There are about 630 calories in a serving of my favorite dessert, but there were many days last year when the total number of calories I consumed in a day was less than that. Looking back on it, the year my eating disorder escalated was easily the worst year of my life.
I’ve struggled with a low self-esteem and bad body image since around 8 years old, and I’m sure every girl can empathize with me when I say that it’s easy to compare yourself to generally thin and shiny-haired student body at Latin, and then feel as though you don’t measure up. I never reached a weight so low that I needed to be hospitalized, but I did lose enough that people noticed. Their praise kept me going, but I realized that it would never be enough for the nagging voice in my head.
I have a pretty severe case of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), which is when you don’t accurately perceive a physical characteristic of yours, and is common amongst eating disorder sufferers. In my case, this meant that I always saw myself as bigger than I actually am, whether I look down at myself or look in a mirror. At the height of my disorder, I was the thinnest I’d been in years, but the mirror never changed; I was still huge. There were a couple of moments when I felt smaller, but a second look in the mirror reassured me that I was right to call myself a whale, to starve myself because I didn’t deserve to eat. I became obsessive, weighing my foods out on a scale before eating them and logging them into a calorie-counting app on my phone. I avoided most foods because they were too high in calories or fat or sugar, leaving me with only a handful of things I could eat without getting a panic attack. I did hundreds of sit-ups and ran for hours even when I wanted to faint because I felt guilty when I didn’t.
I thought that when I lost weight, I’d want to spend time with my friends to show off my new body, but I kept turning down meet-ups to get ice cream. I couldn’t eat in front of people because they’d think I was a pig. A few times, I accepted an invitation to hang out, but made up last-minute excuses when I found out that we were going to the beach. I couldn’t wear a swimsuit in front of people because they’d be even more repulsed by my body than I was.
I was aware that my behavior was eating-disordered, and I eventually got tired of restricting and decided I wanted to get help. I was sick of lying, sick of the binges that would happen because I wasn’t eating enough. I ended up reaching out to a teacher earlier this year, who encouraged me to speak with Ms. Stevens. She, in turn, suggested that I see a therapist to help me towards a fuller recovery.
I’ll admit, recovery sounds terrifying. Talking about your eating disorder is scary, sure, but the worst part was watching myself gain weight. My clothes got tighter, and a few people reminded me that I’d gotten bigger. Eating lunch in the cafeteria became hell; I was on doctor’s orders to eat more in a meal than I used to eat in a day while I was surrounded by girls who wouldn’t even finish their yogurt cups. But recovering was the best decision I ever made, because I decided to live even though I didn’t want to anymore. I’ve shared my experiences with my closest friends, and a few even confessed their own eating disorder struggles. While I feel like this has allowed us to connect on a new level, it also makes me incredibly sad that they’ve had to go through so much pain and suffering. What’s even sadder is that I’m sure we aren’t the only ones. I was glad that Rachel wrote an article on the Latin Girl Lunch, because this is definitely an issue we need to be addressing. As long as I hear people comment that they wish they had an illness that would help them lose weight, or push around three lettuce leaves on their plates, we need to talk about eating disorders. They’re real. They haunt our hallways and our minds, and they demand our attention.
Eating disorders can kill you, plain and simple. Even if you make it out alive, the damage done to your insides can often be so severe that it is irreparable. And I like all of you the way that you are: breathing. If you suspect that you may have an eating disorder, if you’re male or female or both or neither, please believe me when I say that it gets better. Reach out to a friend, a teacher, or a counselor; I promise that you will not regret it. If a friend tells you that they’re struggling with an eating disorder, let them know that you’re here for them and that you want them to speak to a counselor who is better equipped to get them the help that they need. If you suspect that a friend has an eating disorder, tell them that you care about them and want them to speak to a counselor because you’re worried about their health. The beginning will feel awful, but I can’t begin to describe how much recovering is worth it. To those of you who have battled an eating disorder in the past and survived, I’m so proud of you for having the courage to fight something that is taking your life away. To those of you who are still struggling, please remember that there is life beyond your disorder, and you are a beautiful, strong person who deserves to live a happy life. You always deserve a brownie whenever you want one. That does not make you weak or any less of a human being. You deserve all of the love and all of the brownies, and I hope that you are able to reach a point in your life where you’ll trust me on that.]]>