My Journey with Anorexia
It’s easy to start your fitness story at the time you really got into working out, but truth is, most of our journeys start years before, with family influences and years of eating and activity patterns influencing our development and habits. And yes, I view this as my journey with Anorexia, not my battle, because through it I have developed and grown more than I could ever have hoped to without it. I was a pretty active kid, playing soccer and transitioning into swimming as a middle-schooler. I tended to overeat but the activity usually compensated for the excess intake.
However, when I strained my shoulder and had to undergo labrum repair during my freshman year of high school, all exercise ceased and I began to pack on the pounds. Food became my escape and a mindless habit through which I could channel my need for control (through the lack thereof, ironically). Eventually, I had outgrown my clothes and I knew it was time to change. I started looking at nutrition labels and downloaded a calorie-count app and was determined to get skinny. So determined, in fact, that my disordered eating, once characterized by excess, was soon flipped towards scarcity.
Within a few months, I lived for cutting back just a few more calories every day. I lived for the feeling of my jeans falling off my hip bones. I lived for the lost pounds. I lived for it until I was more than willing to die for it; I allowed myself to embrace the deficit with complete disregard for my life and my relationships. My family would not stop nagging me to “just eat,” and I would sulk in disgust at their lack of understanding and lack of appreciation for my unmatched “self-control.” After all, all that I was wanting was to feel in control of my life and my actions and my body. It’s very seldom JUST about losing weight. My mom pushed until I began seeing a counselor and a Health Coach. Both were stepping stones but it would be a couple of years before I considered changing my ways. In the meantime, I developed more and more restrictive behavior: I was vegetarian, gluten-free, and dairy-free and eventually gave veganism a shot. Granted, these aren’t necessarily unhealthy lifestyles in themselves, but my reasons for restriction were selfish.
It took a counselor my sophomore year of college to threaten me with inpatient treatment if I didn’t change my ways, and I buckled. I remember going to Whole Foods and having *gasp* Arctic Zero ice cream. Granted, it was 150 calories of nasty, but it was the first time I’d had dairy in years. And so began my long and tumultuous journey towards recovery. Throughout this time period, I leaned heavily on the support of Travis, who is now my husband, and often confessed to him when I would lapse into bingeing, then restricting, the bingeing once again.
My senior year of college, I knew I needed another push. I decided that competing and having a coach assign my macros would give me the freedom and accountability I needed to let go of my intense need to control my intake. As you can imagine, I was far from ready to compete and definitely didn’t make a big impression on stage, but it was a start. I have since started working with Nick Tong, who has been my coach for 2 years now, and I’m amazed when I look back at my evolving relationship with food and fitness. I remember running miles a day just to “make up for” a “bad” meal.
I remember crying when my jeans actually fit. I remember being doubled-over at night due to hunger pains and telling myself that I actually liked the feeling and that it was something of which I should be proud. But what I don’t remember are many of the conversations I had with friends. I don’t remember events because I would never go for fear of people asking me to eat or asking me why I didn’t. I don’t remember many friendships because I didn’t open up to people when I had the chance. I don’t remember the times my mom lay awake worrying for my life because I disregarded her concern. And my actual memory is very fuzzy from these times. It’s a shame and I’m often disappointed, wondering what I deprived myself of in high school and college and what I could’ve experienced and learned and the people I could’ve known.
But I also learned so much and I believe I am better equipped to help others because I know, first-hand, how difficult a toxic relationship with food can be and how impossible it seems to overcome habits on your own. And that’s why I’m here today, one of the few that defied the odds of anorexia, and I believe that is so I am more prepared to help others achieve their goals in a healthy manner and establish effective and wholesome habits.