If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.
(Trigger warning: eating disorder)
First, once again, I want to stress that my parents have no blame in this or any other of the things in this series of essays. And I want to send out gratitude to my friends who saw what was going on and made diligent efforts to get more calories into me.
I remember sitting in health classes and trying not to snort with laughter when the instructor would say that anorexics and bulimics didn’t realise what they were doing. Because I knew exactly what I was doing. I’d made a choice. I hated my body and I was mired in depression, and I had made an assessment that anorexia was more effective than bulimia (and knew that I preferred practising some discipline to vomiting).
I was going to carefully starve myself as much as possible (didn’t want to get caught not eating). I was going to get very thin. My period was going to stop. And then my organs were going to fail. When I actually started, I also found that I was going to feel clean and tight during the process. Yes, I knew exactly what I was doing.
If you’re reading this and thinking that sounds good, I want to tell you how very not-good a choice it was. Or if, like me, you’ve done this and find that you get a little hungry for it when you read about others doing it, I want to tell you not to give in to that.
Because what it really did was make sure that, once I started eating again, there was weight put on that was unlikely to ever go away (which also happens to those of you who think you’re just eating a calorie-restricted diet). And it crippled my metabolism so that, even years after I was eating regularly, it took a seriously calorie-dense diet (I ate so much, and foods that I was horrified to eat, and I wasn’t allowed to exercise) to get it back in order. Until I discovered the issue and fixed my metabolism, I had low body temperature (years of wearing socks to bed every night, among other things), more painful periods, fatigue, and apparently it stunted my growth. (No joke. This last year, I suddenly grew an inch—as measured by my doctor—and started to have breasts large enough to need a bra a few days a month. Fortunately, puberty was less stupid this time around. Ha!)
The saddest thing is that I was never overweight. Not even a little. And I knew that once I started to work on getting healthy. But it wasn’t until recently that I realised I’m skinny. Like many people, I don’t see myself clearly; I don’t see my reflection in the mirror clearly. When I look in the mirror, I see an average-sized body. I just got lucky and saw one photo of myself that jarred me and made me realise the truth. Realise the truth, but not be able to see it…At least, these days, I see “average” instead of “cow.” (And, since people often ask, I didn’t see others through the same lens. Whilst I was hating on me, I might find someone else’s actual curves lovely. Yeah, this is a mental health issue.)
It’s years later (I got sorted in my late teens), and my body is just now “normal.” But that demon sits in the back of my head and takes any chance to try to convince me do it again. Thank goodness I’ve learnt that food is awesome. That I took the time to get the physical and mental issues of this sorted. Because all the things I meant to fix by starving myself were better handled by eating well and working on the real issues in my life.
You don’t have to tiptoe around me or worry. I eat quite a lot. I calmly handle it when good friends point out that something I’m wearing doesn’t flatter my bum. (I’m grateful for those honest friends!) I keep meals on my daily schedule and keep a food journal so that I can’t accidentally slip. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve just baked some bread and I expect I’m going to eat quite a chunk of that loaf, slathered with butter and jam. Yum!
(If you’re struggling, please get help. At the very least, use an online calculator to find out the shockingly large number of calories you should be eating. Stop over-exercising. It is insane how much joy I can find in guiltlessly savouring a chocolate bar. It is insane how much more fulfilling life is when I put less time towards exercise and more towards all the other stuff. I want you to have the same.)
Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).