The Trigger

Thinness for me never came about through a preoccupation with stick-thin models, with me flipping for magazines and wanting to look like “those girls.” I knew they were photoshopped. I knew they were enhanced. It was the girls, the women in real life I saw who were not photoshopped but clearly thin. I wanted that. I think I wanted that my whole life, but I thought genes “ruled all.” I figured I was doomed to a broad frame and that food had little to do with it. After all, I ate healthy. I always saw food as fuel before, and I made relatively healthy choices. Our family had a great attitude toward food–but to actually connect it to weight, to insert the key of calories into that lock opened my eyes.
I never saw food the same way again.
When I saw myself in the mirror and thought I could stand to lose a few pounds, I figured I must have a problem with overeating. How could I be this big if I eat healthy? I thought. When I began to restrict I thought I merely had a problem with eating too much food and I wanted to “punish” myself, or my body, for wanting too much food all the time.

That’s also why I figured I never had an eating disorder–I figured I just had to restrict because I was “messed up.” I remember asking my mom to get my thyroid checked months into my restriction to see if I needed thyroid pills to fix what I thought was a slow metabolism. I thought I wasn’t losing weight, that I was doomed to be big and hungry forever. I also thought that the sluggishness and depression I felt was due to an under-active thyroid–ironically it was actually because I was drastically restricting my food intake.

Running As Distraction

Running seems to keep me sane, even though it was also a main motivator behind wanting to lose weight, too. Running kept me doing just that–running away from the problem. When I suddenly had to deal with the knee injury in the fall of 2011 I could no longer run off my hunger, could no longer pretend nothing was wrong with my eating habits. Without running I binged in sadness and despair. I had a deep yearning to fill up completely, too. After restricting for so long I couldn’t wait to finally eat until I was full. But I had become so confused with hunger and fullness that I often went passed the fullness point and ate the wrong foods–especially the foods I had restricted for so long. Without specifically realizing what I was dealing with, in a way I had come to realize that running was removed so that I could face the eating disorder in all its ugly glory.
It was the scariest, most difficult challenge of my life; mostly because it was a challenge I couldn’t name and a challenge I felt I could not speak about. I felt utterly alone in this world of calories and fear and embarrassment. I didn’t want to become one of “those girls” who complained about her weight all the time. I didn’t want to be obsessed with it, yet I knew I was. I knew I was ashamed of my weight and I hated to admit it. I hated to feel different from everyone at the dinner table. Even as I kept my restriction a secret I hated going out to eat because there was no way I could try to visibly restrict. It was embarrassing to have people know that I had to restrict myself.

Fear of Discovery

I remember a relative commented on a photo on Facebook, jokingly saying, “Wow, a Steil who doesn’t eat!” Even though I knew I had been restricting food, it was like a punch in the stomach. No. No, I don’t want people to think or know that I do this. I cried and called my mom on the phone, embarrassed and ashamed. Of course she didn’t know my secret but she was able to write a few comments on there to defend my position: “Rachael eats more than you will believe!” she said. I even encouraged a friend to join in on the comments. I was at peace again. But it only buried the secret deeper.

A Warning That May Never Sink In

As I read my past journal entries I realize how far I have come, and I am thankful for what I’ve learned. At my heaviest weight I can honestly say I feel more secure and mature than I felt at my lowest. Unfortunately it seems that you have to experience the whole journey before it really makes sense, because anytime I heard this from others I felt like rolling my eyes. How could you honestly feel better at a heavier weight?
I want so badly to prevent this from happening to others, to tell them it’s not worth it, that the restriction and rules and extreme discipline only makes things more confusing. Just as my coach always says to “just race” and not think about time, all I can advise is to “just live” and not think about calories. It’s harder than it sounds, of course.
It’s all about the journey, and it sure has been a long one for me. And it continues.

About Rachael

Rachael Steil is a graduate from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts. Steil an author, speaker, and a recipient of the Spirit and Outstanding Runner award for the Aquinas College cross country team and has received 6th place All-American accolades in cross country as well as 7th place in the NAIA track nationals.

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One Response to The Trigger

  1. Karen says:

    It’s funny how you think you can hide a secret so well until someone just blurts something out like that and you think “oh no, i’ve been discovered!” It’s even crazier when you realize that they were just taking a shot in the dark, that they didn’t really know anything, but they came awful close to knowing.
    I think moments like these ground people. It seems like it slapped you back to reality an made your more conscious about your situation. It’s crazy when things like that happen.
    Karen

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