**Note: Before I begin, this story outlines my troubles and experiences with disordered eating and body dysmorphia. If any of you suffer from ED and you feel that reading this may act as a trigger for you, please don’t read any further.
(Originally published in 2012. All dates and years of reference are from that time).
I grew up a fairly normal (I use that term loosely), healthy child who loved playing outside, making up dances with my friends, and was generally active from a young age. Since I didn’t come from an especially athletic family, my mom didn’t push my sister and I into sports when we were little, but we were active in other ways — constantly running around outside, cross country skiing, going on hikes, etc. We ate a pretty standard American diet, and I was never overweight as a child.
Although I was never overweight, I was blessed with a body type that runs in my family… we tend to carry weight on our lower half, to say it politely. Yes, even as a child I had a little junk in my trunk, and I believe it was 6th or 7th grade when I was told by a girl walking behind me in school that my “butt jiggled” when I walked. (Why do 12 year old girls have to be so cruel to each other?) And yes, I remember who it was who said this to me… but if you’re reading, I won’t call you out. Because hey, I’m not one to hold a grudge.
Now, I’m not saying that this comment was the spark that started me on a lifetime of insecurity and torment, but it certainly was comments like this that most likely played a part in what would happen a few years down the road.
Throughout middle school and high school I remained active in a lot of activities and had a good core group of friends. I stayed active in sports, and maintained a relatively healthy weight. However, at some point during my sophomore year, I started obsessing a little bit more about my weight, and at one point began purging. I was 15 years old. I went through a time where I felt disgusting for putting food in my body, and when I did, I would force myself to purge. I remember one specific time where I hadn’t eaten all day, and then “let” myself have some Chex Mix. I threw it up immediately after.
I’m not sure what exactly caused me to start, but I do know that there was a lot of guilt and embarrassment going on, and that I knew I needed help. I never had a clinically diagnosed eating disorder because of the clinical guidelines for diagnosing both bulimia and anorexia, but I was certainly displaying the patterns of disordered eating and wasn’t quite sure how to stop. I got to the point where I would have intense bouts of guilt after eating anything, although I was able to hide it quite well for a little while. I never did binge, but would instead purge after ingesting “normal” amounts of food.
This initial bout with disordered eating only lasted for a few weeks before my boyfriend at the time found out and made me tell my mother, who helped me come to terms with my problem and helped me to begin eating normally again. However, for the next 10 years I would struggle with a roller coaster of feelings about food and my weight. My journals from high school into college are filled with negative comments about myself, more specifically my weight and the size of my thighs. I would berate myself regularly, commenting about how big I thought I was. I exercised, but it never really seemed to help and the mental image I had of myself never wavered.
I topped out at about 165 pounds (and it was most definitely not lean muscle mass), which on a 5’6″ frame is not unheard of or obese, but I was certainly overweight and not very healthy. I remember crying about a routine blood test that told me I had high cholesterol — I was only 20 years old, how could I have high cholesterol? (It was then that I declared I would never eat cheese again.. and that probably lasted a good 5 minutes, let’s be real). I obsessed over the size of my stomach, inspecting every inch for signs of stretch marks or other imperfections. I experimented with weight loss pills, which although they gave me quick results, left me feeling dizzy, shaky, and even once hallucinating in class. (Thank you, Ephedra.)
I did finally start eating a little bit better and exercising more my senior year of college. I started lifting weights (they were the little weights back then, but everyone has got to start somewhere, right?) and slowly started losing weight. It would take me a good 5 years to finally begin understanding my body and I actually lost about 25 pounds over that time, which puts me at the weight I’m at now.
Sometimes, you just need to take a look in the mirror and say this:
But the most important part of this story is this: I have gone from a size 12 to a 4-6, and every size in between. At every point in this journey, from that time in Sophomore year of high school, I have battled thoughts of purging. It is not something that has gone away, it is probably something that will never go away. I had an extended period of time during college where I was purging again, this time even going so far as to do it in public, in restaurant bathrooms. At this point, I have not done that in at least 8 years, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not there. No matter what size I’ve been, I’ve always been the same size in my brain. I still sometimes picture myself as this big person who towers over my friends (hello, I’m only 5’6″ on a good day), who others see as the “big girl”.
When I see pictures of myself with my friends, I’m often surprised that I actually appear to be the same size as them (must be the angle).
When someone calls me tiny or small, I often wonder if they are joking.
I know it’s all in my head. I know what size clothing I wear, and that I’m not actually a “big girl”. But that doesn’t make it go away. For the past 4-5 years, I’ve been at a much healthier place both mentally and physically than I’ve ever been, but these thoughts still creep into the back of my mind. I no longer feel the need to purge, but I know that it is lurking somewhere deep down, and it’s up to me to stay healthy and to never let that beast out again.
Now, I’m not writing this for any other reason than to hopefully reach someone else out there who has gone through this too — to let you know that health is not black and white. There are blurred lines and ups and downs, but what matters is that you are taking care of yourself and moving forward, whatever that means for you.
Most of my good friends don’t even know all of these details (So….Heyyyy guys!), but I figured that if I’m going to sit here and write to you all about nutrition, fitness, and other aspects of healthy living, I’ve got to be perfectly honest with you. I’m not perfect, and I never will be, but I’m working to do whats best for me every day, and that’s all anyone can expect of you!