Trying to Lose Weight While Recovering From an Eating Disorder

When I tell people I’m trying to lose weight, they all feel the need to share their own opinions about how they think I should go about doing it: juice cleanses, special diets, cutting out all junk food, going vegetarian, exercising a whole bunch, etc.

It’s not that I’m grateful for their advice–I am. But most of them fail to take into account one detail: I’m a recovering Anorexic.

So what? some might say.

The point is losing weight healthily is hard enough without factoring in the fact that once I lost weight very unhealthily, and it’s so easy to fall back into that destructive pattern of behavior.

As a recovering Anorexic, I am acutely aware of two things:

  1. I cannot want to lose weight because I hate how I look because the last time I tried that, my life spiraled out of control for about 5 years–Being thinner became an obsession; I would be happier if I was Thin.
  2.  I cannot cut foods out of my diet because I want to restrict calories because I remember one summer when I ate nothing but a handful of crackers a day for weeks, subsisting on chewing gum and Mt. Dew.

And because of these two things this weight loss journey has been tough. I’ve started and restarted so many times. I’ve stopped because I’ve become discouraged and have seen myself falling into destructive patterns–skipping meals (never a good idea because it’s so easy to fall back into that habit), hating how I looked (causing me to push myself way harder than I should have).

This time, though, it’s different. After struggling with my self-image and self-worth for so long, I’m finally at that point where I am comfortable enough with who I am as a person that it doesn’t matter to me how I look.  I know that doesn’t make sense, but hear me out. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a low opinion of myself–it started with bullying, and then got worse after I was raped. I started starving myself because I wanted to acontrol one thing in my life.

I thought my value was based on my weight, that it was inversely proportional: the less I weighed, the more I was worth.

After years of trying to recover my sense of worth and trying to find my identity, I now know that my value lies in who I am as a human being, and not in how much I weigh. I am beautiful because of who I am, and not what I look like.

It is for that reason that I know I am ready for this journey of weight loss because I know I’m doing it for the right reasons–trying to be my best self– and not for the wrong reasons–trying to make myself more valuable.

It’s been a month since I started this journey. It’s been a month of sore muscles, burning lungs, unmotivated mornings, and days where I’d rather do anything else. But, for the most part, (minus a few days I took off for a leg injury), it’s been a month of five-day-workout weeks.

It’s been a month of making healthy choices: choosing salads over microwaved burritos, drinking water over sugary drinks, taking more vegetables and less meat. But it’s also been a month of eating microwaved burritos, drinking sugary drinks, and eating meats. It’s been a month of limiting myself rather than denying myself.

So far, I’ve lost about 12 pounds, which may not seem like a lot, but to me, it’s huge. And it may not look like a lot, but I feel so much more confident than I have in ages. And isn’t that what this is all about anyway?

Tonight for dinner I had a greasy cheeseburger with bacon, fries, and an Oreo Milkshake. And I’m ok with that, not because I had a salad for lunch and yogurt for breakfast.

I’m ok with that because life is too short to deny myself simple pleasures. I’m working on becoming my best self and the road to that is paved with leafy greens, greasy cheeseburgers, and lots of cardio.

I’ve discovered it’s easier to make healthy choices when you love who you are. And I love who I am.

 

 

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Towers and Earthquakes

Here’s the thing: we spend so much of our lives building an identity–a tower of self that is our foundation, what we base our whole life on–that when life begins to chip away at it, we begin to feel lost and confused.

I remember being younger and building my identity around people in my life, mostly friends, sometimes family. The problem with building your identity around others is that it’s permeable–there are cracks in the foundation, allowing water to get in, eroding away the tower brick by brick, piece by piece.

I left Elementary school with a reasonably adequate sense of self. I thought I knew who I was, what I was doing because when you’re one of the big kids in the school, you think you’re unstoppable, and maybe you are.

