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.
(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.