What I Want Everyone to Know About Developing an Eating Disorder

What I Want Everyone to Know About Developing an Eating Disorder

“I want to start eating clean, whole, healthy foods so I can develop and eating disorder!”

“I want to start a new exercise program so I can develop an exercise addiction!”

“I want to cut back on sugar & carbs so that I can feel deprived and get stuck in a cycle of being eating and purging!”

“I want to lose weight just so I can get to my lowest and then gorge myself uncontrollably with the development of binge eating disorder!”

Does any of that sound familiar?

Probably not. Because not a single damn person thinks those thoughts before developing an eating disorder.

Somehow we end up with 30 million men and women who battle eating disorders in the US, and about 70 million people who battle eating disorders world wide (and those numbers are just the ones who have been diagnosed). None of these people SOUGHT OUT the opportunity to develop an eating disorder, or ever expected their lives to be flipped completely upside down because of one.

Hell, I developed my first eating disorder because I was *trying to be healthy*. I had perfect intentions. I wanted to eat ‘super healthy’ and maybe lose a couple pounds to tone up a bit to be a better athlete… but somehow I fell down the slippery slope of diet culture & the thin-ideal. Somehow I ended up at the point in my life where I wouldn’t wear a seat belt while driving in a car, and my biggest concern of getting in a car accident was that the police/EMTs who would pick up my lifeless body off the ground would see that roll of fat on my stomach. Somehow, I transformed from a girl who dreamed of becoming a veterinarian to a girl who dreamed of having a six pack and no cellulite on her body. My role models changed from people who impacted the world to people who impacted magazines, movies, and Instagram. My time spent learning in school was spent learning about ‘super foods’ and ‘eat this not that’ on Pinterest. My time spent reading intriguing novels was spent calculating calories in MyFitnessPal, even though I ate the same 6 foods every meal every day. My nights out with friends turned into nights alone, working out for the third time of the day in my bedroom. Family dinners turned from fun conversations into me making my own ‘healthy meal’, staring in disgust & judging my family for eating anything other than vegetables and lean meats.

I did not ask for an eating disorder. I did not know on that first day of my attempt to ‘eat clean and live healthy” that I was taking my first step down a road of pure hell. I did not think that one day I would scream at my parents that I hated them and that I wanted to kill myself because they were taking me to get help. I didn’t know that I would one day cry myself to sleep because I ate a single Oreo. I did not know that in the future, AFTER getting initial help for anorexia, that my still shaky relationship with food and my body would have me ending up binge eating in secret for a year and a half filled of pure self hatred and innumerable attempts to purge. I didn’t plan to get to the point where I didn’t even know what my body looked like anymore.

I did not seek out developing an eating disorder.
Nobody seeks out to develop an eating disorder.

I asked for happiness and I took the wrong route. A route that over 45 million people chose to take each year. A route that Americans empty over 64 BILLION DOLLARS into. The route that promises that weight loss will give you the life you’ve always dreamed of, and that carefully planning your food will give you power and peace. The route that sells itself as just a “healthy lifestyle change! Not a diet!” The route that promises control.. but in the end, controls you.

As this NEDA week kicks off, I hope you will hug a recovering warrior extra tight and tell them that they are strong. I hope you will challenge your co-worker to rethink that diet. Challenge YOURSELF to rethink that diet. I want you to look at your body in the mirror, and appreciate it for being your home, and not for what it looks like. And if you feel that you or a loved one is struggling with food and/or body image at ALL, please, reach out for help*. No one asks for an eating disorder, but with the weight obsessed and ‘health’ crazed world we live in, it happens. But there is HOPE and there is HEALING.

* Free Resources for Help *
NEDA List of Resources: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/resource-links
NEDA Hotline: 1-800-931-2237
Click to Chat
Crisis Text Line: text “NEDA” to 741741

Feel free to send me a message as well.

**slightly extended addition of my already long captioned Instagram post 😅

Weight Restoration

Weight Restoration

This is the body of someone who is well beyond their “weight restored” weight following anorexia recovery.
This body carries much more than the weight once classified as ‘healthy enough’.
And it’s A-OK.

Once I reached my pre-anorexia weight (to the very pound) during my recovery, I made it very clear to my parents and recovery team that I didn’t want to have to gain any more since I was an athlete and wanted to have ‘just enough weight to be competitive‘. Reluctantly, they agreed that I didn’t have to keep pursuing weight gain, but a single pound lost would get me right back on a gaining plan again. And so I maintained that ‘just healthy enough’ weight for the next 3 years before I started binge eating.

Because I had reached the weight I was at just before the very worst of anorexia, I swore that THAT was my set point weight, and I was still terrified to gain any more than that. But… as the binge eating increased, my weight slowly crept up. And over a year and a half later, I carry more pounds and rolls than what I did at that initial “weight restored” weight.

As you may know, I tried to fight to get back to what I believed was my “set point” weight and that slimmer body (heck, that’s why I created this whole blog in the first place lol). But restricting and extra exercise did nothing but perpetuate my binges, so I had to give up the fight completely.

