This month we feature the story of Michelle, who talks about her eating disorder developing from a harmless attempt at establishing healthier dietary patterns. It is a powerful reminder of how diets are not a good idea for anyone, but also how recovery IS possible for everyone.
All throughout my early childhood and pre-teen years, I had a healthy relationship with food. I never counted calories, never analyzed the back of nutritional labels, and never thought twice about what I ate, food was food. It wasn’t until the beginning of my senior year in high school, about 10 years ago, when I started noticing I was gaining some weight and was not as “fit” as some of my friends. Consequently, I slowly started to become more aware of the foods I ate. I also joined a gym in hopes of becoming more toned and losing a few pounds. My new fitness journey started out healthy, within a couple of weeks I was noticing a difference and felt better. My friends were noticing too and complimenting me on my new physical changes, which boosted my motivation.
With my new “confidence” I wanted to continue my healthy lifestyle and lose a few more pounds, then I would be truly happy (so I told myself). I began being very strict with my diet, eliminating as many “bad” foods as possible. Certain foods were no longer “allowed.” My workouts at the gym increased substantially. Without realizing it, I was putting my body into a state of starvation, and I was spiraling downwards, quickly. I became obsessed with the scale, weighing in every morning and every night, sometimes even after school to make sure I didn’t put on too much water weight. The number on the scale consumed me. I could not have a high number on the scale, it just wasn’t acceptable.
Before I knew it, I had blown past the goal weight I had set for myself, but the number on the scale didn’t scare me yet; I was not able see what other people saw when I looked in the mirror. I still saw a girl with huge hips and thighs, a curvy belly and flabby arms. “Just a few more pounds”, I thought. When friends would approach me and try to talk about it, I would put them off and get irritated. I know now that they were only trying to help, but at the time, I was so consumed by my eating disorder that I did not want to hear their concerns.
It wasn’t until about six months later when I stepped on the scale that I knew I had a problem. I had reached the weight at which I said I would be happy, yet I still wasn’t. I sat down one day after school and started blogging on my MySpace page and posted my blog, slightly hoping someone would see it, and that someone would reach out. I realized that was my cry for help, without actually asking. A couple days later, my family tried to intervene. There were a lot of tears and a lot of shouting (on my end), and a harsh reality that I would not face. After I calmed down, I stood naked in front of my floor-length mirror, examining my body. What have I done? I thought to myself. It was in that moment, staring at my completely vulnerable body, that I realized I needed, and most importantly, wanted help. I gathered the courage to approach my mom that evening, and went to her broken and defeated. I said the four most difficult words I have ever had to admit: “Mom, I need help.” And that was the day I decided to turn my life around.
Recovery was not easy. It was the hardest physical and mental battle I’ve endured. I sought the help of nutritionists, therapists, and even a personal trainer. I had to reteach my mind that it was okay to all foods, and that food was fuel, and there is no such thing as “good food” and “bad food.” I had to remember what it was like to listen to my body and allow myself to have what I was truly craving. I was trying to overcome my eating disorder and was making great progress physically, but emotionally I was really struggling. The constant voices in my head kept telling me that I was getting “fat” and every single day I battled these voices in my head, trying to push them aside and keep moving forward. Throughout college I had my ups and downs; In fact, I relapsed twice. It took a lot of work, and so many times I wanted to give up, but I had so much support from my family and friends, and I could not have recovered without them. A support system is crucial in recovery, and I was lucky to have a lot of people who loved and cared about me. I will forever be grateful to them, and for all my friends and family who have played a role in my recovery. It’s been one hell of a journey, constant highs and lows, but they say “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, and I am living proof of that. I used to be a victim of an eating disorder in my own body, but I am finally in control of my body and mind. Recovery isn’t easy, but it’s 100% worth the fight.