Do I Really Have An Eating Disorder?

If you are wondering if you have an eating disorder, then you probably do. Bold statement, maybe. But the fact that you are questioning it means that you might want to take a closer look.

I had a feeling for a long time that something felt “off”. But I thought it wasn’t “that bad”, so I continued with what I was doing, only to see more and more that I was falling into a trap. What began as reasonable weight loss (just taking out a few processed foods here and there), led to counting calories, restricting calories, weighing myself twice a day, feeling the need to compete with my past weigh-ins to get lower and lower . . . and it goes on.

Restricting to Binge Eating

I remember going into my sophomore year of college (summer 2011) thinking about how I “had” to lose more weight (I was horrified to have gained 2-3 pounds since the summer before). At that point I had become so entrenched in the eating disorder that I felt that weight was the biggest factor in my success, and I was determined to use it all the way. I had gotten to the point where I thought only weight loss would keep me at the top–so much so that I was not as motivated to cross train or strength train when I was injured. I was too focused on food to even do the things that would help me to get back on track sooner and stay in shape.

But I wasn’t just skin and bones. I didn’t starve for days-on-end. I never even fainted or ended up in the hospital. In fact, I began gaining weight. Did that mean I didn’t have an eating disorder?

Taking A Look Back

As I look back at my earliest journal entries from almost three years ago (right before college) I can see everything clearer than ever. And these journal entries make me not only realize how far I have come, but also how consumed I was in the eating disorder. It was ruling my life:

June 22, 2010

“I’m obsessing over food, and I need a way out. I’m so frustrated and consumed by weight loss! I guess it’s finally the time to admit it…I don’t want to think about it all the time. It’s controlling my life! I want other things to make me excited and happy, not food! I’m not overweight, but I’m scared to gain weight—especially in college. I want to eat healthy and feel okay with the food in college.”

“I want to be myself and really open up in college. I want to be that energetic, happy person again. I’ve been feeling so sluggish and lazy for a while now. . . where’s my motivation? I’m glued to the computer, trying to find the secrets to weight loss. I’m on it constantly.”

“The obsession has got to die down a bit. I want to continue to be healthy, just not obsessed with it, thinking about it all the time. I figured writing this all out would help, right?”

“It’s weird, because I couldn’t really share my excitement with losing weight with anyone. For some reason I just feel like it’s a big secret of mine. I guess I just don’t want anyone freaking out because they already thought I was ‘skinny’ to begin with due to my running.”

It was clear that my obsession was taking over every thought of my day. I couldn’t focus on anything else, and there was a part of me that felt I couldn’t pull myself away no matter how badly the real Rachael wanted to get out.

“You Don’t Really Have This”

There is still a battle in my mind that says it isn’t real, that I’m just making it up, that I’m over-exaggerating. And then here I am counting calories or scared to eat anything outside my “safe” zone, or uncomfortable eating in front of others and constantly fear gaining weight or getting out of control. Most of these fears have lessened now, so there is improvement. But I guess that just goes to show how difficult everything was for a while.

Unfortunately too many of us can relate. It’s scary how many stories I’ve heard from others about how they struggle with their own eating disorders. Now, each time I sit down to eat with friends, family, or strangers, I realize I may not be the only one battling these thoughts.

Phase or Illness?

This past year I admitted to someone that I was writing about dealing with an eating disorder. Her response? “Well yeah, I think every girl sort of goes through that.”

I was surprised to feel frustrated with this comment. While I don’t think it was her intention to make me feel that way, she seemed to act as if it was merely a stage in puberty that everyone goes through. It made me feel like what I had was blown out of proportion, that because it was something so common in our society it didn’t matter, that I’d just “get over it.”

Yes, this is a common issue–so common now that we do seem to blow it off or just don’t want to deal with it or approach it. But by coming to grips with this eating disorder, I was better able to tackle it once and for all. I was able to give a name for my fear, embarrassment, shame, and confusion.

I was able to get help.

If you are dealing with any type of eating disorder, be it minor or seemingly “insignificant,” know that the sooner you get help or talk or let someone know, the easier it is to pull yourself out. Because even if it seems “minor” or “insignificant” now, it has the chance to get worse. The longer you wait, the longer it will take to recover.

