HelloGiggles.com article: How A Facebook Status Helped Me Recover From An Eating Disorder

One year ago, I made a statement on Facebook that would change my life.

Tired of sneaking around my hometown, I was fed up. Status box open, fingers on the keyboard, I got about that far before deliberating how bad of an idea this was.

What am I doing? I asked myself. Did I forget my Prozac today?

I thought immediately of my parents; imagining them at a party with women staring at my mom wondering whether or not I “got” my eating disorder from her. Would my exes read this status and smirk to themselves thinking how glad they were that they got out while they could? Would my friends roll their eyes and think about how I always have to be the center of attention?

All these thoughts skipped through my mind when I thought of the prospect of being forthright about my eating disorder; when I thought of all the years I’d spent building (and ultimately defacing) so much of who I wanted to be. Would I ever get a job if I did this? Would I be labeled only by an eating disorder? I didn’t really know anything that night except that lying and omitting were still keeping me sick, and I was exhausted.

For 8 years, my life had revolved around a mosh-posh of sneakiness. 8 years of scanning, scoping, mutilating, and twisting in order to maintain an image. 2 months into rehab, I was still struggling with letting go of the games of my eating disorder. Transitioning from in-patient to out, I’d been rapidly finding myself falling backwards instead of forwards.

It’s ridiculous how much they make us eat, I thought one day, hiding pieces of a bagel in my sweatshirt. Just lay off the carbs, I wanted to scream when the counselor passed by. Don’t you know the glycemic index of bread? Sulking until breakfast was over, I carefully disposed of the bagel before group therapy started. Feeling guilty, I took my place on the couch but when the counselor asked me how breakfast went, I smiled and said ”Great!”

The truth is I was adjusting back to reality, and I was scared. Despite having gone through 6 weeks of 24-hour care with Nurse Betty telling me that I couldn’t leave the table till I licked the spoon, I was still extremely uncomfortable with the vulnerable parts of recovery. I knew sitting there on that couch that day that I was free to carry on in the way that I’d always found comfortable. Manipulating, twisting, shamed– running into people at the store and telling them I was home “for a few days,” or telling my parents I was ”fine” every night they asked how rehab went that day.

2 months in I was still struggling to understand that eating disorders crave an instant self-validation, and that allowing myself to be honest and vulnerable didn’t exactly mesh. Self-deprecation had always been my charming way of being honest about myself because it meant that I was in control of my own “vulnerabilities”. It meant I got to draw a picture of what sucks about myself in whichever light I wished to paint.

Honesty, however, equated to vulnerability because it meant being forced to stay on a path of accountability and of letting others help keep me accountable; neither of which appealed to my sickness. I’d always equated honesty as something you fine-tune with every situation– bending and stretching the parts of you to fit into the situation at hand.

Going on a date?  Be the “alluring” you. Self-aware and witty. My friends have joked for years that I have the ”girlfriend 8-week game,” and while we’re all a better ”version” of ourselves at times, I’ve regularly sought self-confidence through the validation of others.

Why be completely honest when I have the ability to do what I do? I’d wonder. I got social butterfly tattooed on my forehead. Admitting that I was “struggling” with something seemed like a one-way ticket out of the little web of protection I spun. I was so sure that the moment I admitted I was flawed- and not ha-he-ho flawed in that self-deprecating nonchalance I’ve always had- really f****** flawed- I’d lose the bubble I’d shielded myself with for years.

Sitting there, writing out that status on what we think of as the ”news source” of our peers I wondered how my life would change if I posted. Would all the cards suddenly fall?

You’re fun, my therapist said once. You walk into a room and it lights up with your energy, but that’s not what you’re here to do, she said. You’re here because you’ve got to deal with you, and you’re never going to be free of this until you allow yourself to exist as a real person– a flawed one, she said. You have to work at being in touch with yourself. Allow yourself to be honest about what’s hard. Your emotions? She paused. They’re valid- you don’t have to hide them. You don’t have to feel bad for feeling bad.

It’s hard for me to let go of that visage, I told her then– admitting my bagel heist from the morning, but the truth is, I knew she was right. 2 months into this stint, I had been slowly growing used to the idea of imperfection. Hell, I had to. 24 hours a day under supervision will do it to a person. Not being able to shave your legs for 6 weeks- that’ll do it. Stripped of all dignities, I’d spent over 2 months standing naked in front of various nurses. 2 months sitting in family therapy telling my parents about “that one time,” and 2 months in AA meetings working steps and making lists of things I’d done wrong.  