But then you’re not. You go from being the kid who’s gone around the block a few times to being the new kid in school. And it’s not the moving up of schools that bothers you because you’ve accepted that growing up and getting older is a part of life.

The problem is that you’re now a small fish in a big sea–you don’t know where you fit, where you belong, who your friends are. Something happens to people in Middle School–everybody is trying to find themselves, figure out who they are, and figure out where they fit. And everybody starts doing this at the same time, creating an upset in the social balance, causing hierarchies to form.

The massive upheaval of self-identity causes bullying to start. You try not to let it get to you. You try not to let the names they call you, the things they say to you influence your life. But they do.

And they did for me, too.

They began to chip away at my tower of identity bit by bit; it began to crumble, but because of the foundation, no matter how shaky it was, I wasn’t really scared of it falling.

But then it did.

When I was in eighth grade, I was raped. And it changed everything. It took everything. It took away the foundation I had spent 13 years building. It took away everything I thought I was. It took away my ability to say “No.” because if one guy asked me out, I rejected him, and this happened, what’s to stop it from happening again.

Being raped was like an earthquake–you’ve all seen the images: the violent tremors, the collapsing buildings, the swirling dust, the weakening skeletons still standing.

Being raped was a lot like that: quick and violent, and when the dust settled, all that was left was a shell of who I once was, who I wanted to be.

When it was all over, I was depressed and broken, lost and confused. I felt as though God had abandoned me.And I didn’t tell anybody. When it was all over, I cleaned myself up, covered the bruises as best I could, and carried on with my life as if nothing had happened.

The pain I was feeling was too intense; it hurt too much–I shut down. Becoming numb was easier than feeling, especially when the voices started, repeating over and over and over the events of that day, the words said I wanted so badly to forget: Slut. Bitch. No one will ever love you. You’re worthless.

I was depressed for so long, so numb that I had forgotten how to feel anything at all. That was when the cutting started. I wanted to feel something, anything. The pain reminded me I was alive, and it became addicting. Even that soon became not enough.Soon the self-harm escalated to self-loathing, subtly over time. One day, I woke up and couldn’t remember the last time I had eaten a full meal. The roaring of my stomach quickly drowned out the voices in my head.

I needed to grasp on to something, so I grasped on to the thought that maybe this would end someday, because even the idea of death is better than grasping on nothing.

Then, one day, I couldn’t take it anymore. I was tired; boy, was I tired. I let my guard down, stopped trying to shut out the voices in my head. I just wanted peace.

I don’t remember swallowing the pills, but I remember throwing them up. It came after a moment of peace and a whisper: You’ll be ok.

And I was, but not right away. Because I didn’t get help, because, I know this doesn’t make any sense, but I didn’t want to be seen as weak. So I pretended nothing had happened.

Then I broke down. I couldn’t take it anymore. I was so tired of feeling alone, so I started telling people my story. I got help. And it’s been a long, long process.

I don’t know where it ends, or who I will be when I get there, but I know it will be beautiful.

Where I am right now is beautiful.

I’ve started rebuilding myself piece by piece, bit by bit. And here I am today. My foundation is stronger now because it’s built on the assurance that I am a child of God, no matter how angry I once was at Him, He never left my side. He brought me back. He rescued me from me.

My identity is no longer founded on others, and I’m stronger now.

I am beautiful now.

 

 

 

 

I Didn’t Know I Had an Eating Disorder

This picture popped up on my Facebook timeline a few days ago, with a note from Facebook that read: This memory happened four years ago. Share it with your friends!

I thought to myself, “Oh, I’ll share it with my friends all right, but not like this.” So I’m sharing it now, in this form, because there is so much to say about this picture, and I don’t really know where to begin.

I don’t know where to begin, and what I didn’t know then was that I had an eating disorder.

And now I bet you’re wondering how I didn’t know I had an eating disorder.

It’s easy not to know you have something when you know nothing about it, let alone talked about it.