Speaking Up

I can’t even begin to explain how scared, vulnerable, and exposed I felt starting this blog–especially because I have been exposing an eating disorder (binge eating) that hasn’t even classified as an eating disorder in the DSM until THIS year. Binge eating was the biggest wake-up call of my life. And it was perhaps that (as a part of the raw food diet and my injury) that opened my eyes and helped me to speak up for the first time.

To write on the Internet that I was dealing with an “eating disorder” made me feel like I was making it all up. Writing out “eating disorder” next to my name made me cringe, but once it was posted, I felt there was no turning back. I felt a deep need to tell the story behind my weight loss and sudden weight gain, and expose my inner thoughts through the entire process.

In a mental illness seemingly all about self-control, it is now clear that something bigger than me was taking control. That is how I began to see that I did indeed have an eating disorder.

Order your copy of Running in Silence: My Drive for Perfection and the Eating Disorder That Fed It here.

13 replies
  1. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    I’m really glad to see you using the words “eating disorder” rather than just “ED.” To make I literary comparison, it reminded me of the “you-know-who/he-who-must-not-be-named” vs. Voldemort battle. JK Rowling is brilliant here because she recognizes that calling your demons by their name is half the battle. Once someone gets comfortable speaking what was once unspeakable, they can move on to actually defeating that thing. Every time I saw you use “ED” in your running log and here, I was rooting for you, much like I rooted for Ron, Hermione, etc., to start calling the beast by its nasty name. For some reason the unspoken/unnamed is always much scarier than the spoken/named.

    • rachael
      rachael says:

      Agreed. I think writing out “eating disorder” was scary because I didn’t like my name attached to it, or for others to see my name attached to it…. As I describe here in the post, I always felt that I wasn’t really dealing with an eating disorder so it felt strange to write it out and just writing “ED” made it less real for me. You’re right, it’s better to just come to terms with what it really is.

  2. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    I also want to say that I don’t agree with that woman who said that it is something that every girl goes through. I would say that most PEOPLE (not just females) have the occasional moment where they regret their food choices or think too much about food or their body, but to equate that with what you unfortunately are dealing with would be a mistake, I believe. You are obviously not alone with your disorder, but the whole world doesn’t suffer either. Everyone has their own battles, some overlap and some don’t. From what I’ve learned about eating disorders, and mental illness in general, is that it is NOT “just a phase” but needs to be dealt with and treated seriously. I know you don’t necessarily need me saying this, but you did the right thing by not really listening to her and getting help, as well as helping so many other people who are similarly afflicted. I admire you, Rachael!

    • rachael
      rachael says:

      Yes, that comment about how it’s only a “girl” issue really ticked me off too, and I was about to go off on a writing tangent on that topic alone but figured my post was long enough as it was :P Maybe for another time.
      Thanks Rach :)

  3. Marsha
    Marsha says:

    I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your journal entries on this blog. I read them all and can relate to all you have been through-and because of you I am going to take a step forward-away from dieting, restricting myself and hopefully this will take me away from the binge eating. You’re the best!

    • rachael
      rachael says:

      Your comment couldn’t have come at a better time–thank you for reading, and thank you for these kind words. I am sorry you have had to endure the frustrations with food but know that it WILL get better and by taking this step you are on your way to a better, happier you. It will still be a journey, let me tell you that–but enjoy the accomplishments and successes along the way too despite the downfalls.
      Good luck and stay strong, you are not alone!

  4. Alison
    Alison says:

    Thank you for sharing your story! I can relate to a lot of what you’ve said. I suppose I’m one of those people who would hesitate to say she’s ever had an eating disorder, mostly because of how few clinical criteria I have met, but I also know that there has been some seriously warped thinking.

    And I know that it is not an “every girl” thing, nor is it just a girl thing. I’ve been reading lately how many more cases there are these days of women in their 30’s and beyond seeking professional help for eating disorders. I imagine struggling as a teen can mean that there is a greater chance of the “dark voices” whispering all through life. So, I know that I need to stay sharp and ready to confront them so I can stay ok a healthy path!

    Blessings to you–Alison

  5. Bulimia Effects
    Bulimia Effects says:

    I am happy you were able to have shift of lifestyle and managed to free yourself from your eating disorder. Recovery doesn’t only mean you are able to stay away from the obsession but more importantly is you were able to love and accept your body as it is.

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