National Eating Disorders Awareness Week
You guys know that I’m pretty open about my past. I certainly didn’t grow up that way and it’s really only been a behavioral change since I entered recovery almost 9 years ago. I kept a lot of things bottled up and as a result, continued on with a lot of maladaptive behavioral patterns that wreaked havoc on my life. Good times. 🙂
This week, Feb 25- March 3, is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. The theme this year is “Come As You Are,” and is described on NEDA’s website as:
Our 2019 theme, Come as You Are, highlights NEDA’s movement towards inclusivity in the greater eating disorder community and our goal of unifying the field of eating disorders. In particular, Come as You Are sends a message to individuals at all stages of body acceptance and eating disorders recovery that their stories are valid. We invite everyone, especially those whose stories have not been widely recognized, to have the opportunity to speak out, share their experiences, and connect with others.
I love this theme because while I’ve definitely lived through many parts of my life with varying intensities of disordered eating, it’s not something I’ve expressly been diagnosed with. This allows anyone with a story of struggle around food to open the conversation and work on getting the help they need.
Middle school was the first time I remember being aware of my weight. I was trying to join the cheerleading team, girls were coming into their own awareness of how they can make themselves feel better by putting someone else down, and I decided to take control of the uncontrollable by throwing up my food.
I wasn’t very good at it and frankly it kind of grossed me out, so I figured I would just try not eating as much. This also worked for a bit, but ultimately I loved (and still love) food, so it made me sad that I couldn’t eat it.
In high school, the fixation on my appearance continued, if not worsened, but I didn’t have to worry about controlling food because I played sports and still had a 16 year old’s metabolism. Of course there were times when I decided that I needed to reach out for something to control and if it wasn’t my grades, it was food. For the most part, however, high school was a good time for me.
College is when I went off the rails in any and all sense of the word. My drug use started and that screwed up all other normal behaviors — eating, sleeping, etc. I ate a plate of french fries for lunch every day, but not much else of substance. I drank excessively, which made me feel full. I smoked pot and ate all the snacks, but I also discovered cocaine, which apparently helped counter the effects of that behavior.
My first foray into obsessive exercise began in the interim period between college and pharmacy school. I stopped drinking for the most part, but would wake up at 4:30 am to go to the gym before other classes I was taking. I read fitness magazines and became clued in to weight loss supplements that plastered every third page. I tried them all — Stackers, Hydroxycut, Lipo6 — you name it, I probably used it. I ignored the side eyes that I got from the clerks at GNC and felt calmer as I held the bottle in my hands and felt that this, FINALLY this, would help me look the way I wanted to on the outside.
Just like my other food phases, I eventually moved through that one as well. I stopped focusing as much on my food because a more powerful and attractive force had moved into my life — drugs. We all know where that story goes (if you don’t, you can find out here), and when I eventually found myself having to change my life around again to live without them, I still wasn’t able to completely live in the discomfort of not having control over SOMETHING.
I started obsessively exercising again and focusing more on my food choices, although from the outside it simply looked like I was living a healthy lifestyle of fish, veggies, lean proteins, and little fat. In all honesty, I was mentally preoccupied with food for a large part of the day and started refusing anything that I perceived as unhealthy, including dried fruit or a square of chocolate. I would screen menus before going out to eat to see if I could eat anything there. I ate barely enough and exercised most of it away.
As you can probably guess, dealing with issues around food for more than a decade can become exhausting. I was lucky to already be in the process of turning things around with my life, so I decided that this was something that needed to go as well. It wasn’t serving me — had never served me — and although I had learned a lot from it, I definitely wasn’t made more lovable or worthwhile.
Those things had been there all along.
If you have any experience with disordered eating, I encourage you to talk about it this week. You can follow along with me on Instagram this Mon-Fri as I will be featuring this week in my stories. You’ll hear from me, a trained therapist, some of your favorite influencers who have dealt with the same issues, and resources/ways to help. Tune in and get talking!