In case you missed the previous posts:
My journey to recovery was a long one. Food had become my enemy, and I had severe anxiety at the thought of going over – what I considered to be – my daily calorie or fat limit. That constant need for control had gotten so bad that I’d eat 150 less calories after Sunday morning communion, because I wasn’t sure how many calories were in the grape juice and cracker… and I desperately didn’t want to accidentally ‘eat too much’.
I had gone from wanting to be healthy to fearing weight gain. I was afraid of food if I wasn’t sure of the calories. And if I had to eat ‘forbidden’ foods, I exercised my body to the point of abuse, hoping that I would burn off what I had eaten. (One time, I ran 2 extra miles to compensate for a handful of trail mix that I had eaten).
I hated that I was the source of so much pain and worry for my mom and dad. I hated that I was so short with my brother and sister, when – up to this point – we’d always had such a good relationship. I hated myself for not knowing how to make it all stop. I wondered if I’d ever get my period back and if I’d be able to have kids one day. I wondered if I could ever escape the prison that food had locked me into.
Honestly, writing about my recovery is the toughest thing to put into words, because there was no one thing that saved me. It was a process… But maybe the most important thing is to realize that absolute healing is possible. I’m definitely living proof of that!
The beginning of recovery started with me forcing myself to eat fat again, despite how hard that first step was. (I contribute my ability to take that first step to the constant prayers of my parents. Had I not been able to ignore the voices in my head and force myself to eat, my road to recovery would have been much longer and more difficult). After talking to the nutritionist and reading through a good book about nutrition, I started to eat fat again. I had seen the numbers, realized how sick I was, and knew that my actions were not only hurting myself but also my family.
Honestly, there was guilt with every bite. There was devastation over gaining weight. But I wanted to stop the pain and fear more than anything else.
I rather dislike how simple that makes eating fat again sound, because it wasn’t as simple as shoving food into my mouth. In reality, the transition to eating ‘forbidden’ foods took months. It took good days… and days that I fell back into starving myself. There were victories and tears. I cried the first time I realized that I needed to go up a pant size. I still sometimes fought with my parents over whether or not I was eating enough.
Relinquishing the control I had held so tight was mentally painful.
But step by step I physically healed. My body eagerly absorbed the extra fat and calories that it had been restricted from for so long. I stopped working out so that I could gain weight more efficiently (another extremely difficult thing for me to do). And the doctor put me on a pill to help my period come back, and – after months of slowly gaining weight – I was able to stop taking the medicine.
But I hadn’t yet healed emotionally, to be honest. My food consumption was all over the place. I continued with the pattern of extremes, and oftentimes I’d binge and over-eat until I felt like I might vomit. Then I’d starve myself for a day. I had absolutely no control over food, and that terrified me. On the outside, I was looking much healthier. But on the inside, there was still so much fear.
The majority of my emotional healing happened around my Junior year of college. At this point, I felt fat and uncomfortable in my own body. I didn’t want to be photographed, or to go clothes shopping, and I wore the baggiest clothing I could find. But it was also around this time that I was roommates with Ashley (who is like a sister to me today). She had an awesome mindset about eating and working out, and honestly she did both with such balance and ease. It was a tremendously positive influence on me.
I also started to hang out with a great group of young adults (many of whom are still my friends today, including Liz). We’d play sports on the weekends, burning a ton of calories, before heading to a restaurant for burgers and fries. I was counting calories at the time, so I knew how to include food like that without ‘overeating’. But within time, I started to stop counting calories one day a week… then two… then three. Although I still couldn’t eat something without doing math (because – at this point – food was nothing but calories to me), I was starting to obsess over it way less. Until finally, I wasn’t even counting calories at all. I was just eating when I felt hungry, and I exercised a few times a week to feel fit and healthy… not to punish my body.
Again, this was gradual and happened one baby step at a time. But one baby step at a time, I was healing.
I started to see my body change; but I saw it through a new, positive light. I was heavier, but I was also stronger. There was fat and muscle on my body, but I was finding myself okay with that. My skin was glowing, and so was I. For the first time in a very long time, I felt confident.
One time, at the end of a rigorous – but friendly – game of football, I was the one to exclaim, “I totally want a burger right now!”
One of the guys laughed and said, “That’s awesome! I love a girl who isn’t afraid to eat!”
I blushed…sent him a smile… and then I married him. 😉 (Yes, Nate was honestly a huge part of my recovery journey. We worked out together a lot when we were dating, but we’d also enjoy splurges like macaroni and cheese or icecream. It helped me find balance. He’s loved me at my skinniest, but he’s also been very vocal about loving my curves. And he encouraged me to see life as an adventure and my dreams as possibilities, so much so that it really helped me to take the focus off of food or my body. I instead focused on being me and on living life confidently).
It took well over a year – if not two years – but I slowly stopped seeing food as the bad guy. It became a part of my life but was no longer controlling my life.
(…my favorite – and last – post is coming tomorrow) 🙂