My anorexia story starts when I was a junior in high school. I don’t like to blame it on anything, but I think it was the result of my first break up and letting food be something I could control. Before that I never really paid attention to my weight – my mom cooked balanced meals and I danced and played sports so I was always pretty healthy.
Developing Anorexia Nervosa
I started eating very healthfully and upping my time on the elliptical. I liked the compliments I began to receive, so my meals got continuously smaller. Anorexia truly is a psychiatric disease because it quickly took over, and despite the fact that I knew I was harming my body, I couldn’t bring myself to make changes. I convinced myself that my body didn’t need that much fuel, that there was no reason to eat more than every seven hours, and that I could survive off of diet coke.
With busy summer work schedules, and lots of “I’m eating out” excuses, my family kind of ignored my weight loss. Finally at my yearly physical, I weighed in at far too little for my I’m 5’7″ frame. My mom put her foot down and I started seeing a nutritionist. We made meal plans and I put on weight, but I was still anxious and regimented about eating. I briefly relapsed the spring of my senior year during a hiatus with the nutritionist, but was still stable enough to go away to college in the Fall.
Freshman year sucked. I rarely let myself have fun and my eating disorder prevented me from making true friends. I was a pain to be around and completely unhappy. Strangely, I hated the way I looked and tried to eat pretty big meals, but it takes a lot to gain weight when you’re down that low. In early spring, the therapist I had been seeing finally suggested I start medication for depression and anxiety. I had secretly been wanting this, but was too afraid to ask.
The meds made me more relaxed and I started eating more normally. Around this same time I started hanging out with my best friend LB. I attribute a lot of my recovery to her. She introduced me to a group of girls that I clicked with, she understood my issues, and she kept me in check if I started to slip up. I love her:)
I gained all my weight back sophomore year (large in part due to tailgates!) but I never stopped. I was so used to telling myself “just eat it” that I did just that. A lot. I went through phases of eating terrible diet foods and long elliptical workouts, but finally realized I could eat good, real food and still be fit and healthy. Unfortunately my personality meant I took that a little too far and I got a little obsessive. I got do to a normal, but low, BMI and was eating extremely healthfully with tons of exercise. I thought I was finally healthy, but I was missing out on lots of fun, spontaneity, and life.
A couple of years later I started to binge. At first I thought it was just some emotional eating due to being unhappy at work and eventually a stressful career change. However, when the bingeing didn’t let up and it began affecting my life I knew something was wrong. I was miserable, ashamed, and confused.
Once I opened up about my bingeing and decided to get better a few people thankfully shared their own experiences with me and opened my eyes to what was truly going on. My “bingeing,” along with blood tests revealing very low estradiol levels, pointed to being under-fueled. I wasn’t anorexic anymore, nor was I severely malnourished, but for a few years I was very likely just not eating enough for my body. Especially during marathon training and falling in love with spinning and Crossfit, my body wasn’t getting enough calories. It wasn’t intentional – I was trying to eat very healthfully, it’s just wasn’t enough for me.
The “binges” were just my body crying out for more fuel. My metabolism was damaged and my low estrogen was proof that the internal workings of my body were off. I discussed things with doctors and my new registered dietician, and they recommended what was my former self’s my worst nightmare: lots of food and no exercise. I wasn’t happy about it, but knew deep down that it’s what my body needed to heal.
Finding True Health
It took just one month of resting my body and eating more to make drastic improvements in my health. My periods returned, I starting sleeping better, I am now much less sensitive to cold, and I am overall a much happier person. Binges have all together stopped now that I’m eating enough, which is a huge sigh of relief. I gained a little weight and now sit at a natural, healthy BMI for my body type. Of course I occasionally struggle with body image issues like most girls, but could not be more pleased with the changes I’ve made. Food and exercise feel easy and fun. I never worry or obsess. I’m able to focus on my other priorities and goals, and now can’t wait to make a positive impact on others as a future physician.