I think most people associate eating disorders with one of two things: Anorexia (starving yourself) and Bulimia (binge eating and purging). Being a Human Development major and Sociology minor, I have read about countless cases of eating disorders. I've seen videos, heard stories, and read studies on the causes and effects of eating disorders in individuals lives. Something I rarely talk about though is eating disorders in my own, personal life.
No, I am not anorexic, nor am I bulimic. Yes, I am underweight. Yes, I have let some of my emotional issues effect my eating habits. So I suppose then yes, I have struggled with eating disorders in my life, just not the kind you typically think of.
I haven't always. In fact, I didn't even think about or consider the fact I might have one until I was 15 and in a Health class at school. I overheard some girls in my class gossiping about how I must be anorexic because my BMI was so low. I know words are just words, but they can have a big effect on people. Especially insecure 15 year old girls. A few months later my family moved out of state. As a whole, the experience of moving was a positive one, but at first it was hard for me. I developed a really bad habit of "not being hungry" during lunch time. Many days I just wouldn't bring a lunch. And the reason was this: I was having some serious issues with loving myself and believing I was deserving of good things. To punish myself, I wouldn't eat. I didn't do this because I had an obsession with being thin. I did it because that was the safest way I could think of punishing myself.
I still ate breakfast and dinner, so I wasn't putting my health in any serious danger. But what I had done, that I didn't realize till later, was develop bad thinking habits that followed me and haunted me for years. When I became a freshman in college, these bad thinking habits came back and hit me with full force. I will be blunt - I struggled big time. I was experiencing my first real heartbreak, I was experiencing a wave of depression that I could hardly handle, I was experiencing feelings of inadequacy, I was experiencing what it's like to fail at the one thing you thought you were actually good at (school), I was feeling lower than low and I was desperate.
When I become overwhelmed, I close up and shut down. I am pretty good at putting on a happy face for others or putting on the charade that everything is fine. Inside though, I was hurting very badly. I didn't know how to cope with the pain I felt so I reverted back to what I'd done in high school - punish myself by not eating. My freshman year in college was worse than my experience in high school though because I didn't have anybody to monitor my eating. After I'd gone 3 straight days without eating I'd realized something - this was something I was actually succeeding at. The physical pain of hunger was more tolerable than all the emotional pain I had felt. And where I had failed at so many other things in my life, I was not failing at skipping meals. It soon became a dangerous game I played with myself. How long could I go without eating?
I knew things were getting bad and I was heading down a road I didn't want to be on. I found the courage to meet with a therapist, which really helped me to work through my problems. I starting making a greater effort to eat consistently again. I knew skipping meals was an unhealthy game and I needed to stop. Things legitimately got better.
If I am being honest though, I didn't ever heal completely. Those bad thinking habits still exist. When I am feeling overwhelmed or stressed or upset with myself, I still punish myself by skipping meals. Or if it is a busy day at work, I don't make it a priority to eat something. I tell myself, "Oh well. You have too much to do; you don't deserve to eat anyway." Sometimes I will "accidentally" forget to pack a lunch. Typically these are days when I'm feeling depressed about something and "forgetting a lunch" is a way I can punish myself. I know it's terrible, but it is a thinking process so deeply rooted that I can't shake it completely.
There are other things have have contributed to my disordered eating. I'd be lying if I said I hate being thin. It's secretly one of the few things I actually like about myself physically. I have fallen into the trap that many women in today's society fall victim of. I care about my appearance more than I should. I am often insecure. I often don't think I'm pretty. I hear the compliments other women get and beat myself up inside because I compare myself to them. I could write a list for hours of things I hate about myself, but I know that's not healthy. I know it won't make me happy. I suppose my point in bringing this up is that many people think that they will be happier or people will think they're prettier if they are thin. It doesn't matter if you are overweight or already skinny though. I am sometimes so obsessed with the idea that "being thin is the only thing I have going for me", that I develop a fear of hitting triple digits on the scale. I panic if my size 00 jeans are too snug. I panic if my stomach isn't flat and my shirt is too tight. I panic if I have to loosen the belt around my waist. I try not to obsess about thinness too often, but it is something society reminds me of on a daily basis. So though I overhear women say "I wish I had Kristy's figure", I don't think they realize that the insecurities are still there for me too.
Many different times throughout my life I've had people ask if I eat. Most of these people don't ask me directly, but I still find out about it. I find it slightly offensive that people assume just because I'm thin it means I have an eating disorder. But I am a people pleaser. I hate making people feel bad or proving them wrong. There have been times I've justified my terrible eating habits by saying "Well they think I'm anorexic anyway, so it doesn't matter if I skip meals." That's just another example to prove that people's opinions have a grave effect on me. I hate that I let it effect me as much as it does.
The point of this was not to seek pity. It was not to seek reassurance that I'm fine just the way I am. The point was to be honest and explain something that I've really struggled with. I am the type that typically keeps a lot of my struggles to myself and I decided that talking about them could do 1 of 3 things: 1. reassure others that they're not alone in their struggles, 2. help me get these feelings off my chest, 3. show others that trials come in all shapes and sizes. Yeah, maybe I'm more vulnerable now, but what's the point of going through trials if you're not willing to grow from them or share your experiences with others? If there is one person that benefits from reading my story, then writing about this all was totally worth it to me.