I had an eating disorder for a good portion of my life. It does not define me, but it consumed me and was and is still a part of who I am. I can’t believe I am writing about this as it is something that my whole life I have considered taboo to talk about with the general public.
My Teens: How It Started
I knew a lot about eating disorders from a very young age. I thought to myself, that won’t be me. I was never a fat kid, at times I was pretty lean, but there were periods that I did have a little extra chub on me, no big deal. There were periods when I wore a big T-shirt over my swimsuit because I thought I needed to cover my “chubby” body.
But, when high school began, I became body image obsessed. I started to restrict my food intake. I learned that bread and carbs were bad so I would not allow myself to eat them. The weight dropped pretty quickly and I got a lot of positive feedback.
I was exercising a lot. First thing in the morning, I’d get on the floor and do crunches and inner-thigh lifts. I was always in sports. Between my sports and the additional running I did on my own, I devoted the bulk of my free time to exercise.
Things worked for a short while like this, but then I became unforgiving about slips. I couldn’t eat certain foods: carbs, desserts, chips and such. If I slipped and ate them, then I would binge on them and purge. I figured, I already screwed up, just go for it so I have enough in me to throw it up. When I had trouble throwing up I would take a pink Correctol laxatives. My stomach at times would rumble and make insane noises from the laxatives I was taking.
My index and middle finger knuckles soon became slightly red from the amount of times I was making myself throw-up. I then added diet pills to the mix. I was I mess. I started to distance myself from my friends my senior year. I became very secretive. I still was on the Homecoming court, a cheerleader, and a runner-up for Miss High School person at my school. I still had a close knit group of over a dozen girl friends that I went out with most weekends and on beach trips. But, I lost my one-on-one friendships. I became a bit of a loner.
At the Grandparents: Great Models of Health
Then I went to community college. My first year of college I lived with my grandparents in California, a long plane ride from my hometown. I invited a close friend to live with my grandparents and me as we began our first year of college. That year was great. We stopped having dinner at the table by the time my eating disorder began to arise in my house growing up. We always had a meal prepared, but we were all so busy, mom and dad working late, my brothers and me active in so many activities, that it was just there ready for us. We ate it when we wanted usually on a TV tray while watching a show.
My grandmother and grandfather were the 1950s wholesome type. They always had regular meals at the same time. My girlfriend and my grandparents had very healthy relationships with food. We all had breakfast and dinner together each day. I played on the tennis team and stayed active. I had slips here and there, but I was basically following their lead. Looking to them as my “how to” eat as I had lost all concept of what that looked like. Every once in a while I would secretly binge and purge, but I would be able to go back to “normal” using them as my compass to get back on track. Grandma did all the grocery shopping and cooking. I felt so safe and nurtured.
College on My Own
Then I went to university on my own. The first year in the dorms, second with girlfriends from the dorm, and third was in a sorority house. I really was a full-fledged mess in college. I was heavily in my eating disorder, but somehow still very secretive. I had more trouble keeping my weight down and I did get slightly heavy even though I was binging and purging. I felt desperate.
On-Campus Group Therapy
I finally sought help my last year of college. I went to free weekly meetings at my college with an on-campus counselor as the moderator. I felt so comforted by those meetings to be with other girls like me. I never missed. The moderator was a heavy woman, very calm and kind, though. I had a really hard time with that. I thought, but I don’t want to be heavy like this woman. Why is she leading us? She doesn’t have it figured out. I confessed everything to this group. It was the first time in my life I had been honest about my eating disorder.
Back with the Grandparents
After college I got a job, but moved back in with my grandparents. They to me represented my good health. I continued to struggle through bulimia, but was making progress.
Seeing a One-on-One Therapist
I paid a lot of money for a therapist for a while as she wasn’t covered by my insurance. She asked questions, then took copious notes. I felt like she was using me for a research paper, interviewing me. She never wanted to talk about my present. She only wanted me to answer questions about my past to uncover how I became this way. She may have had a method, but it wasn’t for me.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
I looked into what was covered by my insurance. I found a group therapy at a hospital. Cognitive behavioral therapy it was called. We were a small group of woman. I had weekly meetings and had to turn in food journal pages each week and receive new ones. If I had slips, I was told just to document. We did book studies on authors who wrote on eating disorders like Geneen Roth. There was accountability and homework. The group was offered for a short term period at the hospital and lasted six months and was over. It helped a lot.
I then tried Overeaters Anonymous, OA. It’s free. It’s like AA, but for people with an addition to food or to an eating disorder. I had a sponsor who I could call at any moment for support 24-7. I went to meetings weekly or more often if I needed it as they are offered at some location somewhere every day of the week. The big components of this kind of program are fellowship, meetings, and God. You work through a 12-step program with the first three steps being the most important. They basically are: 1. I can’t. 2. God can. 3. I think I’ll let God. I had great friendships through this program and went for years. I didn’t share this side of me with my friends outside of program.
After a few years, I told my grandmother about my eating disorder and even my best girlfriends outside the program. Grandma was big-eyed that I had this big secret, but not too shocked. She had noticed something had been going on over the years. I started to have confidence and sponsored other young girls. I was pleased that they called me and I was there for them and guided several to better health based on the OA program and offering my own story.
My Thirties: Sort of Cured
As I got in my thirties, I had sort of felt like I understood my body. I no longer picked myself apart. I decided on a weight range that was reasonable for me to stay in. I decided diets and cleanses were not for me. I would never again hop on a diet bandwagon. I would never again be restrictive. I stopped going to OA. Some people do go for years and years, but I felt it served me and I was equipped now to do it on my own. I did not, for the most part, keep big portions of foods I used to binge on in the house.
Whenever holidays would arise with candy in plethora, I would still binge on it. But, I would not purge. I told myself, if you are going to keep eating this crap, you have to hold yourself accountable. You have to accept that you’ll feel yucky and you’ll gain weight. I knew I wasn’t good about eating sweets I liked in moderation. I liked my sweets, but they started to loose their appeal as much as before.
At Forty: Today
I’m forty and have two sons. I don’t have a daughter. I remember praying to God a long time ago in my twenties not to have a daughter. I didn’t want her to go through what I did. Today I think I’d be a great mom to a daughter and a model of healthy eating. Yet, I am perfectly content with my precious sons.
I can’t believe I am hitting post. This is a huge, teary-eyed confession. I hate that this was my life, but maybe it made me who I am today. I love who I am today. I am a good, solid human being. I would want to have a friend, mom, or partner like me. So, here it is—clicking post.