I’d cried, snotted and snapped at every fellow patient around me thinking to myself ”well this is it- I lost that person as a friend ” only to have them come around a few hours later and give me a hug. 2 months in, my family was still my family-–smiling when I walked in the door, and my best friends were still my best friends– unyielding.

Is it worth it? I’d been asking myself. Is living this way worth it? Here I was, 24 years old, still living some days bagel by bagel- still opening the door to deception, and guilt, and shame. Sitting there that night, the answer felt like no. If it’s out there, I thought, typing the next word– and the next– well, then it’s out there and perhaps I won’t always feel like I have to put on a show. Perhaps if I just ”own” it- well- then I really do OWN it.

In all honesty, I’ll never really know what drove me to write that Facebook status, but I posted it anyway to the open arms of nearly 2,500 “friends” and family; to people that had met me once at a bar– or on a seat in a plane. Having lived so long behind a smoke screen, exposing my struggle so publicly meant that I could finally walk around it– like all the walls I’d built suddenly caved– leaving me bare, yes, but able to fully start from scratch and reconstruct my life.

Messages poured in from every “phase” in my life. The outpouring support was overwhelming, but more than that, a reality check. So often, we think we hide our demons in spaces that no one can find, but the truth is that many people for many years knew I was struggling but lacked the words to say.

Before I knew it, I was receiving mail from people all over the world asking for my insight into eating disorder recovery. ME? I thought– baffled. They want to trust what I have to say after so many years of manipulating? It was then that I knew that I’d never again be able to go back to what was before; that I now had the eyes of many keeping me accountable.

But, was all of the feedback positive, you might be wondering? No. Since I started blogging and freelancing about my experience in rehab and recovery, I’ve heard everything from “she’s not big enough to write about recovery” to “she wasn’t that skinny in the first place.” People are people and the internet is the internet. We live in a world where we have to be weary over what is thrown on the web for our reading pleasure. However, while I don’t love criticism (who does?) I know that everything I write is true to what I’m doing now. It’s true to who I want to be. No masks. When I struggle at times, someone knows. They’ve read– and I know I’m not alone. When I go out to dinner and want to only drink wine, I’ve got someone around me who can now lean over and say “C’mon Linds, order something.”

My life changed the day after that status published, and while social media is not always the modem of choice for disclosing your personal life (although we all have a tendency to overshare) I’m thankful every day I pushed “post” for it meant that I could actually be free.

 

— As I pack tonight, I want to take a moment to appreciate everyone in my life who has supported and loved me through these past couple months. After years and years of life with an eating disorder, I am now presently at a point where existing is more simple than I ever once let it be. If I could go back, I’d have asked for help years ago but I suppose we live in a society that doesn’t always condone imperfection. I struggled with this secret for all these years thinking I’d one day “grow out of it,” thinking if maybe I just ran around the world I’d find myself, and I watched it take away my life and take away my hobbies, my friends, my faith, my health, my mind, and all the while I wondered if I’d ever really be free from the guilt that any kind of disorder brings. I wondered if maybe every human was destined to have obsessive thoughts and actions they could never be free of. I thought “hey, I’m not that thin, I just don’t eat and then I binge eat. I run 12 miles then I eat a box of cereal. It evens out.”- And am I ashamed of what I did? In some ways yes, I’m human after all. It took away my dignity. But the beauty of this experience is knowing that one can change when one becomes honest with themselves. One can fight to live a happier life. And I’m choosing to be open about this now because I don’t want to go through the rest of my life pretending I don’t struggle. This is life and sometimes we all need a reboot. I’m thankful for every card, letter, and word that have been sent to me while I’ve been away. I struggle to let go of a disorder that became such an identifying factor to my life, but I can sit here tonight and say I’m happier, healthier, and no, not a vegan eating leaves anymore- and I never thought life could be as magically simple as it is right now. Home is where the heart is my loves- and I love my friends- I love my faith- and I love my family- it just sometimes takes a dose of reality to remember what’s important in this tiny little life. And it truly is, a tiny short life. I have the best people in the world. Y’all some good folk ye is.-

Check Out My Greatist.com Article On Exercise Addiction!

