I started to feel myself missing my old life. I wanted out, but if I leave who will be? A world where I wake up and eat whatever I want for breakfast? One where I no longer say no to sleepovers with my friends, not that we talk much anymore. Was it worth it? Losing every sense of who I once was, I had forgotten that guys even liked me yet my desire for flirting was depleted. My days were filled with fake surfaced level conversations with people that I wasn’t close with, because I didn’t have the energy to fake a smile for the friends I used to have deep conversations and eat frozen blueberries out of giant container with. They just wouldn’t get it, and they never even asked. It felt like it was easier for everyone to pretend nothing had changed even as we continued to grow further apart.
Each day I waited till I could go home and see my mom. The only one who did listen for hours about the same calories and the same dieting thoughts that continued to circle in my head 24/7. She did so with no complaint or judgement, her patience and ability to show complete strength amazed me, but she cried in the garage behind the closed doors of her car, because she knew I was lost, and felt no desire to change. I was okay with sacrificing friendships because losing weight gave me a high better than any closeness with a person. Except my mom.
My mom told me it was time to get help. I was fragile, the bones on my ribs felt like like they would crumble with one touch. My mind was checked out, and I was a shell of a human. I had not cried in months, and conversations with anyone felt like a task, I just wanted to be alone. I really missed myself, the one who didn’t eat grapes at 11pm and look at instagram judging girls who I once thought were skinny because I had passed their body weight long ago.
Even after rehab, I was not recovered, but I knew I could no longer go back to the girl who ate 400 calories a day. It took year for me to fully let it go.
Years went by till I was able to actually embrace myself for who I am. It took that long to no longer look in a mirror only to see what needed to be fixed. It took that many years for me to not feel shame eating in front of people. Yet the part most don’t get is this deaseae is yours to carry for life. If you are stressed you want to fall back, if you get your heart broken, it screams at you to reunite itself and it would be so easy.
I no longer feel afraid of the part my anorexia had in my life.
I no longer want to go back to a place of loneliness and isolated.
It gives me the strength to listen and be involved with organizations that allow me to be a beaken of hope for someone who might be feeling alone, just like I was. It's essential I use my experience to empower young individuals to be be mindful of their self-care and to speak up when they begin to struggle.
It is nothing to be ashamed of and I want those who are struggling right this moment to know that you are not alone and we are here to help you get the information and help you deserve.
Its essential that we as individuals choose to let go of comparing ourselves to unrealistic body images that have been distorted and falsely claimed as real.
Not allowing yourself to see the beauty that is internal is depriving yourself of living the life that is your own.
Our bodies hold the beauty inside of us, not the other way around.
I was lucky to have someone on my team.
My mother was my small dim light that kept me alive when I no longer had the strength to feel what happiness was, and because of that I have felt unconditional love, and it gave me the power to love myself unconditionally. There is not a single thing that I could do to repay the humble role she kindly took on during that time, but what I can do is make an impact to change our perception on eating disorders.
Thanks to my anorexia hidden and dim inside me is now my powerful drive for prevention of this disease.
The more we stand in this power to stop this corrupted, deceitful lies from industries and corporations who see eating disorders as their price to pay for all the money, entertainment and jobs they provide.