I had many internal conversations with myself about how I would feel about sharing this story with the entire world wide web. After a long debate, I came to the conclusion that if my story has a positive influence on at least one person, then I will be satisfied with the outcome, no matter what negative publicity or criticism I might receive in the process.
This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, so what better time to share my story?
TRIGGER WARNING: Important to note that for some, this post may be emotionally triggering in some way or another.
I have struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember. My weight struggle probably sources its way back to puberty where I grew…in every way imaginable. I’m talking height, weight and cup-size, and it was embarrassing! I no longer looked like every other girl in my class. I remember being reluctantly dragged into Dynamite to purchase a blue sparkly top in size XL to wear to my grade six graduation, when every other girl could still shop at La Senza Girl. I consider this to be a pivotal moment in my rapid decline of self-confidence.
Why wasn’t I like everyone else? Well, I was bigger than them.
Why didn’t everyone like me as they liked everyone else? Well, I was bigger than them.
As you might imagine, things got much worse. I was constantly ridiculed and teased about my hair (FYI: I had awful bangs), my clothing choices or, worst of all, my weight. In gym class, I was always picked last. Always. No matter the activity. Looking back on it, I was probably 100lbs less than I am currently, which is extremely disheartening. Still, no one wanted me on their team because I was bigger than everyone else.
I distinctly remember being in grade seven and stepping foot in Coles Books to pick out my newest read. Naturally, I headed straight to the young adult section and happened to pick out a pretty pink book. It also happened to have a piece of pizza on its cover (I mean yum, right?).
It wasn’t until I actually read the book that I realized what it was truly about, a girl who was exactly like me: A fat girl. A fat girl who was ridiculed at school for being so, hating herself for it, just like me. I lost all of my remaining self-confidence. I simply thought there were no options for a fat girl, and boy was I right.
In this book, the protagonist decided that she was going to take her fate (and weight) into her own hands and change her eating habits, while, without meaning to, also developing a sever psychological and physical disorder called anorexia nervosa, a disorder that involves the refusal to maintain a healthy body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight and a disorder body image.
You might be able to guess what happened next.
With time, I too developed anorexia. I ate minimally during lunch and dinner and fasted in the morning. I ate the most during dinner (read: I ate the vegetables off of my plate and fed the rest to my dog) so my parents wouldn’t suspect anything.
I wasn’t interested in anything else except for being skinny, because that’s what I thought it took to be accepted and loved. This is a common misconception. You can be loved, cherished, accepted and valued at ANY SIZE. If anyone tells you otherwise, they’re not someone you need in your life.
I never saw a therapist, but looking back on it, I certainly should have. I remember this time in my life almost entirely, despite the fact that over 10 years have passed since my first restrained meal. That’s how monumental this experience was. That’s how much of an impact an eating disorder has on a person’s life. I am not 100 per cent confident in my body now, but I am absolutely in a better place that I was 10 years ago, despite having gained approximately 100lbs since.
If you are to take away one thing from this post, please consider the following:
Particular aspects and attributes of an eating disorder may never go away, and that’s okay. Life happens. Life puts up roadblocks to overcome. All you can do is simply that, try to overcome them. Overcome them yourself or with support, your choice. If you want support, reach out. I was fortunate enough that someone reached out to me before I got in too deep. We aren’t all this lucky.
Was I happy at the time that someone put a wrench in my plan to get skinny? Of course not. I was determined. I wanted to be loved!
However, looking back, I am grateful for those who reached out to me for several reasons. I finally felt that I mattered in a world where I felt so insignificant. Due to early intervention, I was able to recuperate and learn to live a healthy lifestyle sooner than later.
Have I survived an eating disorder? Yes. However, I’m not convinced that I have fully recovered. Honestly, I can’t say that I will ever feel this way. Popular literature on eating disorders suggests that recovery is a process. My eating disorder has stuck with me for the last decade and I consider it to be a part of my identity now: I am a woman who once had an eating disorder.
However, I am also a woman who has learned to speak up and to offer help to other people living with anorexia nervosa, or another eating disorder. Like our bodies, eating disorders come in all forms, some haven’t even been specified.
If you or someone you know may have an eating disorder or show signs of misconceptions of food consumption and obsessions with losing weight, know there are others suffering, too.
In support of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, here are six resources you or anyone you know with an eating disorder may find beneficial:
- Sheena’s Place
- Kids Help Phone
- Toronto General Hospital: Eating Disorders Program
- National Eating Disorder Information Centre
- Bellwood Health Services