Running was a love affair that started from a healthy place.

It was March of my senior year of college when I first laced up a pair of running shoes and hopped on the treadmill. This was for me alone, a way to regain control of my life. Days earlier a court-ordered breathalyzer was installed in my car after I’d been arrested for driving under the influence—drinking pinot noir had gone from a casual college habit to three glasses every night when my bartending shift ended.

“Stretch your legs out,” I remember thinking as I reached the treadmill. “Take a deep breath. Turn up the music. Get a hold of your life.”

I pushed “go’’ and ran four miles. Walking out of the gym that day, the fatigue in my legs felt like the kind of self-control I needed to keep me on track. I repeated this the next day and the day after that. Before I knew it, two months had passed, and I was running six miles, four times a week with an almost never-ending runner’s high.

I made it a point to outrun all of the people on the treadmills around me, and for the first time in a while, I felt good about the direction my life was going. All the recklessness and self-hatred lifted when I watched that treadmill turn another mile, music blaring so loud that it felt like I was screaming all the thoughts from my mind.

By month two, my ribs started to poke out, reminding me of what it felt like to be the thinnest girl in the room. It was a badge of honor I enjoyed in elementary and middle school—I was known as “skinny Linny” until I hit my teens and puberty set in. My parents praised my new “regimented” lifestyle while my girlfriends grew jealous. “You’re so tiny, Linds!” they’d say, grabbing my arm. But I’d wave them off. “I just needed to give up the wine,” I’d say with a laugh.

Next thing I knew, I was on the treadmill nearly every day. The more I ran, the less I ate. I’d sit at the table with my fists clenched, secretly congratulating myself on how much self-control running had given me. I’d gloat in the mirror at night as I massaged my thighs with my thumbs and marveled at their definition. Then I’d give myself a big hug to feel the bones in my back. As I got more and more obsessed with my vanity, I knew I could never lose running—that I could never feel this confident without it.

The Tailspin

Three weeks after graduating, I hopped on a plane to Seville, Spain to start my new life as an au pair. I reasoned that moving away from the comforts of home would be good for me (and give me something new to focus on besides my looks). But two days into my stay, the compulsion to find the treadmill consumed me. Instead of exploring this new foreign city, I found myself walking around, map in hand, asking passersby where the local “gimnasio” was in my broken Spanish.

Anxiety mounted to new extremes as I realized I was in a society that was far less obsessed with the latest fad diet, and far more engrossed with the local white bread and sangria. Unable to find the food I deemed healthy, I started throwing up in my host parents’ bathroom to avoid the extra calories. Soon running six miles a day didn’t seem like enough to burn off the calories I ate.

“Eat only the food you can count,” I wrote in my diary. Eat 250 calories in the morning and run five miles. Eat fewer than 10 bites for lunch. Run four miles after. Walk one mile to pick up children from school.

Being thin—and feeling totally in control of my body—gave me the kind of self-gratification high I didn’t want to climb down from.

“You are too thin,’’ my host mother clucked six months in, but I’d just smile my big toothy grin and brush her aside.

“Was I a little too thin?” I wondered as my jeans loosened in the back, or when I woke in the middle of the night, clutching my legs as they cramped. “Maybe,” I thought as I crawled down the marble stairs with tears welling in my eyes from the sharp pain in my back. But the muscle pain, even when it seemed unbearable, couldn’t stop me. Being thin—and feeling totally in control of my body—gave me the kind of self-gratification high I didn’t want to climb down from.

The Breaking Point

After one year in Spain, I moved home to Texas, where my compulsion to exercise escalated to a level I felt both empowered and controlled by. Exercising became my identity. I’d run 16 miles one day then 10 the next. If I took a rest day, I threw up. I had constant pain in both shins that shot through my legs. But the pain dulled when I ran so I pushed ahead, even after doctors told me I had stress fractures in both legs and needed to give up running cold turkey.

My weight sank and the compliments faded. I could see the pity in my friends’ eyes when I hobbled late to a dinner—the perfect excuse to always miss appetizers—but I refused to believe I was sick enough. If I lost five more pounds and got down to what I truly deemed a sickly weight, I told myself I’d let up a bit.

