“What do you mean I have an eating disorder?! I couldn’t possibly have one, I’m not even skinny!” Those were the first words that came out of my mouth when I went to the dietician and discovered that I had a significantly low weight. All of the evidence was laid out before me, I had a low BMI, I was extremely pale and dizzy, my diet was all over the place, and yet I still refused to believe that I could possibly have an ED. It’s remarkable isn’t it? How our ED can convince us that we’re not sick, just “eating healthily” or that it’s ok for us to skip meals because we “need to lose weight.” Even though that was the first day I realised that I had an ED, it was not the first day I’d been living with one.
It all started with lockdown. Hockey, karate, gymnastics and swimming were cancelled. When I went back to school, I felt that I’d put on a few pounds. It wasn’t any big deal, I was still a healthy weight, but I remember being so afraid of what other people would say, of how the other girls would undoubtedly be judging me. So I started trying to lose weight. I’d never tried to lose weight before but I figured just eating ‘healthily’ would do the trick. And then my parents told me they wanted me to change schools for TY in three months time. A new school?! No uniform?! Teenage boys?! The answer to my newfound conundrum came to me almost immediately- lose weight of course! Little did I know then that this would be the voice that would torment me for the next three years. And just like that, I fell into the dark hole of an ED.
By the end of the summer, my behaviours around food were very troubled – if I ate anything I hadn’t planned, that voice in my head would criticize me so much that I wouldn’t be able to sleep unless I did something about it. Life was hell. Nothing I did was ever enough for the eating disorder. As the school year went by, I began to eat less and less. I had to study twice as hard to keep up my grades, I was weighing myself regularly (and crying over even the slightest change), and I still had to find the energy to make friends. I was exhausted. But at least by Christmas, I had reached my ‘golden weight’. Everyone was complementing me, and I felt to proud of what I had achieved! And then on New Years Day I fainted. I didn’t have the energy to walk for a day and a half. It was extremely frightening, a wake up call that what I was doing to my body was really bad. I promised myself that I was going to stop dieting, and going to extreme lengths to keep my figure. Never again, I swore. Never again.
But it turned out that my ED’s resolve was stronger than my New Year’s Resolution. I was lost in a viscous cycle of restriction. Fainting was an regular enough occurrence by now, and yet everyone time I looked in the mirror I still wasn’t thin enough? Why wasn’t I thin enough? This self-destructive cycle of restriction resulted in my first proper binge at Easter. I’ll never forget that terrifying feeling, like I had absolutely no control over my body as I stuffed everything and anything I could get my hands on into my mouth until my stomach was in physical pain. However, throughout this whole journey, there was always a very small voice in the back of my mind asking “Maybe I’m not ok?”
One night, I summoned up enough courage to go to my Mom and tell her that I think I needed help. But my poor mother had been through enough that year. I think she was hoping that I didn’t have an eating disorder because she just didn’t have the capacity to cope with another child who had a mental disorder. She told me that she thought that I should stop all of this “silly diet carry-on.” I never asked her for help again.
My sweet sixteen came, and I once again broke my strict diet rules because I was just “too lazy to follow them.” I dared to order take-out and even indulged in a sliver of chocolate cake! Of course the next day I had a complete mental breakdown about how ‘fat’ I felt and how I had undone all of my “hard work.” After that meltdown, my Mom insisted I speak to a therapist. I remember being reluctant at first because I didn’t have a problem. I was just eating healthily, or I was a picky eater. When I met my psychologist for the first time, I started off by apologizing for wasting her time, and I tried to explain that my parents were just being over dramatic. But then plot twist, my therapist said that she actually thought that I might have an eating disorder! She told me to try eating three meals a day for starters-which I failed miserably because people just didn’t understand. I did not have an eating disorder. People with eating disorders were skinny. I wasn’t skinny. I was a failure.
And then I met a dietician who weighed me. It was my first weigh-in in months (because my mom had thrown out our scales). That visit changed everything for me. I suddenly had to make a very important choice. Do I ignore all of the professional advice and continue losing weight? Or do I recover? It was my choice to make-and it was possibly the most important decision I will ever make in my life.
I am proud to say that I am currently in recovery. I won’t lie, weight restoration is really difficult, but recovery is so worth it. Your eating disorder lied to you guys! Gaining weight will not make you miserable, you won’t lose control, you won’t be rejected. Happiness is not a number on the scales, it can’t be found in eating disorder rules, or on an empty plate. You deserve to be loved no matter what your weight. There are days when my ED voice so loud it’s an effort not to skip dinner, or to eat breakfast. And yes, there are times that I miss my sick body but I will NEVER miss my sick life. Ever. And I guarantee neither will you. So keep fighting guys! Because life after an ED is worth it!