Everyone has a story. And everyone has a struggle that they have had to overcome at some point in their life. I never thought I would live to see the day that I write this but I truly believe that it is for the best. And if my struggle can help others, well, then I am more than willing to lay out so at least one person can see they are not alone.
Food. Those four letters can bring about so much joy and self-loathing all at once I sometimes do not know what to feel. I can vividly remember as a child asking my parents, “will there be food there?” and having that be the deciding factor as to if I would attend an event. I vividly remember being no more than eight years old and having a “friend” of mine call me fat because when I sat on a cardboard box it caved in. I vividly remember not eating, then eating too much, then purging, then eating 100% clean, then eating Dominos, then eating vegetarian, then having the cycle start all over again. I remember it all. I vividly remember wondering how people could succumb to such a thing as an eating disorder. And then, there I was, in the middle of one myself.
My name is Emily and I had an eating disorder.
I have always been extremely hard on myself. Even at a very young age I remember just hating the extra “chub” I saw around my waist. All of my friends seemed to be slimmer than I and I really struggled with that. It didn’t help that not very kind people in my life called me “fat” or asked if I “put on a few pounds”. I realize now that “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent”, but hurtful words still burn and can leave lifelong scars.
I have always been a lover of food. Even as a baby, my mom has told me stories of how I loved to eat and never stayed full for long. As I grew up, this love for food did not end and by the age of seven (maybe even younger) I was teaching myself to cook. I grew up in a healthy family so most of the meals we ate were homemade and healthful. I was not an overweight child by any means, but I did have a stage where I was noticeably “bigger” than my group of friends and I knew it. This is when I remember I started telling myself that I was “fat” and that I should lose weight so I could be happy.
During my teenage years I went on and off “diets”. I would eat a lot of semi healthy food and then go on breaks of eating very little. I also purged a bit during this time which I knew was unhealthy, but was rather proud of myself for being able to do it without anyone knowing. Then I found out about clean eating and everything seemed to look up. I figured out a way to eat right and keep my weight down. I was in the best shape of my life at this point and appreciated my body for what it was (usually).
When I started college, I was on track with my eating and I seemed to have it together pretty well. But when I transfered to another school and became unable to fix my own meals, things started going downhill again. I gained the dreaded freshman 15 and my eating habits spun out of control. I was back to either eating nothing or eating a lot. I would go on a diet for a few days just to break it and binge. When I binged I felt terrible and tried to get rid of the unwanted food I had consumed. I was a mess. Not only was the food making me unhappy, but I was also breaking out from eating such processed crap. Later, over my summer at home, I tried a paleo challenge for 30 days and successfully made it! This cleared up my acne and I was happy again, but as school loomed overhead I dreaded going back because I knew I would not be in control anymore. Why was that? I believe it was a mixture of many things, a few being stress, lack of time to cook, emotions, and being around people with poor eating habits as well.
One day, something woke me up from the misery I was in. I self-diagnosed myself with an eating disorder and told my mom. I cried from embarrassment and grief. I had been struggling on and off for so many years and now I was finally taking my burden off my back and burning it. My mom was very supportive of me and still is to this day. (I don’t know what I would do without her!) A few days later I set up an appointment with an eating counselor.
Here is what I hate about this whole situation the most:
1. Food is not the enemy, but became one.
2. People are so quick to judge people with an eating disorder, so not many people have empathy in these situations.
3. The biggest mistake people make when giving “advice” about eating disorders is telling you to eat a burger. It’s like a slap in the face.
4. Eating disorders can happen to anyone, even to a personal trainer like myself. The shame I felt was toxic.
When I first figured out I had an eating disorder, I cried because I thought, “who would want a personal trainer or health coach who struggled with food?!” but after a time I realized that I can help so many more girls because I know exactly what they’re going through. I can walk alongside them and know the pain they feel. I can share my shed some light onto breaking the shackles and truly setting oneself free.
While my disorder was not as severe as some (which can be deadly), it was and still is something I have to sort through every day. I am taking baby steps to overcome this, which I know I will be doing lifelong. Change doesn’t happen overnight and there is definitely no quick fix. I think what comes before even the acceptance of food is the acceptance of yourself. Learning to love your body for what it is will be healing in and of itself.
By tell you all this, I do not expect pity or for you to think this is a vent session of “woe is me”. It’s not about that. I am sharing to prove that there is hope. There IS hope for YOU to overcome your disorder, or for whatever holds you captive. Know it takes work, but also know that the benefits are amazing. Nothing is worse than being enslaved to the fork, but there is nothing better than being in control and knowing that you are capable of overcoming it. If you wish to talk to me on the subject, please do not hesitate to shoot me an email. I’m all ears.