The only thing more frustrating than “feeling fat,” was the number on the scale, which quickly became my identity. Why hadn’t I met my goal? Why was it so easy for every other girl in high school to stay at a beautiful 110 pounds, while I sat at 118 and cried over the lack of change on the scale? Their short and lean legs compared to what I labeled as my chunky and overly muscular runner’s legs made me feel like a man. To even wish to be beautifully thin was a hopeless thought that stirred up anxiety and fear.
Fear, motivated by frustration and the repetitive feeling of failure, invaded my mind and caused me to run even from the sight of a scale. Doctor’s appointments became an obsessive fear due to the “weigh in” every time I stepped past the waiting room. The only thing that gave me the freedom to feel in control and strong enough to keep going was countless hours at the gym and methodically restricting everything I ate. At this point my diet consisted of four apples a day, two baggies of baby carrots, edamame, and a shameful protein bar before swim team practice. Oh, yes. I ran cross-country in the Fall, competitively swam in the winter, and ran track in the Spring. During the peak of my obsession over my weight, I swam 7 times within 5 days, having two-a-days twice a week, raced in swim meets on Saturdays, and occasionally went to the gym if I had a moment of spare time.
I would often punish myself for binging on anything excessive by working out for hours or the occasional “I’m so full” purge. I would later discover that therapists would label me as both a patient of anorexia nervosa as well as a bulimic. Ashamed to discover that I wasn’t simply anorexic, but that I was also labeled as bulimic stirred up embarrassment and anger. “Am I not motivated enough to just be anorexic? Do I really have to hide in the kitchen and shove food in my mouth and then puke or run it off?”
I felt like a failure even at the endeavor of being a prolific eating disorder patient. I wasn’t 85 pounds, but I was 116. Yes, I was underweight for my 5’8” stature, but that didn’t matter to me. I needed to break 100 to truly call myself anorexic. “No one will take this thing seriously if I’m not just skin and bones.”
I discovered this was my diagnosis when I went to see a psychologist who specialized in eating disorders. This was forced by my parents, of course. No one this serious about losing weight would purposefully admit themselves into an environment working directly against the effort of losing weight. They wanted me to gain weight. Resistant, angry, and determined to win this battle against both myself, my parents, my psychologist, and my doctor, who now wanted to put me on antidepressants, I entered therapy.
Of course I refused going to group therapy with other eating disorder patients. Why? Because I would be the fat one. They probably all weighed 85 pounds. Unlike myself, they were successful at their eating disorder. I was still striving to be like them. I was still a failure.
Chasing this dream of being thin became an obsession. It ran my life. It motivated everything I did and drove me to what I thought was perfection. My eating disorder turned me into a selfish, introspective, narcissistic pessimist.
I was never happy, never satisfied with my “accomplishments,” and continually felt lonely. At this point in high school, my friendships became blurry. Because I was so focused on who I wanted to be and I was honestly more focused on how much I hated myself for being “so fat,” I pushed everyone out of my life and let them fall away. I was lonely, angry, frustrated and flat out depressed. During this time I wasn’t mean or hurtful to the people in my life, but I was quiet. My outgoing personality died and my formerly lively spirit became weak and frail.
My perfectionism drove me to a new extreme. Though I wasn’t performing well in swim team because of my minimal diet, my cross-country season went well. I was getting A’s in my AP classes, and steadily working towards early graduation because I hated high school so much. I hated what I allowed high school to be.
Somewhere in the midst of all this, I woke up. I still wanted to be skinny, but I suddenly felt less driven to starve myself. Don’t get me wrong, I still thought I was fat, but the desperation to become thin was slowly dying away. Truly, I think God opened my eyes to the reality that He didn’t create me to waste my life getting thin. He made me for much greater purposes. God, as well as my family, didn’t want me to waste my life with this introspective mindset that pushed everyone else away.
About to enter my final year of college, I feel excited about life, determined to walk with others through the painful journey of an eating disorder. Now, I am at a healthy 138 pounds. I feel comfortable in my own skin. I like myself. I’m proud of who I have become and I couldn’t be more thankful that God opened my eyes to His love for me and His desire for me to live a healthy life, focused on others, not the number that formerly identified who I was.
I defeated it. So can you. Ask for help.