Eating disorders are mental health disorders. You can’t simply look at someone & diagnose them. There’s no mold you have to fit to have an eating disorder. Which is why I’m sharing part one of my story.
REAL TALK: just because someone is underweight does not mean they HAVE an eating disorder.
& just because someone is overweight does not mean they DON’T have an eating disorder.
just because you’re male, female, old, young, rich, poor WHATEVER does not exclude you or automatically make you have an eating disorder.
eating disorders are MENTAL health disorders and you can’t simply look at someone and diagnose them. most eating disorders stem from much, MUCH deeper issues than body image.
they’re a coping mechanism stemming from trauma and neglect. from perfectionism and anxiety. they’re the result of someone trying to re-gain control of their lives when the only thing they know how to control is their food and exercise.
there’s no mold you have to fit to have an eating disorder.
Question: what do you think all of the underweight girls looked like BEFORE they fit the “mold” of someone with anorexia? they may or may not have been overweight, but I can guarantee they didn’t start out at the weight they ended up at.
diet culture is messed up. society is ruthless. people are judgement.
a little bit about my story:
i battled “disordered eating” in college. so what is that exactly? here’s what i mean…
i had to take a test to see if i had an eating disorder in college… like a 20 question questionnaire (seems legit.. right? HA.) and guess what? i passed. i didn’t meet all of the “requirements” to have an eating disorder. i was put in the “yellow” so basically i had disordered eating behaviors but not enough to need help.
i needed help. and i needed lots of it.
i was 100% consumed with food, calories, exercise, restricting and obsessing over being “healthy”. i was cancelling plans, afraid of social dinners/gatherings, would FREAK if i couldn’t get to the gym + constantly restricted calories in preparation that a situation would came up later that i would need to eat at. I had a mental “good food”, “bad food” list (guys… lemme just say, food does NOT have moral value!) and i was scared of those foods on the bad list. like, REALLY scared.
I had a BMI of 20 when i took the test. so this made me the perfect picture of health… on paper.
I was super toned, told i was “bod goals”, asked repeatedly for my workout routine + what my diet was. ( that’s actually why i started this blog )
Obviously I would lie. there’s no way I was going to be like “oh i’m just eat x amount of calories and burning x amount of calories everyday through overexercising! Also, say goodbye to any social life and enjoy the anxiety that comes around food! :)”
It wasn’t fun.
BUT — it didn’t start off like this.
It actually did start off fun. Really fun! I was super fit, toned and at my ideal weight. I was learning more and more about the subjects i still love to this day (nutrition, food + fitness) and feeling great.
It’s when i started taking the knowledge i was learning in school and abusing it that things went south.
Since I was told i didn’t have an eating disorder by a DOCTOR, I figured I would just restrict some more, work out some more, continue to manipulate my body in all the ways i was learning… and guess what? It worked. I lost about 15 more pounds.
This put me at a BMI of around 17.5. *For reference, anything under 18.5 is considered underweight.
Um hi doc.. can i get qualified as an eating disorder patient now?
I maintained that weight for around a year and a half or so. A year and a half of torturing myself, living in extreme anxiety, hiding secrets from people and feeling more alone than ever. My eating disorder became my friend. It’s what I would focus on day in and day out. It kept me occupied and I was PRAISED for it!
People STILL wanted to look like me!
When I look back at pictures, i’m shocked. I don’t even want to look like the old me. It just shows you how messed up diet culture is.
The body we are striving for isn’t manageable or healthy. I HAD that body. And all it did was leave me feeling anxious, cold ALL of the time, with hormone levels completely out of whack (thats for another post), exhausted, unworthy, scared and trapped.
So what changed?
It wasn’t easy. I wish I could say “here are the 5 simple steps to cure your disorder” But that doesn’t exist. Why?
Because each eating disorder is SO specialized to that person. You make up rules in your head which means different rules for everyone.
- One girl/guy could make up rules that they have to workout for 2 hours a day and eats PB & J for every single meal.
- Another girl/guy could swear off nut butters and only allows themselves fruits and veggies but only occasionally does yoga.
I talked about my workout addiction in my previous post: Why I Broke Up With My FitBit, and honestly that was the first step to freedom for me.
I was married to my Fitbit but engaged to my now husband, Michael. One of these things had to go.
No two things can hold first place in your life + my eating disorder was at the top — not cool.
So each day I tested myself to get 1% better. For myself, my husband, my friends, the Lord + my family. It was creeping into every aspect of my life.
One week I might make myself sit for a couple hours straight without getting up — sounds silly but this was HARD considering I was used to moving every 45 minutes due to my tracker + had horrible anxiety! The next week I might add a few nuts to my morning oatmeal (back when I feared calorie-dense foods and fat this was also big for me.. now you all KNOW how much i LOVEEE my nut butters so this isn’t a problem at all) I started making Friday’s my rest day and would FORCE myself to stay OUT of the gym. The next week I might challenge myself to eat something “off limits” in the middle of the day (like a cookie or chocolate)…
You get the idea..
Little, baby steps that made all the difference.
I was also going through counseling during this time which helped a lotttt. It wasn’t counseling for my disordered eating, but for my anxiety and trauma. Like I said, eating disorders are a coping mechanism for BIGGER issues going on. SO, once I started getting those things in check, it was a domino effect.
SIDE NOTE: I 100% RECOMMEND COUNSELING FOR EVERYONE. WHETHER YOU HAVE A “PROBLEM” OR NOT, IT’S SO HEALTHY TO TALK TO SOMEONE!
I was learning how to cope with my anxiety in ways that didn’t involve food or exercise. Ways that didn’t involve punishing my body.
I filled my calendar up with lots of dinner dates, coffee dates, weekend trips + evening plans. I started falling back in love with the things I’d pushed to the side — like this blog! I got outside of myself and started focusing on others live’s more than my own. I prayed… A LOT. I learned how to nourish my body instead of abuse it. I started enjoying the fresh air instead of feeling the need to only exercise in it.
I learned more about myself during this period than ever before. I learned what’s triggering to me and how to shut that nasty voice down. I learned to love my body.
& lastly, there is no way I could have done this alone.
Michael has been my number one support system since before I could even admit my problem. He loved me at my literal lowest. I broke up with him twice (bc clearly my mind, body + hormones were out of whack and I couldn’t think straight!) and he would still go above and beyond to make sure I was safe, taken care of + not alone — even though we weren’t together. He would sit with me, pray over me, listen to me + comfort me. I wanted to get better for him.
People will have compassion for you if you share your story with the RIGHT people. I’m definitely not saying to run and tell the world (like I am now), but I gotta say, I’m beyond grateful to be in a place where I feel confident enough + healed enough to share my story.
So, I encourage you… talk to your loved ones. They want to help you.
Vulnerability is a beautiful thing.