Eating disorders. A problem that far too many women struggle with. I struggled with disordered eating patterns for years, though I know that it could have been much worse.
When I was 13 years old, I had a best friend who was going through her own battle. She weighed in at 20 pounds less than I did, and declared daily how fat she was. She once paused a movie to proudly announce, “I am going to go throw up.” At such a young age, I had no idea to how to process that information. I knew her. I looked up to her. She was breathtaking to me. If she was too fat, certainly I was too fat.
At the age of 16, I remember using my debit card to purchase “hardcore” diet pills. The kind that claimed to take the place of liposuction. My mind swarmed with ideas on how I could intercept the mail before my mother could realize what I had purchased. I knew that she would disapprove, but she didn’t understand. She didn’t understand that I was obese. I was unlovable. I needed to lose weight, and I needed to lose it now.
For years I continued on this path, always changing my course of action. I would eat 1,000 calories, and burn 500 at the gym. I was force myself to drink magnesium nitrate from the local Walgreens, hoping my digestion could fix any flaw. I would chew Oreos, savoring every taste, and then spit them out in a grocery bag. I would pray that no one close to me would notice the things that I was doing. I didn’t want to stop, at least not until I was skinny.
When I was 19, I got my heart broken by a guy. It was the beginning of summer, and I knew I wouldn’t have to see him until fall. I made it my determination that summer to lose 30lbs. The next time he saw me, he would think I was beautiful. I stayed well below a healthy range of calories. I forced myself to go to the gym 6 days a week, and I resented that it was recommended to take a day off. Low and behold, when I saw him in the fall he said, “Oh wow, Jubilee. You look great. It looks like you lost half of you.” I can’t begin to tell you how much gratification I felt in that moment. I did it. I was skinny.
The weight of it all became too much. I can’t say the exact moment that things turned around for me. I think I realized that I had a problem when friends and family began to ask me if I was eating enough, and my dad asked me if I had become obsessed with food. As much as I actually liked people noticing how thin I had gotten, it was also a wake up call that it was time to stop. I began to tell those judgmental thoughts to shut up, and I would begin to mentally affirm women and myself whenever I would think something negative.
I will be honest: Those thoughts still come up. I still freak out about my weight after coming home from vacation. I have a horrible habit of weighing myself most mornings. Even when I don’t track my calories, my mind is subconsciously counting them. I still have to actively tell myself that I’m lovable, no matter what I look like. The difference now is that I don’t act on these thoughts. I don’t starve myself. I don’t eat the recommended calories for a 5 year old. I don’t drink magnesium nitrate. I finish my food. I eat whatever I need to to truly nourish my body. Am I healed of the actions associate with the eating disorder? Yes. Am I healed of the thoughts associated with it? No. But here is what I do believe:
Your thoughts are not who you are. It has taken years of reprogramming, but those thoughts come up less and less. In the end, they have become just that: thoughts. My thoughts are not my actions. Too many women feel the need to be the “perfect” size and hurt themselves in their goal to get to their ideal weight. My biggest piece of advice is this, tell those thoughts to “shut up.” They do not define who you are. Tell someone, anyone if you are struggling. Ask for help and give yourself grace in the process. It may take awhile to unlearn all of the unhealthy habits you have formed through the years, but you are not alone. On the other side of this struggle is something we can all attain, freedom.