I debated on whether or not to post this. No. Debated is not the word... agonized. That would be far more correct.
'Agonized?' you ask. 'Really? Aren't you taking yourself a bit too seriously?' My answer: perhaps, but agonize I did... and do now at this moment, in fact.
Why all the angst? This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness week and like I said, I have had trouble deciding whether or not to even post on the subject. The subject of eating disorders is a touchy one for me because I had, and sometimes still struggle with, one myself.
Some of you that know me personally may be surprised to read this. By nature, I tend to play my cards pretty close to the vest; I don't often talk about the serious problems and troubles in my life with anyone. As per usual, I tried my very best to hide my problem while I was a functioning anorexic. Mind you, the height of my eating issues was years ago, but that doesn't mean it doesn't affect me to this day.
On average, I would eat one very small meal a day... if that. I hid food, lied about being full, even used laxatives. I am 5 feet 8 inches tall and at my thinnest I was 100 lbs. To give you some perspective, a normal weight for my height is between 135 lbs and 155 lbs. According to the American Council of Exercise, a normal body fat percentage for women is 21-24%. A bare minimum, essential body fat percentage for women is 10-12% according to this group. Mine was 2.5% in high school. I was horribly thin, but when I looked in the mirror, I felt disgusted. I felt ugly and unattractive. I felt fat. At a shockingly low weight, with ribs and hips sticking out for all to see, I felt fat.
I'm guessing that some people reading this post are going to be confused as to why anyone would resort to such dangerous measures to stay thin. I'm sure some of you even think I'm stupid, simply an idiot. And sadly, I know there will be a few of you who know exactly what I'm talking about and how it feels to be in that place... because you've been there yourselves.
I can't say I blame those of you who think I'm a bit of a nutter; if you've never been there, never had your reality so twisted, it does seem... well, a little daft. Why would anyone deliberately starve themselves? Why would anyone harm their body to purge calories and fat? Why? Why?
Even I don't know all the reasons I did what I did, but I do know a few things that caused my behavior to become so drastic. Of course, I can't claim to know what everyone who suffers or has suffered from an eating disorder is feeling and thinking, but I can tell you some of what I was feeling and thinking.
For me, it was many things: a sense of control, a strange natural high, more than a little self-loathing, and, of course, being very, very thin.
It started as a way to lose weight I had packed on after my parents divorce and ended up being a way to have some permanence in my life. It was the one thing I felt I had control over. I felt great when I knew I'd eaten nothing all day; the hollowness in my stomach fed me and made me feel full. It made me feel powerful and proud, somehow, knowing that my willpower was strong enough to overcome physical pain and hunger. The most primal instinct, to preserve oneself, was something I had conquered. I felt I could do anything.
Thankfully, I was forced to enter therapy for other issues during my high school years. The therapist was able to see that I was struggling and helped me work through some of my skewed views of food and myself. I began to eat better and take care of myself, but I still had to fight the overwhelming compulsion to refuse food almost daily.
When I got pregnant just over two years ago, I knew that I had to completely surrender to the pregnancy and my little one; not even being in control was worth the health of my unborn child. Thankfully, I was able to finally give up the last few unhealthy eating practices I had been holding on to.
Since then I feel I have maintained my status as a "rehabilitated" anrexic quite well. There are times when I still struggle with the impulse to deprive myself again. I try, instead, to use that willpower I was so proud of in a positive way: overcoming the compulsion to slip into old, comforting habits. I will likely struggle with this for the rest of my life, as so many people who suffer with eating disorders do, but I will strive to overcome.
Why am I sharing all of this? Well, I don't fully know. I hate to talk about this subject with anyone, even my husband. I am humiliated by the destructive behaviors of my past and embarrassed by the challenges those same behaviors present to me now. My embarrassment has prevented me from sharing my story, from reaching out to others who are fighting this same disorder. I believe now that that is what we need to do! We must reach out and we must share. We sweep these things under the rug and hope they will go away. Too many people battle eating disorders and feel so alone. I know I did. I hope that by sharing my story, perhaps someone will feel comforted. If not, at least they will know that someone understands what they deal with day to day. The guilt and the pain and heartache. I understand. Have hope.
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