Eating disorders weren’t really disorders as much as they were taboos, the elephant in the room no one talked about. Maybe if we ignore it, it will go away.

Problems don’t usually go away by ignoring them (no matter how long college students ignore their pile of assignments to be done).

Not talking about eating disorders at home is one thing, but not talking about them at school is another and potentially dangerous thing.

Yes, I had the mandatory “unit” on them, but I’m using that term lightly because we spent about five minutes discussing the differences between Anorexia and Bulimia: starving and barfing.

I didn’t think I had an eating disorder because at the time I didn’t describe what I was doing as starving. I was limiting, counting, stressing about the number of calories and the number of pounds. I didn’t think there was anything wrong (which is a classic sign of Anorexia, but they don’t teach you that in school).

I didn’t think anything was wrong until I was in the Emergency room, waiting to be admitted for my appendectomy, and I overheard a conversation my doctor was having on the phone:

I have a 17-year-old anorexic female presenting with appendicitis.

I didn’t think anything was wrong until I heard that one word that hit me like a ton of bricks in the chest, and I wasn’t sure what hurt worse: the weight of that word or the inflamed appendix.

Anorexia.

The shame of being labelled as an Anorexic was enough to keep from talking about it for another year. I didn’t want to be labelled as the “Girl with Anorexia.” People can’t identify you as something if you keep yourself hidden.

School teaches you a lot of useful information: basic math, how to be literate, the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell.

It also doesn’t teach you things that could be useful: how to balance a checkbook, how to write a resume and cover letter, how to tell if you have an Eating Disorder

Society talks a lot about the problems occurring today: racial tensions, the Middle East, Drought.

It’s only recently that society has begun to talk about the way media affects adolescents.

I didn’t know I had an eating disorder because I was never taught about how complex they are.

What I was doing didn’t fit the definition given to me, and so I wasn’t anorexic, even though I was.

School didn’t teach me how to deal with my eating disorder, and because I refused to tell anybody for fear of being labelled, I had to deal with it on my own.

School didn’t teach me how complex eating disorders are. Instead, it provided me with simple, one-word definitions that I didn’t even fit.  I didn’t know I had an eating disorder because I didn’t fit the simple definition.

School didn’t teach me about the mental components of eating disorders, just the physical. I didn’t know I had an eating disorder because, for me, it was just as much mental as it was physical.

School didn’t teach me about how hard the recovery process was going to be. It didn’t teach me about how much eating was going to hurt, physically and mentally. It didn’t teach me about how much my self-esteem would be lowered with each bite I took.

School didn’t teach me about how to deal with the effects of this 5-year battle. I can’t skip a meal because habits are hard to break, and the chances of relapsing are higher than I’d like to admit. My hands are cold more often than not. I have permanent dark circles under my eyes, and my eyes seem to be sunk in a little too far in my face. There are stretch marks all over my body from the weight gain during recovery.

These are things I’m coming to terms with. Some days I’m ok; some days, I’m not.

I didn’t know I had an eating disorder because society wasn’t talking about them in the right way.

We’re getting better because now we’re acknowledging the complexities of eating disorders: they overlap, there are many than two kinds, they can affect anybody and everybody: girls, boys, chubby, skinny.

I didn’t know I had an eating disorder. I didn’t know how to talk about my eating disorder. I didn’t know how common they are, how many people I know who had, or still have, one.

But now I do.

And I’m making the most of everything I now know.

For more information on eating disorders, and for help for you or someone you know, visit: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/

In which I’m open and honest about my eating disorder

“People with eating disorders are so strong” – actual words that came out of an actual person’s mouth.

Wait, what? It’s 2015, and we still have to talk about this? Being me, I couldn’t keep quiet:

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, I love food way too much to not eat.”

“I do, too. But that didn’t stop me.”

She had nothing to say after that.

But I did.  I do. I have so many things to say. And I don’t really know how to start, so I guess I’ll just tell you my story. I’ll be open and honest because even though I’ve talked about it, I’ve never really talked about it.