I knew that I was teetering on the edge of something bad, but I only thought about eating disorders as a weight thing. I’d find myself scrolling through Instagram photos of painfully emaciated “pro-ana” women and compare their sickness with my own. Since I didn’t have a thigh gap, I told myself I couldn’t have an eating disorder. Around the same time, I heard about exercise bulimia, but those searches turned up pictures of people with more bulging musles than I knew existed. None of them looked like me.

Another six months passed, and I jumped at the opportunity to move to New York and take my first job in publishing. I thought this would be the move that would help me find a change of pace and something besides running to obsess about. But the pull of the treadmill didn’t let up. My busy work schedule made trips to the gym difficult, yet I’d find myself sneaking out of networking events to head back into the 24-hour Planet Fitness, my teeth stained purple from the free wine.

My behavior became increasingly erratic. More than once, I ran completely intoxicated, my foot slipping off the side of the treadmill, but I’d just laugh it off with the gym employee. Like a hamster on a wheel, I couldn’t stop moving. I’d walk eight miles home from work and then head to the gym to run another 10.

Increasingly bulimic, I’d binge eat a box of cereal at home and then throw it up before forcing myself back to the treadmill. My energy dwindled and I started to wake up with a sore throat, a dry mouth, and a bloated stomach.

I’d find myself sneaking out of networking events to head back into the 24-hour Planet Fitness, my teeth stained purple from the free wine.

If it hadn’t already,body dysmorphiaconsumed my every waking moment. I stopped showering with any kind of consistency because I couldn’t deal with the stress of being naked. Fearful that I took up too much space on the subway, I wouldn’t let myself sit down between people, and instead spent many rides fighting back tears.

At the urging of a therapist, four months after my move to New York, I told my parents that I was struggling. They were willing to do whatever it took to help, but I wasn’t ready to give up my exercise—the only thing I was sure would make me feel better. The final straw came when I went home for Thanksgiving that year. Weary of my eating, my parents counted the cereal boxes in the pantry before we left for a wedding. When I woke up the next day, they confronted me with two empty boxes I’d binged on the night before. Rehab on call, I went without a fight.

The Recovery

Stripped of both running and alcohol, I had to relearn who I wanted to be without the aid of a drug—and yes, exercise was my drug. We live in a society where exercising and focusing on clean eating are the signs of a healthy (and even sought after) lifestyle—and I was able to hide behind that for years. While exercise is important for our health, it can also be used as a coping mechanism.

Growing up with a family that swore by the gym, I thought of exercise as a positive way to blow off steam. When my best friend passed away unexpectedly at the start of college, I found the gym to be a saving grace, the only place to subdue the grief.

Exercise is scientifically proven to boost moods, and it helps many achieve balance in their lives. But exercise is not immune to the same types of dependency and abuse that booze and drugs carry when it’s escalated to a level of obsession.

Fresh out of rehab, I assumed I was mentally capable to go back to a “healthy running” routine, but I quickly found myself sucked back into the hole of calorie counting and compulsion. Running had been my identity for so long that I felt anxious without it. At the advice of my therapist, I turned in the towel and spent all of last year using my old gym time to discover the other things I wanted out of life. I changed jobs. I went to a book club. I finally started a blog. I recently started dating again and instead of shying away from my past, I told him exactly who I was—and much to my surprise, he stuck around.

Running had been my identity for so long that I felt anxious without it.

One year later, I’ve accepted that I will always have a challenging relationship with the gym. I’m still learning how to accept the idea of exercise as something that is an addition to a balanced life, and not thedefinition of a successful one. I’m far more mindful of the fact that running will not fix any discomfort I feel. It’s a Band-Aid, not a stitch. I’ve started working out again, but I stop myself from heading to the treadmill and obsessing over the digital readout of calories burned and miles run. I take classes instead—bootcamp, barre, Zumba—you name it, I’ll try it. I’ve even come to enjoy them. I like the feeling of my body growing stronger, not weaker. And on weekends, I rest. I eat veggie burgers and fries. I lie in bed watching Netflix because sometimes it’s nice to do nothing.

While I’ll can’t go back and change the past, I now know that I can choose to be mindful—thinking in terms of self-love and self-respect—of the way I live from here on out. And as I finish my story, sitting here at my computer, I’m choosing to be mindful of that.

