I don’t remember exactly when food became the enemy. It was sometime in the second semester of my freshman year of high school. Just as I was hitting my stride, growing confident in my abilities and interests, and forming friends who understood me more than ever before, my world came crashing down.
But no one knew.
Because I wouldn’t- or couldn’t- let them.
See, that’s the problem with eating disorders. They arrive unannounced and unwelcome, and proceed to torment and warp their victims silently until they are a shell of their former selves.
In a break from this blog’s typical programming of gluten and dairy free restaurant and product reviews, I wanted to confront my journey with disordered eating, well, my eating disorder, in recognition of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week that runs from February 22nd-28th. This year’s theme is “I had no idea,” which is supremely applicable to the range of eating disorders and my own unique demon which went diagnosed, untreated, and threatened my health, happiness, and future.
The disorder stemmed from a very real cause. Although it’s not confirmed, this era of my life was the start of my food intolerances. With my body suffering and unable to process the poison I was feeding it (gluten and dairy), I stopped eating altogether as my appetite evaporated. Weight loss soon followed, which drained me physically and emotionally. My hair fell out, my clothes ballooned out over my shrinking frame, and my mind warped and began to blur the reality and seriousness of the disorder.
Body dysmorphia took hold, and I increasingly saw myself as fat, ugly, and unlovable. Unknowingly, I yearned to be saved from myself, but could not articulate what was going on beneath the surface.
Eventually, my weight reached a danger zone, and a frank discussion ensued. Medication, counseling, and other tactics were tried, but nothing seemed to work. Eventually, a hail Mary pass of blind hope was thrown as desperate Google searches led to a possible food intolerance. Luckily, this panned out, and slowly but surely I began the painstakingly slow crawl out of the dark place I was in.
In the four years since, I have slowly gained my appetite back, and love of food. I now see food as fuel and something to enjoy, not fear. This does not mean however, that my suffering has ceased. To this day, I still struggle to accept my body as I compare myself to the beautiful, skinny, confident girls that surround me on a daily basis. I cannot be at peace with myself as my teenaged appetite leads me to consume a boatload of food- not all of it healthy. I often confuse my sincere desire to be healthy with an unhealthy obsession with eating “right.” I am getting better at finding a balance, and most days do okay, but cannot avoid pitfalls.
As I go forward, I know I will never truly leave my eating disorder behind, as it is a part of me. EDs are close to impossible to outrun, but can be tamed with rehabilitation of mind, body, and spirit. I look ahead to a future where I will be happy, healthy, and will heartily eat whatever I want without second thought. I’m not there yet, but have strengthening faith every day that I’ll get there.
|Smiling through pain, this picture was taken amidst the height of the disorder.|
|Here I am: recovering and relearning to love food, myself, and life.|