I know this feeling. Ages 14-20 I fought cycles of restricting my food. I was always ashamed of being overweight growing up. I had no idea how to lose weight. I tried to learn online, but the most I could gather was that I had to restrict my calories. So I did that. I got consumed by pro-anorexia websites, thinking that restricting was the only way to be thin. Not the normal weightloss cut-back on calories, but restricting as in 500-600 calories a day. I wanted to be like everyone else. I wanted to be a “normal girl” in high school. I would lose some weight, then gain it all back over and over. This went on through high school and I was even able to hide it from my boyfriend. I thought it was normal to lose weight, but I was hiding the fact that I was “dieting.” I didn’t want to admit that I was ashamed of my weight. When we ate out with friends I’d write coded notes on my hands to remind me not to eat. I’d come up with any excuse not to eat. Nobody suspected a thing because I was overweight. How could an overweight girl have an eating disorder, right? I tried to downplay it in my head. Me? Eating disorder? No I’m fine, really. I can handle it. I can deal with it myself. I’ll be fine. I’ll lose the weight I want then be fine. All while eating single grapes at a time all day to keep my hunger at bay. This is not okay.
Eventually, I broke. I admitted it to my boyfriend. He made me promise to eat. I couldn’t bring myself to, but I agreed to 1200 calories a day. While researching this, in my most “down” moment of my life in my dark dorm room on September 28, 2011, something clicked. I came across a girl on tumblr who lost weight successfully, while still eating sufficiently. And I realized, I could do this too. I changed WHAT I ate, in proper amounts, and slowly learned nutrition.
For once, I was succeeding in weightloss while never feeling hungry. The problem this time? Over the course of the next 9-12 months, I developed orthorexia. I have written an extensive post here on orthorexia, the obsession to eat healthy. An unhealthy obsession with healthy. I had no idea. I had no idea why I refused to eat cashews. I had no idea why coconut gave me anxiety. I don’t know why I wouldn’t eat out with friends unless they had plain grilled chicken & steamed broccoli (no butter). I had no idea why I avoided salt on anything. I didn’t know why I was losing my hair. I didn’t know why my tailbone hurt to sit down too long or do crunches. I had no idea why I often stopped breathing in my sleep.
I had restricted my “okay” foods so much, that I was once again restricting my intake, in a different way. I was malnourished. Underweight. Isolated socially. And yet I thought this was all okay. I thought it was okay to have “good” foods and “bad” foods. Social media & friends were praising me for my weightloss. They were aweing my appearance, congratulating me for sticking to my healthy diet. For once I felt like a “normal girl”, able to fit in size 0 jeans and small shirts. I was so proud that I wasn’t aware of the eating disorder consuming me. I never had “cheat days” because the idea of eating the off-limit foods made me sick to my stomach from anxiety. I had conditioned myself to physically be ill from food anxiety. I thought I was just used to healthy eating. My body only craved good, not bad. That’s what happens, right? Right?
This is how eating disorders function. You don’t. Know. What’s happening. I know ignorant people will comment like the user on youtube that this is “too dramatic” but it really isn’t. It’s the honest truth that nobody wants to talk about. We need to talk about it.
Social media now perpetuates eating disorders and catalyzes them. It serves as a medium for comparison & self-berating. This needs to stop. The majority of people I encounter in the fitness side of social media (blogs, Instagram, etc) have dealt with or are currently dealing with an eating disorder. Did you know that in weight-class and aesthetic sports about 33% of males and up to 62% of females are affected with an eating disorder? This creates a TOXIC environment.
I really hope that we can bring some awareness around this topic, and help people feel freed from the stigma of an eating disorder. It is okay to get help. You are not flawed.
If you’re reading this, and this speaks out to you in any way, please find help and resources here or here or here. These resources are also great if you know someone struggling with an eating disorder but don’t know how to approach them about it. You can also feel free to contact me by emailing [email protected]
Recovery is amazing. It is so freeing. It is so empowering. I can only hope that everyone gets to experience the freedom.
If you have any questions or comments, let me know.
Update: I have posted this video regarding a few topics. I can’t really explain in text, so please just give it a watch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msuIg34oHSs While I do feel like IIFYM can help ease people out of orthorexia (seeing foods as just macros rather than “good” or “bad”, as I found helpful), you must know that counting cannot go on forever. I also do not agree with purchasing macro plans from people & “trainers” online. If you feel like you’re buying macro plan after macro plan simply because you don’t feel like you are comfortable enough around food to trust yourself, you need real help. Professional help with someone qualified. Anyways, please watch the video.
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