The strangest thing about having an eating disorder is how long it took me to realize I had one. I mean, I used to be really, really thin. If I am being honest (and why not on an anonymous blog) I was unhealthily thin. But I was actually still a size 6. I mean, yeah I was over 6 feet tall. And yeah, I sometimes went 3 or 4 days without eating. But I thought it was because I just wasn’t hungry.
Even though I thought about food obsessively. It’s not like I was eating until I hated myself and then vomiting it up. I mean, except for the times I did exactly that. And that did happen more than once or twice.
Despite the way I always hated my body. How repulsive I thought it was. I always thought I was fine. Despite thinking that gaining any weight would make me disgusting and fat. I was terrified of that.
Even despite the complicated, intricate food rules I still have to live by and can’t logically explain to anyone. Despite the fact that I ate nothing but an apple for lunch for three years in middle school. Despite the obsessive working out that I did every day starting when I was 10 (yes, 10).
I somehow knew that I was fine. I couldn’t possibly have an eating disorder. That was for pretty, rich girls with nothing better to do. It was for people shallowly obsessed with their appearance (in ways far inferior to the way I was shallowly obsessed with my appearance). Lastly, it was for girls that were actually thin. But not thin the way I was thin. It was for skeletal, emaciated girls on the verge of death. That’s how I could be so convinced that I was fine.
I never wore size 6 clothes. I didn’t want anyone to really see how thin I was. I still don’t like wearing anything too tight. I don’t like showing off my body. It’s funny how I still rationalize things. I have actually said, out loud. “You just haven’t seen me naked. I look way better in clothes.”
I’m a size 12 now. I’ve gained almost 100lbs in the past 10 years since graduating high school. Nobody in their right mind would say I was fat. But I still do. And I still genuinely think it.
I’m still shallowly obsessed with my appearance. I still have an eating disorder. Only now you wouldn’t know it to look at me. That scares me. I’m scared people won’t believe I have a problem because I am not underweight anymore. I’m afraid people will judge me the way I used to judge myself. That I must be healthy and normal because my weight is healthy and normal.
I usually eat now too. And I am much less obsessed with eating “healthy” foods. I do still skip meals, but still, only because I am “not hungry.” Though I’ve found my hunger seems to be based more on my emotional state than anything physical.
I rarely go more than 24 hours without eating anymore, which is a huge improvement. I eat things I used to never allow myself. I am actually waiting for a pizza delivery as I type this. But I am still so picky about every detail of my diet. I will still vomit up something I find “gross.” I still make myself vomit sometimes. I would still rather not eat than eat something I don’t feel like eating. I’ll still eat an apple as a meal.
Most people think I am just extremely picky and uptight. Which I am. Almost nobody knows I have a real problem. So, what changed?
Four years ago I was doing an extremely strenuous workout. And for the first time in my life, I couldn’t force my body to do what I wanted. I couldn’t understand why it was failing me. This was during my super fitness phase. I got angry with myself. I hated my own weakness. I hated my body. And for the first time I realized, I hated myself.
Approximately two weeks later I found out that I had a heart defect and needed immediate emergency heart surgery. I could have died. I almost did die. I thought back to that day when I hated myself so viscerally. I hadn’t been weak. I was ill. I cried, thinking about hard I had always been on myself.
I decided to eat all the foods I had been denying myself. I was waiting to have the second of what would ultimately be 5 heart surgeries. I didn’t want to die without eating pumpkin pie one last time. Or ice cream. Or fried chicken.
And then I was eating whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. Since I was so sick, I wasn’t able to exercise either. I couldn’t even walk to the bathroom at times and would have to crawl to get there. I immediately began putting on weight.
And now I’m here, uncomfortable with my weight. Enormous in my mind. Self-conscious of the way shirts cling to my chest and stomach. Convinced everyone is silently staring and judging me. Envying those thin girls that I see.
I still hate my body. But I also like it more now than I ever have. There was never a weight that made me feel pretty, or good about myself, and there never will be. Sometimes I think “If only I could get back to 180.” But, when I was 180, I wanted to be 160. And when I was 160, I wanted to be 150. It will never be enough. Even with the insight I have now, even with the hindsight…
The problem isn’t my weight. It never has been. The problem is with my mind.