And now is as good a time as ever, perhaps the best: I’ve heard young people close to me make comments that I cannot ignore. It’s time to tell you my story, tell you about my fight against Anorexia, and maybe, in the process, I’ll help destigmatize eating disorders. We, as a society, don’t do a good job talking to our children about eating disorders, but that’s beginning to change.

It’s time to put a personal face on Anorexia.

My name is Kaleigh Distaffen. I’m 20 years old, and this is my story.

I like to think my eating disorder started after my sexual assault. It’s easier that way. It’s easier to blame the root of all your problems on a single event. However, looking back, my sexual assault made my eating disorder worse; it didn’t start my fight with Anorexia.

Puberty did.

It started in 6th grade, Middle School, the nightmarish years of every child. It started when I noticed the changes occurring with my body didn’t match what society was telling me was beautiful. And I just couldn’t accept that.

I thought being beautiful was the most important thing, and I would do anything to achieve the standards of beauty society put before me.

It started with skipping a meal or two here or there. Putting less food on my plate and eating a smaller amount was easy when I ate “barely enough to keep a bird alive” to being with.

All through Middle School I did this: buying school lunches and then not eating them; throwing away money like I threw away calories, not caring about the consequences, not caring about the effects on other people.

And then, at the end of 8th grade, I was sexually assaulted. And everything changed. No longer was not eating connected with being beautiful, not eating was connected with being somebody else. If I could be somebody, anybody else, I wouldn’t have to remember what happened.

They say muscles have memory. You can ride a bike after years of not riding one because your muscles remember how to do it. You can type without looking at the keyboard because your fingers remember the placement of each key.

I tried to starve my muscles away hoping they’d forget the feeling of unwanted touch on my skin. It didn’t work.

It started with skipping a meal here and there, picking and nibbling at smaller and smaller amounts of food. It escalated to not eating anything but a few crackers for weeks at a time.

Ninth grade is a terrible year for everyone, but it was especially terrible for me. After having the summer away from my assaulters, I was thrust back into an environment where I encountered them every day. And, on top of all that, I started to get hips (Gasp)! And breasts (double gasp). That was the moment I knew I’d never be the tall, skinny super model society wanted me to be.

And everywhere I looked I was reminded of what happened. I couldn’t look in the mirror without hating what I saw. So, I skipped meals like an atheist skips church: trying to starve away the memories.

Things food wise started to get better in tenth and eleventh grade: I started taking AP classes, which means I was never in the same class with any of the guys I avoided at all costs. It wasn’t perfect. I never ate three meals a day; I tried to kill myself (which is a totally different, but not unrelated story, but which can be read about in so many posts on this blog).

I wasn’t eating three meals a day, but I was eating all the food I took, which wasn’t much, but it was a start.

During my Senior Year of High School is when my eating disorder became just that: a disorder that caused order to become chaos. I’ve never dealt well with chaos. My life felt like it was spinning out of control, so I tried to control what I could. I could control the amount of food going into my mouth, and so I did. I meticulously counted calories. I started eating less and less and less. My schedule was perfect: I woke up too late to grab breakfast, so breakfast was usually a granola bar grabbed from the kitchen. I was taking too many classes to have a scheduled lunch, so I grabbed lunch (either snack bars from my locker or something from the cafeteria). The food I bought (which wasn’t much) was thrown away. The food I grabbed from my locker went back.

My locker became a storage facility for all the calories I didn’t feel worthy enough of eating; I gave it away to my friends who needed it more than me.

I swore when I went to college that I’d do better. I’d eat. I’d have a clean slate. I would not worry about others judging when I ate. I would forget the fact that with every bite I put in my mouth, I’d feel less and less secure and more and more judged by those around me.

But it didn’t happen. I walked into my campus dining hall on the first day of classes my freshman year, and then I immediately walked out.