Recovery Tip: ED Fact-Check (Cut To The Chase)

Happy Sunday, y’all!

Since it’s the beginning of NEDA’s 2015 National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (2-22 – 2-28), I wanted to jump on the bandwagon and provide some stats that I’ve received via my work with Project Heal.

Often, I feel as though people still don’t know where to place eating disorders on the spectrum of mental health issues- so I think it’s beneficial to take it back to the facts on occasion and put the disease in perspective.

Take a look:

10 Million: The number of men struggling with an eating disorder

30,000 (!): The average cost per month for eating disorder treatment

-81: The percentage of 10-year olds who are afraid of being fat

-30: The percentage of 18-24 year olds who cut food calories to replace with alcohol (Drunkorexia)

-10: The percentage of of women and men who actually ever receive treatment for eating disorders*

-1: Eating Disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder.

 

50% of women in America use unhealthy weight control mechanisms such as fasting, skipping meals, and purging. 

Surprising?

Think about it. Think about the people in your life.

Notice.

*Note:

Treatment was a blessing, but there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the women I shared those hospital gowns with– and how many of them could not afford to stay longer because their insurance crapped out and they simply didn’t have that kind of money.

The insurance system for eating disorder coverage is bullshit. Google “eating disorder treatment costs” and you’ll find a slew of negative articles about the “loopholes” of the mental health coverage in this country.

I watched countless times as women packed their bags sobbing in the hallway of our facility.

I do NOT forget those tears.

They were deemed “healthy” by an insurance system of people who had NEVER seen- never spoken- never given a second glance- but merely ”stats”- and turned back out to keep fighting a battle they weren’t equipped to win. This, in turn, perpetuates a system of relapse. It perpetuates a whopping 85% chance of relapse for eating disorder patients.

For more on our bogus insurance check here: 

http://www.wcsh6.com/story/news/health/2015/02/19/the-beauty-within-catie-colbys-story/23651017/

And here:

Let’s keep fighting where we can. And by fighting- I mean talking. Because nothing changes without awareness.

“6 Real Signs of Disordered Eating” via MindBodyGreen *Unedited*

6 Real Signs of Disordered Eating
(as defined by something other than the Lifetime Channel)

Eating Disorders– how many times have we seen it on a Lifetime movie or scrutinized it in the Tabloids? Kei$ha, Demi Lovato– we know what bones look like, but do we actually understand how to define the thoughts and actions of “disordered eating” in the people we hold close? Or even within ourselves?

So often we are still fed a “dumbed down” version of the signs that are involved. We stereotype it solely as an underweight girl isolating themselves or pushing food around the plate for everyone to notice and because of this we so often wait until one has reached a society defined “rock bottom” (skeletal looking) before intervening. What we fail to take into account is that eating disorders, especially that of anorexia, are so much more than weighing 80lbs. Just because you look and appear of normal weight (as I did at times throughout my 10+ years) does not mean you’re healthy- and does not mean your life is balanced.

While every disorder is specific, these are 6 real signs of an eating disorder written in collaboration with women fighting ED recovery.

RITUALISTIC BEHAVIORS

Ritualistic Behaviors are a trait that every disordered patient has their own version of. In rehab I remember there was a big sign over the cafeteria door that listed the behaviors we were either allowed or not allowed to exhibit while eating. These included limits on the amount of liquid we were allowed to consume throughout a meal, and which food groups we were allowed to combine with others. (We could put peanut butter on our bananas. However, we could not put it into our yogurt.)

Rituals vary depending on which cycle of the eating disorder is the most prevalent at the time. We often don’t recognize that eating disorders, as with alcohol and drugs, fluctuate. For a drug addiction, it might be Cocaine to Heroin, or Vodka to Whiskey. For an eating disorder it can phase from exercise bulimia to binge eating, from binge eating to restriction, and/or from exercise bulimia to bulimia.

In months of restriction, you cut and minimize food. While this is a fairly obviously ED trait, people are often naïve to just what lengths people will go to in order to reconstruct their rations because they cannot, and will not, eat anything as it was originally prepared- including healthy food groups. For example, I cut grapes in half- bananas down the middle- ate veggie burgers without the bun- picked cheese off my salad with my fingers- ripped off excess tortilla- pushed avocado out of my sushi roll with the chopsticks, etc., etc., etc. To me, everything could be reconstructed. Nothing could be eaten as it was prepared. There was zero flexibility in my eating, zero idea of the concept that, in moderation, it’s okay to eat a few extra carbs, a couple more grams of fat, a few mg more of sodium.

