While I am not cured from these negative thoughts and still have the scars from my past, I do think sharing these stories is important.
But You're Too Big to Have an Eating Disorder
A common misconception. A mistake. A "reassurance: I've heard too many times. Fake news. What a lot of people do not know about eating disorders is that not everyone that has one is bone thin. Some of us are big or curvy, some of us have athletic builds, some of us look "just right."
Some of us are recovering from an eating disorder, and although we may have a healthier relationship to food and our bodies, still let thoughts of discontent and self-hate creep in from time to time. What a lot of people do not know about eating disorders is that they never really go away.
**Just as important, not all thin women have an eating disorder. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes naturally so try not to assume things either way.
I remember my favorite movie in high school was 500 days of Summer. When describing Summer, the narrator said "Summer Finn was a woman. Height, average. Weight, average. Shoe size, slightly above average. For all intents and purposes, Summer Finn was just another girl." Meanwhile, on the screen flashed, 5'5 121 pounds.
5'5 and 121 pounds. Average height. Average weight. Average girl.
I graduated high school at 5'6, 118 pounds. So according to 500 days of Summer, I was basically the average girl. A girl who ate 500 calories a day, weighed herself every morning, had anxiety about hanging out with friends because I didn't want to end up eating more than I planned for, and at the end of the day, still felt too big. Average girl?
A couple years later I left for college and was still struggling with my body image and self-esteem. I had stopped getting my period and had fainted multiple times at soccer practice, so my coach had me see the athletic doctor. I was nervous he would know right away something was up, I actually wanted to tell him, but the first thing the doctor said to me was that I was in a 'healthy weight range' so I shouldn't be worried. I remember wanting to scream at him. To tell him that I was starving myself and that I tried but couldn't get any smaller.
I wish I could say there was an exact moment that sparked my eating disorder. It wasn't right after my soccer coach said I looked 'slow' after gaining some weight or when my mom gave me a funny look for going for seconds. It wasn't when a girl in my class, same height as me casually said "I just don't want to ever be in the 140's, that's way too big" right after we had weighed ourselves in our yoga class. It wasn't after finding blogs on Tumblr solely committed to thigh gaps and weight loss. It was a combination of things. It was continuously feeling not good enough or in control enough, feeling like I took up too much space, and in sum feeling like if I lost weight, all of these things would be fixed.
I'm not exactly sure when or why it happened, but towards the end of my freshman year of college I was beginning to focus on recovering. I was tired of not performing well in soccer because I was so exhausted and hungry, and I was tired of letting this disease take over my life. When I went home that summer I stopped weighing myself, deleted my calorie counter, and began on a road to recovery from a disease that nobody knew I had.
Even today, years after "recovering," there are many days when I feel like I could stand to lose 10 or so pounds. Even when I was training for a marathon and was more fit than I was as a college athlete, I would occasionally look in the mirror and think to myself, "If I just lost 10 pounds I'd be perfect." Of course, if I ever said these things aloud my friends would drag me, rightly so. I recognize as a size 4 smallish girl that these thoughts are annoying for some people to hear, but eating disorders do not discriminate. They whisper the same thing into all of our ears no matter how big or small we are, and it can take years, maybe a lifetime to silence them.
Some of my greatest mental breakthroughs with this disease have been through to talking to others that have dealt with similar body insecurities. I used to be so scared to talk about anorexia. That word is still hard for me to say out loud, but every time I talk about it I recover a little more.
And while I am not cured from these negative thoughts and still have the scars from my past, I do think sharing these stories is important. Some of my greatest mental breakthroughs with this disease have been through to talking to others that have dealt with similar body insecurities. I used to be so scared to talk about anorexia. That word is still hard for me to say out loud, but every time I talk about it I recover a little more. I love myself a little more and I create a bigger distance from where I once was.
At the end of the day, I know my body is beautiful. I know food is fuel, and not the enemy. And I know to silence these thoughts when they come. I do not understand why women are put under intense scrutiny and pressure to look a certain way, when bodies thrive in all different types of shapes and sizes, but I do know that the media is only vaguely different now than it was when I was growing up- so, if there is going to be a change it has to come from us. From each of you reading this. It has to come from checking yourself before you make an assumption that may be harmful, or say something that isn't body positive to yourself or others. In an age of social media highlights, face-tune and photoshop, we need to hold each other accountable. Because there are few things worse than starving yourself and people telling you not to worry, "you're too big to have an eating disorder."