As the beautiful and inspiring Gina (@nourishandeat) once shared,

After my initial recovery, I misunderstood the concept of set point weights. Our set points are determined by our bodies, and can change throughout our lives. The weight that is determined by doctors to be “weight restored” may not be one’s set point weight. Weight restoration is just about getting your body to a place that is much safer than starvation, and by no means is this the weight you should strive to maintain for the rest of your life.
Yes, the body I now live in is far from what it was before the introduction of years worth of battles with eating disorders, but this body is happy. This body may not be able to run as fast as it used to, fit in all the same clothes as it used to, fit into society’s narrow beauty standards like it used to… but this body is enough. I eat in ways that makes me feel happy & satisfied, move in ways that bring me joy. I still have the capacity to learn and grow, love, laugh, cry, and feel the same ways I used to, and that’s what’s important. I am no longer constrained to maintain a specific weight, because this body is free.
Satisfaction

Satisfaction

I sat down with my plate of egg whites topped with a small drizzle of ketchup alongside one slice of toasted, non-buttered, Sara Lee “healthy”, paper thin, 45 calorie bread and a banana.
I looked at the plate, desperately wishing that instead I was eating waffles with peanut butter, chocolate chip pancakes, or even a bowl of ‘sent-directly-from-the-devil-himself’ sugary cereal. But those could never be eaten without ruining my entire day.
I checked MyFitnessPal for the third time since waking up, making sure that this was indeed the same meal that I had planned out the night before. Checking over the carbohydrate numbers to decide if eating the banana was ok. Some days I would allow myself to eat a quarter cup of oatmeal mixed with protein powder. One day I ate a concoction of plain Cheerios, protein powder, and water (because I refused to drink any thing that contained over 10 calories).
But the egg whites, toast, and *thankfully* banana fit. So I ate. Felt dissatisfied and desperate for more, but instead had to wait until the next bland, pre-planned meal.
Food was just fuel, there was no need for it to be enjoyed, no need for any big variations in what I ate day to day as long as MyFitnessPal told me I was on track. Right?
Each and every single one of our brains are programmed to love food. Biologically, it makes sense because we need food in order to function properly. When we eat, chemical signals are sent throughout the brain letting us know “YO. This food is giving us the energy we need! Food gives us fuel to function! Keep eating a couple times each day to keep energy levels sufficient so we can stay alive!” That also explains why calorie dense foods are extremely enjoyable because more calories = more fuel = happy body getting plenty of nutrients & energy. But more than just the biological level, taking a look back at our history we see that breaking bread has been a way of connection since the beginning of time. Sharing food with another person has been seen as a sign of love and care. As they say, the heart is attached to the stomach 😉. Food has been a way of expressing creativity, expressing love, and expressing joy. We, as humans, are meant to enjoy food.
Somewhere along the line, that message has gotten completely torn apart. We are told to ignore our cravings. We are told that giving certain delicious foods, such as cookies, cakes and candies, as signs of love & care promotes poor health, and that we should find ‘better’ (yet less satisfying) options to give instead. We are told that food should be strictly used as fuel, and that listening to our taste buds will surely lead us down a path of diabetes, heart failure, high cholesterol, gluttony, and DEATH. To most the world, genuine satisfaction and food should be kept apart if you want to be ‘healthy’. However, I’ve learned that satisfaction in food may just be one of the keys to health.

As I mentioned in the very beginning of this post, I ate the same, excruciatingly plain, and unsatisfying breakfasts each day. While my cravings would scream for something sweet in the morning, I shoved those cravings to the side, thinking my body was just trying to self-destruct. In reality, my body was begging for those high caloric foods because it was starving for energy, and starving to get away from the mental restriction. At that time, I felt so blessed to have MyFitnessPal, because without it, I would be lost. I had forgotten how to eat without relying on that little app. However, once I started developing binge eating disorder, the cravings were too much to handle, so I fell into a cycle of desperately trying to stick to the unsatisfying meals planned out on MyFitnessPal, ending up giving into a small craving, feeling extremely guilty for ‘ruining my day’ by going over the caloric and macronutrient ratios for the day, having an ‘all or nothing’ mindset and feeling the urge to just eat E V E R Y T H I N G, then trying to ‘fix’ it the next day by planning out an even more bland, lower calorie, and unsatisfying day of meals. I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it a million more times until the day I die, that binge-restrict cycle is oh, so viscous.

So when I embarked on my recovery journey and really allowed myself to eat intuitively for the third time, I realized I needed to allow myself to find satisfaction in my meals. I had to listen to my cravings, no matter how ‘scary’, and let myself eat until I was genuinely satisfied. Sometimes I felt satisfied with just a couple bites of something, sometimes I felt satisfied when I felt full, but in the very beginning, most of the time I felt satisfied a bit after I had hit my fullness level. I took away ALL restrictions and “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” around my food, and just let my taste buds and cravings lead the way.

What I found was life changing. Eating foods that made me feel true satisfaction quieted the urges to binge. Allowing myself to eat a Nutella sandwich for dinner when I was craving it, instead of the chicken and sweet potatoes I normally had, made those cravings completely settle down. I no longer felt the need to gorge myself with those ‘dangerous’ foods, instead, I could enjoy them thoroughly, and stop thinking about them until I was in the mood for them again. I started to find that ordering what I genuinely wanted in a restaurant instead of my usual go-to of a ‘chicken salad, hold the dressing, cheese, and chips/croutons’, allowed me to even feel fuller faster, many times I wouldn’t even desire finishing the plate because I was able to find satisfaction. But if the food was especially delicious, and I ate past the point of fullness, I would move on with life, and wait until I got hungry again to listen to my cravings. Finding satisfaction in my food was the key to clearing up my thoughts from thinking about food 24/7.

So now, instead of eating my breakfast of egg whites, non-buttered ‘toast’ (if you can even call it that because the bread would literally fly away in the wind because it was so thin) and a banana, I allow myself to start each day off with something delicious, like the pancakes, waffles, or cereal that I so desperately desired previously. When I start my day off with something truly satisfying, I find that the rest of my days meals follow. Overall, finding satisfaction has been one of the most important parts of healing my relationship to food and helping it thrive today.