TW: Eating disorders.
When I was a freshman in high school, we had a guest come to speak to us during our health class; she was a specialist in eating disorders. Up until this point, I knew what eating disorders were on the surface level, but never really gave them a second thought. The woman showed us a few pictures of different people and asked us to figure out which people had eating disorders. Some students said the petite ballerina while others said the strong wrestler. After the debate, she explained a really powerful message: you can never be certain about who has an eating disorder.
I went to camp for two months every summer since I was 7. During my pre-teen years, I slimmed down a few pounds every summer, which helped me a lot in dance classes when I got home, but I would always gain it back throughout the year. This vicious cycle of weight fluctuation primed my eating disorder to develop. When I was about 16 years old, I began to notice this weight loss and started to diet at camp so I would lose even more weight. When school started in the fall, I loved getting compliments from my friends; I had never gotten that type of positive attention before.
The next summer, I went to camp in a long-distance, emotionally abusive relationship. While I was trying to have fun at camp and make an unforgettable summer for my campers, I had this immense fear and anxiety from my relationship that it began to interfere with everything. He had told me so many lies and planted horrific ideas into my head; it felt like I was losing control. But the one thing that I knew I could have total control of was what I ate. Eventually, I broke up with him while I was at camp. He was so angry at me, but I knew it was the right thing to do, only, it made my eating habits worsen. The emotional strain from that relationship translated to my plate. I began eating less and less everyday. As I continued restricting, my anxiety increased and I started to get depressed. I am a very happy and bubbly person, and I never thought I would be the type to have depression. The limited food intake and absence of essential nutrients made me exhausted, irritable, and more sensitive than before. For the rest of camp, I ate Rice Krispies for breakfast, salad for lunch, and a few bites of dinner. I remember the one day off I had with my friends we stopped for ice cream, but I refused to get anything.
I came home and my family and close friends were so concerned about the amount of weight I had lost in such a short period of time. But my eating disorder did not stop at that. I could not see how skinny I actually was. But that did not matter, I wanted to be skinnier. The thought of putting the weight back on haunted me, so I tried to do everything in my power to make sure that did not happen. I downloaded an app on my phone to help me count calories and made sure to exercise after every time I ate. My whole world revolved around eating less and exercising more. And nobody stopped me. But this was only the beginning.
Are you struggling with an eating disorder? Do you know someone struggling? Visit https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org for more information.
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Written By: Jessica Norris