Ahhh, February: For being the shortest month, it's crammed full of occassions: Valentine's Day, President's Day, Black History Month... and of course, National Eating Disorder Awareness Week-- which just so happens to be this week.
Coincidentally, an eating disorder is how I began my SparkPeople journey, hence I can think of no better time to write this blog... "THE BLOG". Yep, it's time to share the story of how I ended up at SparkPeople. It's a long one, so let's get started.
My troubles with eating started in the typical manner: high school was rough, girls were mean, and I was in a really unhealthy relationship. I lost all of my self confidence and tied my self-worth completely to my looks. I started experimenting with restricting calories and skipping meals. I found this method worked well with weight loss, but when my weight dipped "too low" my senior year, my parents got involved and put an end to my first round of disordered eating.
After I graduated high school, I was lucky enough to travel to Spain, Portugal, and a few other parts of Europe. I had an amazing time, but in that short amount of time, I packed on the pounds and reached my highest weight yet- slightly over 120 pounds (I am 5'4''). I hated the way I looked; I had always been the "skinny" girl, never over 105-110 pounds, and on my small frame, that extra 10-15 lbs made a HUGE difference in my mind.
Once back from Europe, people around my small town of 5,000 started commenting on my weight gain. It's not that their comments were mean- some mostly saying, "You're starting to look more curvy/womanly/etc", but all I heard was "huge and ugly". I was relieved to start school at a university in the fall, where hopefully I wouldn't get comments on my weight anymore; however, financial troubles played out and my dream of moving away was shattered. Instead, I was forced to attend a community college a mere hour away from home. I got my own apartment, and this is when the real trouble began. I was lonely. I had no friends at this school. I completely focused on my weight- I assumed I was making no friends because I was the "fat girl". "Luckily", I had an old friend to turn to for consolidation: we'll call him "ED", aka my eating disorder. It came back quickly and on a more intense level than before. I started eating one meal a day and running obsessively. I cut my one meal to one snack, and eventually I wasn't eating at all, only drinking coffee and exercising (even skipping class to exercise). I dropped 40 pounds in a mere month and a half. My family panicked. They canceled my lease and immediately moved me home.
We thought that by living at home my problems would stop, since my father could more accurately monitor me; instead, I became sneakier. I started lying to hide my disorder. I was terrified of calories, and tracked every bit of what I ate on pencil and paper... until my father found my notepad and freaked out: WELCOME TO SPARKPEOPLE. I started counting online; using SparkPeople as my "eating disorder help tool". I was crazy and consumed, and within a few more months I was officially diagnosed with anorexia and exercise bulimia. Once diagnosed, I realized I had a problem and wanted to get better, but by then, the "ED" had too strong of a hold on me and I was no longer in control; I needed professional help. I checked into a residential eating disorder clinic in Chicago. Unfortunately, my insurance would not cover treatment for an eating disorder (a "disease" that I "brought on myself"), and my family could not afford treatment for more than a month-- over $1,000 a day. Fortunately, I found a scholarship fund that sponsored girls with eating disorders. In my desperation to recover, I applied for the scholarship, and to my amazement, I was chosen out of sixty applications for the year to receive treatment. I was shipped from my residential center straight to Birmingham, Alabama. This is where my life was saved.
I'll save all the details, but over the course of five months, I began to love myself again. I went through the recovery steps, put the weight back on, and graduated from the center on July 3rd, 2009. I did well for the first six months out of treatment; I was committed, and my weight remained relatively stable; however, once I started school again and fell into a comfortable routine, I found myself cutting corners, eating less, exercising more. Slowly, I fell back into my disorder. The pounds fell off just as easily as they did before. However, this time it was different... I didn't want to be sick. I didn't want to go back to being the "miserable anorexic". I did various things to try to gain weight- drank Ensure, saw a dietitian, sought counseling but yet I couldn't gain the weight.
Unfortunately, I had made the decision to move across the country to attend a university in the west- Arizona State. I knew it would be hard to keep my disorder under control on my own, but I thought it was too late to change my decision, and in August 2010, I moved 23 hours from home in Illinois to attend ASU. As expected, the weight continued to fall off. School was stressful, and though I didn't want to, I fell into the comfortable trap of being the "anorexic girl" again. And that's where I am now- at my current weight of 84 pounds.
Here's what is different this time though: I no longer think I look good. Before in my disordered state of mind, I loved being skinny. Now I despise it. I want desperately to receive those comments about being "curvy and womanly" that made me feel fat and ugly before. I am twenty-one; I want to be a woman; I want curves, dammit. I am fighting so hard to gain weight, but it is so hard for me to do. I am irrationally scared that all of my weight will land in my stomach, and that I will look like a big apple; however, I know that my health is more important than anything, so I AM going to put on the weight I need. I am using SparkPeople as a positive tool this time, rather than a negative one. I am counting calories, but not to restrict them- in fact the opposite; I am trying daily to push my caloric intake up, past my recommendations for weight gain on SparkPeople. Other than walking to class, I do no cardio exercise. I do, however, do yoga and strength training a few times a week because people with eating disorders are more prone to osteoporosis, and I want my muscles and bones to be strong. I am incorporating new foods and recipes- which I love sharing with my SparkFriends- into my diet to eliminate "fear foods" and routines, which lead to minimum caloric intakes each day. I'm fighting hard, and I know I can beat this this time.
So, in honor of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I have made a list of goals/rules which will help me conquer my eating disorder:
1) Goal Weight: 100 pounds by May 01, 2011. I would love to start bikini season off with some "meat on my bones" and at least a little curvier. I will buy myself a new swim suit as a reward when I reach my goal weight.
2) I will have dessert at least three times a week. There is no such thing as a "bad food".
3) I will eat when I am hungry, no matter if it is "meal time" or not. Listening to my body is the only way to intuitively eat, as normal people do.
4) I will be in constant contact with God. God created me; He loves me; I am beautiful to Him. When I destroy myself, I destroy his creation. He is my strength, my rock. I can beat this with His help.
5) When I do exercise, it will be because exercise is GOOD for me. I will practice yoga, pilates, or fun fitness classes only when I am at a healthy enough level to do so, and I will do it as a means of a healthy lifestyle- not as a means to burn calories.
6) I will not base my self-worth on how flat my abs are.
7) I will realize that I will never be perfect; there is no such thing- no perfect body, no perfect personality, no reason to need to score perfect on every exam. I am human, and I have flaws- it's ok!
So there it is :) Kinda therapeutic to just get it all out there (with the exception of a lot of the gory ED details, which I will spare you all from). Thanks for listening, SparkFriends!
Oh, and one last thing...
Remember that cupcake that sent me into a craze last week?
Well guess what? I just ate a big ol' Sprinkles Red Velvet Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting...and enjoyed every-single-one of the 500-calories with (seriously!) NO guilt!
TAKE THAT, ED!