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.
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.
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.