Hey y’all! I’m sure many of you know that February 26- March 4 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. (That’s now last week by the time I finished editing this…but better late than never, right?)
Every year NEDA has a theme for this week, and this year’s theme is “Let’s Get Real.”
So… let’s do that. Let’s get real about eating disorders and break the stereo types that eating disorders look one way. Eating disorders come in all shapes, sizes, genders, and forms. Eating disorders are silent killers, and too many people are not getting the help they deserve. I believe no body is “not sick enough” and every single person deserves to live life to the fullest, and a life with an ED is not that.
I want to share my story in hopes that those struggling can gain hope, and see that it will get better. I also want people that are not struggling with an ED to be able to spot the signs in their friends or family and will be inspired to step in.
Eating disorders are mental and physical illnesses that affect millions of people. Here are some scary stats:
- Eating Disorders affect up to 30 million Americans and 70 million
- 1 in 5 women struggles with an eating disorder or disordered eating.
- Middle-aged women are the fastest growing segment of the population being diagnosed with eating disorders
- Bullying about body size and appearance is the most common form of bullying in schools.
- The most common behavior that precedes and predicts an eating disorder is dieting.
- 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner.
- Men constitute 40% of those exhibiting Binge Eating Disorder.
- Girls who diet frequently are 12 times as likely to binge as girls who don’t diet.
- 25% of American men and 45% of American women are on a diet on any given day.
- Americans spend over $40 billion on dieting and diet-related products each year.
- Four out of ten individuals have either personally experienced an eating disorder or know someone who has.
- 81% of ten year-olds are afraid of being fat.
- 52% of Minnesota high school females fast or skip meals to control weight.
- 20% of Minnesota high school males fast or skip meals to control weight.
*from http://emilyprogramfoundation.org/our-work/eating-disorders/stats-about-eating-disorders/ 2017 Annual Report
This topic is near and dear to my heart because I struggled with eating disorders throughout middle school and high school and still to this day I have bad body image thoughts. My eating disorder started as an innocent wish to “get a little healthier” and spiraled into extreme calorie restriction and under-eating. As so it does for many. I got to my lowest weight (which I won’t mention) and was extremely weak. I was scared to gain a pound and was excited every time my jean size dropped.
My family and doctors were concerned, but I was never officially diagnosed – even though it’s obvious I had anorexia. I didn’t think I had a problem, and I didn’t see what they saw. I was confused why I was moody, anxious, weak and always cold. At one of my check ups during one summer (can’t remember the exact year) my doctor told me I needed to gain 10 lbs. before he saw me again or else he would really be concerned and most likely refer me to an eating disorder specialist. I did not want that label. I don’t know why, but I wanted to prove I was not sick. But I was.
I had terrible digestion.
I had no period.
I was moody.
I was cold.
I was weak.
One day I woke up and it just hit me. I had a problem. And I was f*cking tired of my own BS. I truly believe God gave me a wake up call.
I dedicated myself to gaining weight and getting strong. I decided to start tracking my calories in a positive way to make sure I was getting enough. I began lifting weights and loved getting stronger. The one catch was… I wanted to gain weight “the healthy way” so I became obsessed with “clean eating” and my restrictive eating developed into orthorexia – an obsession with healthy eating.
Long story short, I got more and more and more into fitness… which on one end of the spectrum was HEALTHY because it helped me get strong, and learn to view food as fuel. On the other end of the spectrum it was NOT HEALTHY because I discovered “iiym” or “macros” and became less obsessed with the quality of my food and became a slave to hitting my macros every day. I wanted to hit my proteins, carbs and fats TO THE GRAM.
(note: Macro counting is very useful at times, and does not mean you have an eating disorder. But it can become disordered when it becomes stressful or obsessive.)
Even though I was at a healthy weight at this point, I could not give up control of my food. Counting macros became a new form of my eating disorder that I preached as “balance” because I could account for a piece of pizza or a cookie into my macros. (cue eye-roll)
Listen, if you can’t eat a cookie without counting it, that is disordered. (I’m not talking to fitness competitors, I’m talking to the general public or those with eating issues.)
When I went off to college, I tried to loosely track macros here and there and I honestly can say I got to a *pretty* good point. I was not nervous around food (most of the time) and even decided to do a “bulk” (eating in a calorie surplus for muscle gain). Looking back, even though I was “bulking” I was still measuring all my food meticulously and never missed a work out.
Then, I decided to compete in body building which requires precise macro-counting and a rigorous fitness regimen. I don’t think it was disordered in itself, but anyone who has an ED past could be easily triggered, and I was. The prep was not hard for me, because my mind loves control. It was easy to see myself getting lean and having abs. It was after my show that was tough, I’m not going to lie. I reverse dieted for a while until I decided I needed to try intuitive eating. I don’t think I had ever fully committed to intuitive eating, even though I would go through periods of it – it was still off an on. I would always “go back to macros” to “get back on track.” I still have fitness goals, sure.. but I didn’t want them coming before my health goals.
As much as I want to compete again, I knew I had to make sure my body and mind were in a good place.
I started dealing with gut issues again, and my hormones have been out of whack since my restrictive eating disorder and I’ve never fully committed to putting my health first. Gut issues and hormone imbalances are very commonly caused by eating disorders and can last long after being recovered. I started working with Victoria Meyers, RD from Nourishing Minds Nutrition to heal my gut, work on my relationship with food and fix my hormones. She has been amazing and made me realize I still had a lot of pent up disordered tendencies and issues with control. She has taught me so much, I am eternally grateful.
My journey has brought me to where I am today. It has made me stronger, wiser, and more compassionate to anyone dealing with any mental illness. We all have our own struggles, but if you’re reading this I hope you’re not alone. You can get better. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
I still have my hard days, but I keep going because I never want to go back to where I once was. I keep going because I have so many other amazing things I want to accomplish (like helping others over come their struggles) that I needed to stay fueled, strong and happy!
Please join me by sharing your story and hashtag #NEDAwareness to spread the message.
I love you all!