I am about to tell you my story that I have not addressed here before. The reason I am telling this story now, here on this blog, is that sometimes I feel a conflict between what I write here and my personal story. On this blog, I write about food, fitness, running, and at times, weight. Whether it’s rational or not, omitting my full story here has made me feel less authentic.
Not many people know my story about my struggle with self-image and eating disorder. Here it is.
Nearly six years ago, I was diagnosed with an eating disorder and depression. I was in law school at the time. For two years before that, I had engaged in cycles of food restriction. My weight yo-yoed in tandem with heartbreak. Right before I was diagnosed, I had engaged in anorexic behaviors for months that led to a battle with bulimia coupled with crippling depression. Although I had flirted with food restriction for months, a single month of bulimic behavior was what shocked me into getting help. I then realized that I had a problem that I could not fix myself, and I knew there was a deeper problem that wasn’t just about stopping the behavior. No one knew I had a problem until this point.
I got help. I received counseling from a psychologist that specialized in treatment of eating disorders. She helped me immensely. After a few months of sessions, however, I realized that the depression still made me unable to concentrate on anything, so I began taking medication as well.
I kept my diagnosis mostly to myself. To this day, I don’t really know who knew about it and who didn’t. But if I was to guess, not many people did. Bulimia doesn’t mean I was underweight. Instead, because I began battling bulimia when I had been severely restricting my food intake, I gained weight. As you might imagine, that made the disease very intense. I was committed to recovering, however.
One of the people that did know about my eating disorder told me something I will never forget. She told me, “You will always have an eating disorder.” I really did not want to believe her. I really wanted to recover, and I really wanted to believe it was possible.
It turned out that she was right. I still struggle with what verb tense to use when I refer to my eating disorder: Did I recover? Do I still have an eating disorder? In a way, I did recover and I didn’t. In a way, I always had one. I remember some troubling behaviors around food that I engaged in back in Junior High. The first time I remember having a negative body image was in second grade. While the actual behavioral manifestation of my eating disorder is long gone (I feel recovered), I still struggle with things like negative self-talk and body image problems (I feel less recovered when I do).
I also feel a conflict between stating that I have a desire to lose weight and yet admitting that I once had an eating disorder. Can I say that I may or may not be recovered still but want to lose weight? Is that hypocritical or contradictory or just plain wrong? Does it make people think that obviously I still have a problem? I will admit that I feel very uneasy saying I want to lose weight. It still seems taboo; if I am recovered, I “shouldn’t” want to lose weight.
I believe it is possible to have had an eating disorder and later become overweight (like because of a pregnancy, or just eating more or less healthy than you should). I am not overweight. I am just a few pounds over where I want to be. I am committed to losing weight in only healthy ways. You won’t see me skipping meals or restricting myself. You will see me work out, but not in an unhealthy way or in unhealthy amounts. I believe that my desire to lose a few pounds comes from a good place.
I have the best relationship that I’ve had with food in almost a decade. I still struggle with feeling overly negative about myself, but the eating disorder taught me a lot of life lessons. One thing I am better about now, more than ever, is reaching out to the people that know me the best and asking for their support or help. I am also better at recognizing irrational thought patterns.
The most important lesson I learned from my eating disorder is compassion and empathy for other people. Not just compassion for people dealing with similar struggles, but any struggle. It made me a more sensitive, understanding person to others and to myself. I’ve learned that while many people do not understand eating disorders, everyone has issues of their own – whether they know it or not. I always knew to never judge a book by its cover, but I know that lesson now on a deeper level. For that reason, I never wish away the struggle I had. The personal grief I put myself through taught me more about life than I think I could have learned in a lifetime.
All that said, I do intend to write about weight loss here. I will always write about it with care. If this makes you uncomfortable in some way because you suffer or suffered from an eating disorder, please do not read. However, I am open to criticism, comments, and support.
Just please be nice.
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