My Not-So-Lovely Road to Health and Happiness
She was unflinchingly still, her body strewn across the the immaculately made bed where it had dizzily fallen over an hour ago. She stared emptily across the room at the numbers on the clock – glowing numbers that cut through the darkness of the room as they flowed one into the next, ticking off sixty second increments of the dragging evening. Numbers seemed to define her life as of late: the numbers on the scale, the numbers on the tape measure, the numbers on the treadmill, the numbers on the nutritional panels. Each number was loaded with dread and dissatisfaction…no number was small enough.
That morning the scale had read 108, and those extraneous eight pounds had to go. Her intake had been immediately restricted to a mere three hundred calories; breakfast was an apple and a nauseating cocktail of diet pills, lunch was skipped over entirely, and dinner – a miniscule portion of turkey and mashed potatoes – was served with a side of guilt. The next hour and a half had been spent pushing her every physical limit on the old treadmill tucked in the corner of the public gym. She’d hardly been able to stand through her shower – ice cold water, of course, to jolt her metabolism – and as soon as she’d redressed herself, the lightheadedness she’d become so adept at ignoring intensified and knocked her into a haphazard heap on the bed.
Despite being physically drained, her mind was still in overdrive; the entire hour she’d been nestled in the mounds of pillows had been spent in an agonizing internal debate. Acutely aware of the recently purchased provolone cheese tossed into the dairy drawer of the refrigerator, her body was begging her for just one piece, but her brain was so repulsed by the ninety calories and five grams of fat that she couldn’t bring herself to indulge. As she berated her psyche for pleading for a single slice, she began to sob as she listed all the reasons not to touch to food. Fat stomach. Big thighs. You already ate today, you cow. Slowly she swung her sore legs from the bed and shuffled into the kitchen, removed the cheese from the drawer, and flung the package across the kitchen. The tears were uncontrollable now, just as everything else in her life seemed uncontrollable, and she slumped to the tile, her back against the softly humming refrigerator. Reaching across towards the red and white plastic package, she sat sobbing for the next several minutes, the offending provolone sitting cold in her hands. Without thinking, she pulled herself to her feet and removed a gallon of bleach from the cabinet under the sink and poured half of its contents across the cheese, rendering it inedible. She mopped up her mess, dropped the soaked paper towels into a plastic bag from the grocery store, halfheartedly wondering if it was the one that carried home the damned deli slices in the first place, and tucked it into the bottom of the trash can, beneath the day’s coffee grounds and newspaper, where it was unlikely to be found.
With that, she ran back across the apartment to her bedroom, pulled the comforter across her shaking shoulders, and dropped her head back against the pillows, her gaze resting back on the digital alarm threatening to go off in only four short hours. This ordeal was only one of many over a terrorizing span of months for this young woman.
I developed my eating disorder while living at home through my first two years of college. Those two years were miserable, with my weight bouncing around more than the Easter Bunny on crack. I was literally one pound too heavy to be diagnosed with Anorexia, and my Bulimic episodes weren’t frequent enough to be officially classified either. After transferring to a residential university, I alternated cycles of quintessential college student food habits (Ramen and doughnut diet, anyone?) with severe regression into my eating-disordered habits. Unsurprisingly, I put back on all the weight I’d lost the previous years, but although I was physically “in the clear”, my mentality was still extremely disordered.
This past year I have immersed myself completely in nutrition, health, and fitness as a means of focusing on the right aspects of food. I can finally and honestly say that not only am I at peace with my appetite and my body, but I actually am happy with who I see in the mirror! A strong, healthy, vivacious woman has replaced the insecure and deprived girl of the past, and I’m never letting myself go back.
I’m no longer fighting the fact that I love to eat, and I focus on whole, hearty foods. I keep a primarily vegan kitchen, but I’m not one to turn down an invitation to go out for ice cream! I’m learning that I actually have quite the appetite for superfoods! As I remind myself that it’s a good thing to appreciate good food, I feel so much stronger and happier – who’da thunk that not depriving oneself could actually lead to a much cheerier disposition and outlook!? Allowing myself to exercise for strength, stamina, and heart health instead of as a “punishment” for “overindulging” has also contributed a great deal to my current lifestyle – I adore running, skating, swimming, and yoga and am always embracing new ways to get out and get moving!
I see how many other women have struggled with disordered eating and found a balance in immersion in a highly healthful lifestyle, and I admire the strength with which they have risen above their past experiences and past tendencies. I have the utmost respect for what they are doing with their lives. Eating disorders are not creatures that you simply wake up one day and “get over”. The women, though, have have been brave enough to share their stories on their own blogs, have greatly inspired me to do right by my body and take care of myself, and I feel that if my story can do the same for just one other individual, it’s worth it. I’m here, always and anytime, to hear your stories as well.