When did you first notice your relationship with food and your body changing?
My eating disorder started when I was around 11 or 12 years old. At first, it wasn’t anything too serious. My friends and I had talked about wanting to go on diets. We would eat salads for lunchtime, try to cut back on snacks, and jog around our neighborhood. Things began to escalate for me personally over time. I began to count how many bites of food I ate and would not allow myself more than a certain amount of bites per meal (usually around 5 to 10 bites). After I reached however many amounts of bites I decided I would allow myself, I would finish the rest of my meal by chewing my food and spitting it into a napkin or tissue. I would also obsess over my weight and began to weigh myself around 3 to 5 times a day. If I didn’t like the number I saw, I would work out in a sweat suit so I would sweat more, hoping I would lose more weight.
How did your family and friends handle it?
Eventually, my mom caught on to what I was doing She became furious with me and yelled at me to stop. My dad had a much gentler approach. He told me that if I was trying to lose weight, it wasn’t necessary and that I should not continue to do so. Once my parents found out, I stopped for a period of time. However, eating disorders are usually something that can stick with you. So, I relapsed again at age 15, and again at 19.
When did you realize you needed help?
Even though my habits during these times were very unhealthy, I never saw it as a problem until I was 19. There was a gym in my college which all college students had free access to. I took advantage of this by working out whenever I had the opportunity. I distinctly remember one occasion when I was working out. I began to feel really tired during my work out and wanted to stop. However, I told myself that I hadn’t been working out long enough and pushed through my work out. After I finished, I walked out of the gym and immediately felt dizzy, and my vision became blurry. I sat down and gave myself a moment or two to catch my breath. When I finally felt better, I remember telling myself that what I was doing clearly wasn’t safe and that I needed to stop. This was a turning point for me because I had finally realized that I couldn’t keep restricting my diet and working out so much.
What would you like people to know?
I really think it’s so easy to fall into the trap of obsessing over your weight and what your body looks like. What helps me to not focus on what I deem are flaws, is to focus on feeling thankful for my body. Living in New York City, I do a lot of walking. There are so many times that I think about how fortunate I am to be able to get to where I want to go by walking. I used to scrutinize my body and felt my legs were too big. Now, I appreciate them for getting me from point A to point B. That is a privilege not everyone has, and one I don’t want to take for granted. I have also learned to really accept my body. Of course, there are times when it is still difficult. However, it really is important to love how you look. When I was going through puberty, it was hard for me to accept that my body was changing. As a woman, I have grown to love and appreciate my curves. This is the only body you are given in your lifetime. Instead of feeding it with negativity, why not try to feed it with positivity? I can guarantee you will feel much happier when you do!