Would you believe me if I told you that I was once deathly afraid to travel?
Traveling for most means relaxation, freedom and indulgence; an escape from the trials and tribulations of everyday life.
For me, it triggered fear and anxiety. The idea of leaving my comfort zone, away from foods deemed “safe,” living on island time with unstructured eating times and guzzling calorie laden cocktails, was an eating disorder’s worst nightmare. Not to mention I was afraid of wearing a bikini, self-conscious of my protruding collar bones and lack of boobs and butt.
Many women buy a dream bikini as motivation to get in shape by summertime. Well, I bought the dress above a year ago in a size too large But my goal was different than most; to gain back curves. Today, at 40 pounds higher than my scary lowest weight of a few years ago, I am more active than ever before, training for a half marathon, and feel the happiest and healthiest of my life.
After 8+ years of suffering, I consider myself “recovered” from my eating disorder. But occasionally, old, disordered thoughts sneak back in. When I recently modeled for a photo shoot, I felt frustrated in the dressing room when nothing below a size 6 fit. I overanalyzed my every flaw in the mirror before gaining enough courage to step out. When the photos came back, I cried, picking my body apart and feeling straight up ugly with my newfound curves. Every woman has her own body insecurities, but for someone who suffered from an eating disorder for her entire adolescence, that feeling is exemplified times ten.Some days, I miss it. As irrational as it sounds, I found solace in my destructive habits. The security I felt in counting calories, the numbness of hunger pains, and the comfort of a thin body. I was abusing my body day in and day out. But it felt safe.
It all started as a “health kick” to “lose a few pounds” At first I just skipped breakfast, it wasn’t a big deal. Before I knew it, my original mission of healthy eating turned into a full blown eating disorder. I dropped from 135 pounds into the double digits in a matter of months…skeletal on my 5’8 frame.
My anorexia was a way for me to cope with how uncontrollable my life had become. When nothing else in my life seemed to be going right, I could control every morsel that went into my body. Every time I refused a meal or a dessert I felt powerful. Ironically, I grew weaker every day.I knew deep down how unhealthy I had become, but convinced myself I was healthier than ever. I was hollow and empty, frail and vulnerable, a shadow of my former self. I validated my worth based on the number on the scale.
It’s not glamorous, of course, at all. It was my own form of hell.
Will I ever be fully recovered?
Anorexia was a strong force in my life for nearly nine years. At times it is overwhelming to think I am no longer a tiny 100 pound, size zero anymore, not having to worry about a muffin top and cellulite. Today, my stomach jiggles a bit and my thighs touch, but I’m happier and healthier than I’ve been in 9 years. I would take being a ‘medium-sized’ girl, over a starving, ghostly, unhappy girl any day.
The secret of change is not to focus all of your energy to fight the old. Instead, use your energy to build the new.It is downright terrifying to push publish on vulnerable posts such as this. But it’s time to stand up and talk about it.
The statistics are startling. Did you know that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness? 15% of women suffer some sort of eating disorder in their lifetime. Millions more don’t love their body.
The mission of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is to raise awareness for the devastating effects of eating disorders, provide potentially life-saving resources, and help spark body positive conversation in schools, homes, and doctors offices nationwide.
To this day, there exists a stigma around eating disorders, as many fail to accept them as mental illnesses, not a lifestyle choice. So many suffer in silence and isolation because they are afraid to ask for help or don’t “look” sick on the surface.
Many have even been refused treatment if they didn’t have a low enough BMI or weight to cause concern. The severity can not always be judged by a number on the scale. Heart attacks caused by the body eating heart muscle for energy, electrolyte imbalances caused by purging and insufficient nutrition, and organ failure are some of the silent killers from eating disorders, invisible on surface level.
If I could go back to meet my 13-year-old self, I would tell her she’ll survive the thickening of her thighs. She’ll learn to let go a little. She won’t love her body every day. But she will live a richer, more fulfilling life.
Do I regret those years? Absolutely not. I’m an all around stronger, more resilient woman because of my struggles.
I may have gained weight, but in the process I have gained so much more. Strength. Vitality. Self love. Acceptance. A zest for life.
My body may be fuller, but my life is so much fuller now. My eyes twinkle, my skin glows, and my smile shines brighter. I am earning to embrace my curves each and every day. I’ve come so far, and I’m not backing down now.
Traveling (and moving across the globe!) proves to ED that he no longer has control over my life, that I no longer need his comfort. It tells him that I gladly embrace risk, change, and struggles, because otherwise, I am not truly living. I am determined to live a healthy + active lifestyle, to face my fears and adventure into the unknown, to embrace change, to explore and to dream. I deserve to soak up every ounce of this crazy, beautiful life.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help or a listening ear from someone who understands. I am here for you! firstname.lastname@example.org