Genuinely, I have spent the majority of my life being afraid of food. From Yo-yo dieting to full-fledged eating disorders, I am yet to achieve peace with my body and with food (in general) almost 26 years later. I spent the early half of my teenage years being as thin as a rail and suffering from Bulimia until around the age of 14. Sometimes I flashback to the days when I would eat a meal and then subsequently make myself throw up (at home and at school), not even half an hour later. I remember being obsessed with the scale to the point where I would be able to recognise even the smallest shift in the needle. Food and I were definitely not friends and I dreaded going out and visiting people’s houses, simply because of the sight of food on a table or everyone asking me to eat scared me to death.
During college, I ate actual meals only on weekends and during the week, I survived only on smoothies (for months at a time). When I did eat food, I remember feeling so guilty (dirty almost) and as a result, I would then fast for the rest of the week to make up for it. On top of this, I spent the majority of my free time at the gym (sometimes twice a day, in the morning and then at night). I took photos of myself every day in an attempt to monitor if I looked different from the last day. I remember being constantly told how skinny I was and genuinely not believing it despite the fact that none of my clothing really fit me. I occasionally felt so low on energy that I would skip class and stay at home to rest.
Today, as an adult in my mid-twenties, I would really like to say that I have conquered this destructive way of thinking but sadly this is not the truth. Within the past few months, I have experienced a relapse and after about a two-week period of making myself throw up every evening after work, I experienced a breakdown. It had been almost three years since I felt those feelings and then all of a sudden, they just crept in and hit me like a truck. In the moment, I attributed this to the stress of my new job and as a way to cope (a release almost). Although I always feel ashamed of myself after doing this and unable to even look at myself in the mirror, I enjoyed the feeling of going to bed with an empty stomach even if it growled. I even avoided seeing my friends during that time just to evade a potential situation where eating would come up. Eventually, I was asked by my closest friend if I was okay because she could tell that I looked extremely weak and frail. Indeed, this was a breaking point for me and I spent over an hour on the phone with her (while I was in tears) trying to explain what I felt inside. It is really hard to put into words. I truly struggle.
There is never a moment when I am not thinking about food or exercise. Today, I can tell you the calories and fat content in almost any food item. This is not something of which I am proud. Most days I feel like a prisoner in my own thoughts and it is really exhausting. Sometimes at lunch, I look at the people around me who seemingly don’t care and I feel jealous. While physical activity is undoubtedly a passion of mine, I am currently at a stage where I am craving that normalcy which I have yet to attain. I plan my life around what I am eating and how much I would need to exercise to burn it off and again, I am exhausted. People seem to think that eating disorders exist only in the movies and on television and that one must weigh 80 pounds or less to qualify. However, in reality, eating disorders are simply classified as any range of psychological disorders characterised by abnormal or disturbed eating habits.
At the moment, I am in this unfamiliar phase where I am trying to educate myself out of my habits. Has it been easy? No way. Despite that fact that I have spent the majority of my life on this emotional roller-coaster, I have finally given myself the time and space to learn as much as I can while being kinder to myself. Even in writing this article, I had to stop at certain times just to regain my thoughts and breathe.
It is really hard dealing with an eating disorder, however, I am willing to embark on this journey for myself, no matter how long it takes.