In my last post, NEDA Walk Fundraiser: Call to Action #1, I called readers, friends, families, and you to listen to a few podcasts from Christy Harrison. She gave me a better understanding of eating disorders and the impact of diet culture as a whole. My hope and prayer is the podcasts either freed you from your own disordered thoughts around food and health. Or you are more aware of what you say and think about food and body. Are you open to sharing your thoughts in the comments?
My Story: Continued
My eating disorder did not end in 7th grade where my last post ended. The years between then and college were managed by my parents under the direction of 2-3 different specialists. Quite frankly, those were rough years…especially for my parents. Not only was I a teenager, but a sick teenager. They were battling the will of a teenager and that of anorexia. I can promise you the will of anorexia is 10 times stronger than a teenagers, so I was basically what they call “the worst.”
If you want to know more about those years, we can chat. For now, I will get to my freshman year of college when my health really turned for the worse.
Freshmen Year: First Semester
The beginning of college was so exciting. I was finally on my own with new freedom. Unlike most college students I was not looking for freedom to drink, stay out late, meet boys, you name it. I was excited for food freedom! Excited to not have anyone looking over my shoulder, picking my meals, and watching me eat every last bite. An eating disorder makes you forget how to feed yourself, so my parents took that over, which was stressful, but they did what they were told was best. I am grateful for that. Once I made it to college the reigns were off. Anorexia saw college as an opportunity to restrict and over exercise with unlimited access to the fitness center. Also, the dinning hall made it easy to cut calories. Everywhere you look there’s a low calorie version of something. And the meal plans are so limiting. All these things gave my anorexia the power to tell me I can’t eat, I shouldn’t eat, and if I do I better exercise.
At first this all seems “healthy.” Everyone says, “Good work for eating healthy and exercising, because you don’t want to gain the freshman 15!” (side note: most people gain this in college because their body is not done developing, so stop shaming students for weight gain). Posters all over the university promote healthy eating, exercising, etc. The university, just like the world, gags you with this stuff! To this day I am appalled at how the university handled my illness.
Freshmen Year: Second Semester
At this point it’s clear to everyone something is wrong. Most of my friends said/did nothing, which makes complete since. Having a friend with an eating disorder is a lot to handle. Plus, in college people are dealing with their own struggles and new founded freedom. (Side Note: I am beyond grateful for my college friends who have come to love and accept me through my recover as a better person).
The depression of winter set in along with boredom. School was easy for me. There were about 2 things for me to do in my college town: go to Walmart and go to the fitness center. That’s what I did. I am sure you can imagine the outcome. People started talking, my parents became detectives, and the school got involved. Ugh and the worst time of my life began. Two counselors at the university sat me down. I had to see them. Neither of them have experience with eating disorders, and some how they had the authority to treat me and weigh me in the health center, which was humiliating. What’s really messed up is this same group of people help hang up the weight loss signs, diet posters, and fitness goals. The ones I was following. That’s why these messages are so dangerous.
The end of freshman year was approaching, and yet again another threat of treatment came my way in every direction. I was able to complete the year, but I spent my summer in a 24/7 residential treatment center. The only good thing I can say is they kept me from dying, but once I reached a more stable weight I have nothing good to say. Residential treatment is helpful for some people, and I can see why it’s important in certain cases. However, I felt like another case. I was “just like the rest” and in my healthy mind today, I can assure you I was not. Residential Treatment needs a post of its own, so I might just make it! FINALLY I graduated from there, with no coping skills or better understanding of myself, just extra weight because that’s what everyone wants to see in recovery. It’s an easy measure, an indicator of health. But it’s not. Looking back at my recovery I can see I did not gain weight or eat more flexibly until I changed my thoughts and beliefs.
I missed out on my family vacation that year to stay on track. Things were going well and I “bought” into my meal plan. I followed it perfectly, because I am a perfectionist and do not break the rules. (At least back then 😉 ) Once summer ended I went back for my Sophomore year, excited to tackle a new year! In the second semester I began to slip again…and this slip was longer, scarier, but you’ll have to tune into “NEDA Walk: Call To Action #3” for the story.
Call To Action
I am walking to raise money for the National Eating Disorder Associate. Interesting Fact: It is a walk instead of a run so those suffering from disordered eating or overexercising can participate. Plus, seeing other people run can be triggering to those who are recovered or recovering. So a walk it is! If you want to donate monetary funds do so here!
For those who do not feel called to give money or want to do more, the Call To Action #2 is reading or listening to Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works by Evelyn Tribole and Elise Resch. This book is great for the average person who does not have an eating disorder, but is familiar with dieting. I read it with Kajal my Senior year of college, and we both learned a lot from it!