On the other hand, for binging cycles it was methodically picking out the food. It was scaling the store– eyebrows furrowed– trying to decide which food meant more to me; which food was worth the guilt that would ensue– and then eating it frantically, from one item to the other and back. Ice cream to a cookie. Donut to the Ice cream. Cookie to the Donut– until all was gone and the only thing I could think about was purging it first through the toilet, and secondly through the gym.

SOCIAL BEHAVIORS

Singling yourself out in a group is a top sign for disordered eating, and no, I’m not talking about instances where you’re the one mate that’s all like “No, I don’t want Sushi- I want Mexican” (cause’ there’s always that Mate). I’m talking about the times you’re on a road trip and there’s six of you hauled up in a car on your way out to go camping. It’s breezy, the window’s are down, the mood is jovial, you and your friends are content- seated in the back of the car listening-but-pretending-to-hate the new Taylor Swift song- when someone suggests you stop and eat.

“Popeye’s!” The group shouts unanimously– while your heart deflates in the back left seat.

Where you were once relaxed; now you are tense. Where you were once singing along; now you are quiet. You will not let go of your fast food embargo. You can’t stand the idea of eating a Chicken Finger from Popeyes, A Cheesy Gordito from Taco Bell, Mashed potatoes from KFC, or whatever a “Slider” is at White Castle (Shudder).

Eating in public has become increasingly difficult, not only because you can’t be flexible due to the sodium content at a Fast Food joint (or, really, anywhere…), but more so because of the pressure to remain “sociable” in a group while also meticulously counting and observing every shred of food to make sure the cook didn’t douse it with an excess of olive oil, butter, or salt. You’re consumed by the food in front of you- terrified to eat it. Imagining what it will do to your body if you allow yourself to eat it even once. You’ve forgotten the conversation at the table- forgotten to laugh at someone’s joke. You leave and in 10 minutes all you’ll remember from that meal was what you did or did not eat.

You’ve forgotten that a balanced life comes with mindfulness- not control. Should you eat fast food on a daily basis? Hell no. It’s terrible, and it’s still hard for me to consider it “food” for the body. Is a Gordito Crunch really what we’re craving? No, but there are times in your life that you realize you’re outnumbered by other’s request, or just the day-to-day strife in your life and while most healthy-minded people can conform to a McDonalds Hamburger every now and then, you would rather starve, obsess, mutilate, and punish yourself for even being around it.

Because of this,  you are the person that always has an excuse as to why you’re not eating a full meal. Oftentimes you’ll show up 20 minutes late to avoid the appetizers or take it a step farther and go about meticulously stuffing fries in you bra– almonds in your sweatshirt pocket– or say, chicken down the toilet (of which, I witnessed all while I was in rehab– despite having to remove our jackets at the door).

FOOD POSSESSION

You are not someone who will split a meal. To you, sharing food is like when your roommate invades your closet and wears your favorite dress without asking. You need control over what you’ve chosen to eat. You need the ability to choose however little or much you wish to put in your mouth. You need to organize, move, strip, and search through your food.

You cannot accidentally eat a piece of lettuce with too much dressing. You cannot take a bite of your wrap without making sure all the excess tortilla has been picked off, and you cannot stand sharing with the person next to you as they dirty, combine, and toss around your food.

MINE, you’re thinking– like that pigeon in Finding Nemo. MINE. BACK OFF.

And, to be fair, it’s not always just because you want to separate and divide it to satisfy your personal, anorexic-themed game. It can be quite the opposite. We talked about this a lot in rehab– the irrational irritation that festers every time you’re out to eat with a group of people; when a plate of pita bread and a bowl of hummus is placed in front of you and you watch as 5 other greedy hands at the table move to snag their piece of bread, and their spoonful of Hummus.

The feeling you have that grows within you screaming that someone is taking something from you. This is part of the eating disorder cycle. You deprive– deprive yourself of cheat days, of bread, of snacks, of Christmas pie– But eventually you snap. You “allow” yourself to have a piece of pie, and once you’ve opened Pandora’s Box, you find it’s hard to close again– like an animal being set free. You’ve snapped because you felt trapped and taunted by everyone dangling their bad food habits in front of you.