There were so many pretty faces, and I wasn’t one of them.

I can’t tell you when things began to change, but I first noticed a change about two years ago. I was exhausted all the time: physically and mentally. Between the not being and the not eating, I was having a hard time. I didn’t wake up one day and decide to start eating. And I don’t know why I had the sudden change of mind. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide I was worth enough to eat. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide I was beautiful. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide my life was back in control, because it’s not. I don’t have my life controlled. At all.

Every day is still a battle: a battle to get out of bed, a battle to put food in my mouth, a battle to not hole myself up somewhere. But I try my best to do what I can to live. Life is not about surviving; it’s about thriving. I was barely surviving for so long, I want to thrive.

I’m trying to do just that. I still compare myself to others, but I have to not let it affect me: if I start to get anxious about the way I look, I’ll worry about eating. Skipping even one meal is super dangerous for people like me: Recovering Anorexics with a love-hate relationship with food.

I’m not sure how to end this story because it’s not quite over yet. It’s still a work in progress, but I’ve come farther than I ever thought I could. And that’s something to celebrate.

I never thought Anorexia would happen to me. Italians are genetically bred to love food, and I am no exception. However, my love of food was not strong enough to overcome my hatred for myself.

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The picture on the left is from the end of my freshman year of high school (age 14) when my eating disorder was at (one of) its worst. The picture on the right is from last year, end of junior year of college (age 19).

I may not be society’s idea of beautiful, but that’s not stopping my beauty from existing.

I’m definitely 5000x happier in the second picture than I am in the first picture. I choose happiness over being Anorexic.

There’s nothing strong about having an eating disorder. True strength is found in overcoming it.

(if you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, get help.)

Late Night Thoughts: I’ll Be Ok

The most common question I get is, “What you were wearing?” As if that makes a difference. I was in 8th grade, and my whole life I had been taught that, as a woman, I have to be careful what I wear because it could be distracting to boys.

I was wearing jeans and an extra-large hoodie if you must know.

The second most common question I am asked is, “what did you do to provoke him?” Nothing. Unless you count him asking me out and me saying, “no,” because he was a jerk who slammed my locker shut every day, who used to pull my hair because he liked the way it curled.

Now before you say, Boys will be boys, or, that’s how he shows you he likes you, let me tell you that I grew up hearing that if a guy is mean to you, he likes you.

“He’s pulling my hair.” He likes you.

“He stole my ball.” He likes you.

I took that to mean that if someone is mean to you, they must like you.

“He beat his wife for years.” He loved her too much.

“Why didn’t she leave?” She loved him too much.

For years, I was mean to my body: I cut myself open. I watched myself bleed. I starved myself. I belittled myself because I believed that in order to love my body, my being, I had to first be mean.

Meanness, I thought, was the way people showed love: Love is born out of hatred; Abuse is a symbol of love.

How messed up is that?

“Why did you do this to yourself?” I was trying to love myself.

“Why didn’t you leave?” Trust me, I tried. But something pulled me back.

You’ll be ok.

People like to believe that most sexual assaults and rapes are committed by strangers. However, that’s not the case. (Trust me, I’ve done the research. I know the statistics. 1 in 5. 1 in 7. I wrote a 12-page paper on the prevalence of rape in society and the way society treats the victims and the perpetrators. Sometimes, society doesn’t get it right).

I knew the guys who did this to me. I went to school with them. I saw them every day before and after until they dropped out. Win for me.

I graduated High School. They didn’t.

I am going to graduate from College soon. I’ve come a long way.

The things they called me, the things they told me, still echo in my ear.

Slut.

Bitch.

You’re asking for this.

You’ll never amount to anything.

Nobody will ever love you.

 

Maybe that’s true. Maybe it’s not.

But I love me. It’s taken me years to get to this point. It’s taken me years to realize how beautiful I am I have the advantage of knowing where I’ve been and can compare it to where I am now. And with all these facts laid out before me, how can I not love me?

