The Secret That Could Have Killed Me

Preface: This post is about a very personal issue that I have remained quiet about for quite some time. Some of the things revealed in this article are things I have never told anyone, and never intended to. I chose to write this as part of the healing process. I knew if I was ever going to be healthy once again, I needed to understand the place I was in back then. As everything else on my blog, this is based on personal experience and is unique to my life. I am in no way an expert on the subject; I only know what I have lived through. I hope you enjoy it! 

          It’s a Tuesday night. I am staring into a toilet bowl with tears streaming down my face. I am throwing up what I ate for dinner: one banana, one rice cake, and one liter of water. When I am done, I will brush my teeth and lace up my running shoes. I will run five and half miles. The same distance I run every week day. And then I will come back home and cry myself to sleep… This was my personal hell for nine months. In that nine months, I embarked on one of the most difficult journeys of my life– a road paved with purging, calorie counting apps, and good intentions. I never wanted to hurt myself. I just wanted to be skinny… to feel pretty no matter the cost.

          I have always been the bigger girl. Growing up, I towered over my friends. I shopped in the adult section of stores while my friends were still buying clothes from Limited Too. I hit five foot eight in the 6th grade. I struggled with my weight throughout adolescence. My size made me a force to be reckoned with on the basketball court or the softball field, but it provided within me an internal battle. As a kid, I was an athletic powerhouse, but I just wanted to be small. I wanted to be petite and skinny– adjectives that had never described me.
          My junior year of high school, I let my weight spiral out of control. I ate out often and exercised little. By the start of my senior year, I realized that I weighed the same as my 6’3″ male best friend. So in August of 2013, I decided I was going to lose the weight. My parents had just split up, my two best friends had just moved away to college, and I felt like it was the perfect time to put all my energy into something I had control over– making myself beautiful. I truly believed that weight loss would solve all of my problems. And so it began.
           I started out where most do. I cut out soft drinks, downloaded a popular app to track calorie intake, and started running. I ate about 1,600 calories and ran a half a mile a day. Healthy enough. Weight flew off. I lost 15 pounds the first month and 20 the second. People were starting to notice, and I was hooked on the high provided by people’s admiration.
          I dedicated every moment of my time to losing weight. I was either working out, running, planning meals, or reading fitness blogs every second of the day. As the weeks went by, I ran more and more and ate less and less. On multiple occasions, people came to me, friends and teachers, expressing concern. I adamantly denied having a problem. I assured everyone that I had this under control.
           By Christmas, I had lost 55 pounds. I was in clothes I never even dreamed of before. I thrived off people’s compliments. I felt great, I looked great, and I was still healthy. I should have stopped there. But I’ve always been an all-or-nothing kind of gal, and I knew I could do “better.”
          Ten pounds later, I was slipping down a dangerous slope. My life consisted of nothing but running and eating my small “meals” that I meticulously planned and calculated to fit within my calorie budget. I became a shell of the girl I used to be. I quit hanging out with my friends. I quit playing softball. I eradicated anything from my life that wasn’t a part of my “fitness” journey. I had notes on my phone saved with all of my ridiculous rules: “on weekends, eat nothing but fruit,” or “on Mondays, eat only one chicken breast.” I understood it was hurting me, but not enough to make me want to stop.
          At my lowest point, I was eating 500 calories a day while running 7 miles a day. I weighed myself twice daily and recorded each weigh in. If I saw a change in the scale I deemed unacceptable, I would run until I literally collapsed on whatever road or trail I had chosen that day. I would make myself throw up the minute I consumed anything, and then run for a hour to punish myself for throwing up. It was a vicious cycle. Eat. Throw up. Run. Cry. Repeat.
FullSizeRender (Me, at my lowest recorded weight, with two of my (very supportive, absolutely wonderful) best friends)
          I had read all the articles. I’d heard all of the warnings. I knew it was dangerous. I was a smart girl. I knew what I was doing. But I couldn’t stop. I was in far too deep.
          By March, 75 pounds were gone. My food for the day would usually consist of an apple, a packet of microwave oatmeal, and a rice cake. I drank a gallon of water and tried to convince myself that I was finally where I wanted to be. I was finally beautiful. But I didn’t feel beautiful. I felt empty. And hungry. And sad. I had finally accomplished what I had always dreamed about. I was in control of the one thing that I had spent my entire life chasing after. I didn’t understand where I went wrong. I had started this as a journey to loving myself… and when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t love the girl staring back at me at all. In fact, I didn’t even know her.
          One day in science class, we were watching a video. The screen started to get fuzzy and the room started to spin. Before I knew it, I woke up on the ground. I passed out right there in second block. When the school nurse asked me what I had eaten that day, I lied. She gave me a box of apple juice and a package of crackers. I pretended to sip the juice and threw the crackers away– they didn’t fit into my 500 allotted calories. She asked me a series of questions and though I knew the correct answers, lies spewed out of my mouth. I couldn’t let her know the truth. I was scared she might tell me I had a problem. I was terrified that she might tell me I needed to stop.
          That same day, my mom made me visit my pediatrician. He asked me what I had eaten in the last twenty four hours and through tears I whispered the answer: nothing. He asked if I had run that day, and I knew before the words “six miles” left my lips what his response would be. He looked into my eyes and said “Emily, why are you doing this? I love you, and I have been taking care of you for a long time. I am scared for you. You can’t keep doing this. Eventually this will kill you.
          “Eventually this will kill you.”
          I just wanted to be thin… I didn’t want to die.
          Sitting in that room, I looked down at my hands. They were frozen– always cold, always shaking. And at that moment, I knew. I knew that my body, a body that had survived so much in its 18 years, deserved better. I knew that being “skinny” was not worth losing my happiness. I knew that being thin was too big a price to pay for my life.
          I have never admitted this before. I have never used these words to explain my experience. But here they are, for the first time ever: eating disorder. Because of those five syllables, I will forever be a statistic. I will forever be one of the nine million.
          I wish I could tell you after my doctor’s office visit, the stars aligned and I found perfect balance with my personal fitness and the rest of my life. However, this is simply not the case. During the past year, I finished high school and started college at Louisiana State University. I have gained over half of the weight I lost back. While some of it was necessary, a good bit of it was not. I eat lots of pizza and fast food and never exercise like I should. And I struggle with body image every single day. I am no where close to perfect, but this time around, I have a much better understanding of myself. I now know that a number on a scale or a tag will never define me. I understand that there are more important things than being thin. I understand that I never need to change who I am, but I should only ever strive to become a better version of me. The next time I go down that road, I’ll be doing it the right way.
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26 thoughts on “The Secret That Could Have Killed Me

