In high school, I’ll admit that I thought having an eating disorder was kind of cool. I wanted to fit in, I wanted to have what I perceived as a great body, and I wanted to be the girl who all the boys were in love with, and all the girls wanted to be friends with. I distinctly remember my friends and I sitting around a table at lunch pulling out various low-calorie meals and comparing who was consuming what. In my eyes, I was the winner if I was consuming the least. Little did I know a few years later this kind of behavior would land me in eating disorder treatment.
How My Eating Disorder Went from Dabbling to a Full Blown Disorder
As I said, in high school I certainly watched what I ate. I was still in the parameters of a healthy body weight, and while I ate little I wasn’t starving myself. I was lucky enough to have a naturally athletic body that got rid of excess fat and calories quickly.
This all changed when I got to college. When I was there, my activity level slowed down and small new habits made me gain the regular “freshman 15”. Actually, for me it was more like the “freshman 5”, but it was enough to send me into full-blown panic mode. By the time I went home for Thanksgiving my freshman year, I was restricting myself to 800 calories a day and spending my free time on the treadmill at my school’s gym. I rapidly dropped weight but never thought it was enough. I had developed major body dysmorphia where I would look in the mirror and see fat in places where I was only skin and bones.
Home for Thanksgiving, everyone remarked about how tiny I was. I blamed it on stress and a hectic social life at school. Having always been relatively healthy, my family ignored the warning signs, and at the time I was really happy about that. The holidays passed – Christmas, New Years, and I was back for spring semester. I progressively dropped down to 90 pounds, the skinniest I had ever been, and super unhealthy for my height. I still was aiming to get even skinnier.
An Intervention, Followed by Eating Disorder Treatment
When I returned home for summer, my parents finally confronted me. Not only was I sickly skinny, but I was battling depression and anxiety. My entire demeanor had changed. I went from a super social person to one who kept to themselves and mostly stayed in my room. I had exchanged beach days with hiding under my covers and laughing on the phone to sadly picking out my “fat” areas in the mirror late at night. It was a miserable, dark, and lonely time.
My mom took my in for an annual physical that June. The results put my parent’s fear on paper. I was severely malnourished, underweight, no longer had my period, and my blood pressure was through the roof. Now, keep in mind I had always been healthy leading up to this. At first, I tried to pretend maybe I had some kind of mystery disease, but my parents aren’t dumb and after observing my eating patterns since I had been home, they along with my doctor concluded I was anorexic.
The following week my parents sent me to an eating disorder treatment center. At first, I was bitter and angry, but once I was there is was like a huge sense of relief washed over me. Here I was, with people who understood what I was going through, many of whom had even been through it themselves. I had felt alone for so long, and for the first time, I was able to open up to others and share my story, my struggles, and my fears.
In eating disorder treatment, I learned the difference between skinny and healthy. I learned how to rewire my brain to think about health first, not just calories and how tiny I could become. Today, looking back at pictures it is unfathomable that I thought I was fat when in actuality I was skin and bones. 4 years later, I can honestly say that treatment saved my life, and I wish that everyone going through what I did has the same opportunity to get better.