As if to say: “Here- look- you poor, sad lil’ girl– I can eat ALL this and tomorrow look the same– but you, you will wear it on you like the Scarlett Letter.”

That’s what the cycle feels like. It’s frantic–impulsive– and you lose yourself because you’re so irrationally mad that you’ve felt taunted for so long by everyone that can “snag a cookie or two” off the dessert tray.

SOCIAL EVENTS

You have an increasingly hard time adjusting to events that involve or are encased around food and beverage. July 4th is a nightmare. Thanksgiving is hell. You do not enjoy buffets; the mass amounts of food set out on tables for everyone to ‘’have a bite.’’

This, in turn, becomes the reason why no one will call you and say “Hey, can you pick up something from the store?” Someone trusts it to you and you’ll come back with Laughing Cow Cheese instead of Blocked, Cherry-Limeade Ice Water instead of Lemonade- and Kettle-Corn instead of Buttered Popcorn.

MINE! The binging side tells you, while the anorexic side of you is terrified because it’s out of control and there’s no way of measuring how much of fat, sodium level, or carb intake when you’re piling different foods onto a plastic plate.

You’re afraid that by eating it once- by allowing yourself to forego your “Fast Food Prohibition,” you’ll never get back to that same mental spot that whispers “You’re a better person than all them for holding out.”There is a majestic amount of pride when you can sit in a group full of 6 people and observe the self-control that you have in only eating one Tortilla chip while the rest eat 10. There is a feeling like you can hold your head up higher than ever before and it becomes everything you base your entire worth around.

DEFINING FOOD AS “BAD” AND “GOOD”

To you, every food is black and white. Fast food- bad. Veggies- good– that’s obvious. But when you’ve spent 8 years standing in grocery stores with your hand on your hip comparing the nutrition label between the Pepperidge Farm Whole Wheat bread and the Nature’s Own brand to the left- (29g of carb vs 27g), “Good” and “Bad” has taken on a whole new meaning.

You’ve learned not only to group food items, but food brands as well (Morningstar Sausages- SOY. You don’t really know what “soy” means… but it’s “disgusting.”) Food is your number one enemy. Your country and the FDA are your number two.

You trust nothing. You’re even cutting your bananas in half because you read somewhere that bananas are being grown bigger than ever before.

Cereal, however, was a “safe food” for me because cereal gave a straight answer. It can be measured and defined. You can eat this or that much and know what you’re consuming (unless the FDA isn’t telling you something. There was always the fear of this.)

Typically, “safe foods” are as such. They often have defined calorie counts and are small in nature.

LIQUIDS

WebMD states “diet soda” as the staple drink of eating disorders but mate, please. It’s 2015 and I’m assuming that most of those struggling with the anorexic cycle have read of the horrors of diet soft drinks.

Coffee, on the other hand, is the real culprit. Coffee, an aging sage with its social acceptance and availability at every street corner. Coffee is the true friend of an eating disorder. It gives you energy when you’re malnourished, fills up your stomach when you’re hungry, and naturally, comes with a side of a cig and a bathroom break.

There were girls in rehab who had been drinking up to 9 cups a day. When is anyone ever going to discount you for sipping an afternoon brew? It’s such a social staple of our culture that it’s often overlooked how much you’re drinking.

This goes for alcohol as well, although I specify this exceedingly depends on each person. I drank to not eat, drank to forget I was hungry– drank to forget I was sick. I had a nice way of disregarding the calories in alcohol so long as it gave me the nurturing taste of feeling full, and I’ve found this a more and more common warning in other women of my 20-30 age group.

CONCLUSION

So much of the damage of an eating disorder, disregarding health, is that it prevents a person from ever fully feeling engaged to any event. It’s like when you’re talking to someone and you can see them eyeing the television screen from behind you– you never feel attached to anything else longer than an hour or two except your disorder.
While I’m not naïve to the severity and trickery of an eating disorder being far past what I’ve mentioned today, the more candid those of us in recovery become about the games, the more we can help society comprehend the obsessiveness that goes into it. Perhaps then, we will have a better means of fighting it within ourselves and as a community, accepting that ED masks itself in all different ways– and for all different people.