  1. Oh Emily this broke my heart. This is Mikaylas sister. I have always thought you were a beautiful girl, ALWAYS! Thank you for sharing and will pray for your 2nd journey to be much safer. Love yourself for you and not for your size.

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  2. I knew you were lying, but I still love you. 😊Just prayed that you would wake up and realize that only you can save you! No ones opinion or approval really matters. Glad you can see this now! Be happy!
    Mrs. Thomas
    Your School Nurse

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  3. Oh sweet girl, I vividly remember that day. I was dropping something off in your room and sweet Dev said “umm Ms McKay” and you were sliding down to the floor. Scared us to bits. Know that you are beautiful, you are loved and any of us are here if you need someone to vent to!

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  4. you are such a courageous woman Emily! You have always been beautiful inside and out. I should take direction from you. I am always looking for those magic numbers that say I am acceptable in others eyes.

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  5. Thank you so very much for taking the time out to write this and inform so many people of the dangers of eating disorders. You seem to have a beautiful soul and I’m sure you will make a difference in this world. Keep smiling that gorgeous smile and don’t forget to ask for support when you need it. May God bless you on your journey!

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  6. Bailey’s mom here & I like others have always thought your where beautiful !!! Also just a little secret I used to wish my girls where as talented as you playing sports !!!! Praying you Love yourself for you! Ms Linda

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  7. I know your story all too well. I lived it. It takes a lot of strength and courage to be able to post something like that for everyone to see. I’m proud of you. Thanks for sharing

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  8. I have a cousin who walks this path. I have an athletic daughter like you with strange eating habits. This has crossed my mind. Your writing is as extraordinary as your battle. You have always impressed me with the way you carry yourself, and I know you will continue to do just that. My thoughts are with you sweet girl. Thank you for sharing.

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  9. we don’t know eachother but I must’ve seen this for a reason right? I’m currently in this same exact mental state and struggling. doctors and parents just brought it to surface a few weeks ago.. glad you are better!!

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  10. Emily, I have always thought you were a beautiful, smart, talented young woman! You are truly showing everyone how strong you are as well. It takes strength to talk about the things you do. Miss seeing that sweet smile around here- and my little Emily misses you too!

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  11. I don’t know you, but I graduated from HHS in 2006. I had the same journey my junior and senior year. I was always the heavy kid and was picked on. I was a highstepper throughout high school, and all I wanted was to be thin, beautiful, and fit in with the popular kids. Purging and exercise took over my life. It took my step-mom explaining to me that my dream of being a mom one day could be taken away from me if I kept slipping down that slippery slope, to make me stop. Well, that and the possibility of a heart attack! 🙂
    I could never speak up, but I’m so happy you have! I’ve learned that having an eating disorder is a life long battle. You just have to find a happy medium with yourself. Good luck on your healthier journey 🙂

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