There are days when I want to go back in time and say to my 13-year old self, It’s ok. You’ll be ok. It will get better. I want to take her by the hand and show her the people she’ll touch, the people she’ll meet, the lives she’ll change. I want to tell her the story of her 19-year old self going to Guatemala, sharing her testimony with a group of Junior High students, and leading a young Guatemalan teenager to Christ because of her story. I want to tell her about the hard days and the sad days and the in-between days. I want to remind her that one day the sun will come out, and she’ll feel better. I want to tell her that despite the cyclic nature of Depression, she can get through this.

I’ve learned life is beautiful, and I want her to remember this.

I want to tell her that one day she’ll learn about the power of words, how writing can change a life. When she discovers this, she will have found what she wants to do with her life.

I guess those guys must have been wrong about me then.

My 13- year old self would love me.

My current self loves me.

God loves me.

He’s the One who called me back that day.

You’ll be ok.

Some days I have to remind myself of this, especially on the days when the weight of the world is on my shoulders.

God loves me anyway, and I’ll be ok.

Survivor’s Paradigm

How do you define yourself is a question I have always had difficulty answering. To outsiders, it would be easy to define me this way: human, female, daughter, sister, friend. But from the inside, it’s not that easy.  It’s easier to define somebody when you don’t know their past, when you’re not inside their head, hearing their thoughts, walking their paths. It is a whole lot harder defining yourself when every thought you have is telling you that you’re not worth defining.

. . .

After I was sexually assaulted, I viewed myself differently. I looked in the mirror, and I saw somebody who was broken, impure, unworthy, unlovable, dirty, ugly. The mirror has never been my friend, but now it became my worst enemy.

It’s never easy to admit our struggles. So I didn’t admit that I hated absolutely everything about who I was. I didn’t admit that I was broken, self-harming, starving. I didn’t admit that I was so depressed I wanted to die. I didn’t admit that I tried.

I was scared.

I was scared of being defined by what happened to me. I didn’t want to be defined by an act done to me, the scars on my skin, the calories I deprived myself of. I didn’t want to be defined by my Mental Illness. I didn’t want to be defined by my own worst enemy: my thoughts and inner demons.

Sometimes, I’m still scared.

When I tell my story I’m scared that the first thing out of somebody’s mouth will be what were you wearing? Because what I was wearing has no bearing on how much my rape has affected me. I’m scared that the first things someone will tell me about my depression is just snap out of it. Because, oh, honey, I would if I could. But it’s not that easy. Depression is to the mind what cancer is to the body. It attacks, and it’s aggressive, and some people don’t make it out alive. But I’m lucky to have made it this far.

There’s a stigma in society about Mental Illness and Rape, and I tell my story anyway because I want people to know these things do not define me. They play a part of who I am, but I am so much more than what goes on in my head. I am so much more than an act committed against me.

Sometimes, I still have to remind myself of that fact. It’s like a broken record, playing the same stupid motivational tape on repeat: Your past does not define you. Your past does not define you. Your past does not define you. Repeat ad nauseum.

You see, I spent so long concerned with how society would define me, I forgot how God defines me. I looked in the mirror, and I saw a broken girl, unworthy of being loved. But when God looks at me, He sees a girl who is pure, clean, so worthy of being loved that He sent his Son so I could live.

I am the Daughter of the King, a Princess, an Inheritor of the Kingdom. My body is a Temple, but it was turned into a Den of rapists and demons. I tried to tear it down, and God built it back up. He turned my red back to white.

I’m learning how to see myself as God views me: whole, pure, worthy, lovable, clean, beautiful.

No longer broken, I’ve been glued together one piece of shattered glass at a time. Society would say I’m missing something, as a rape victim, I’m no longer as worthy as I once was.

I beg to differ.

My value is not determined by my past, by actions done to me, by actions done to myself.

I’m shifting the paradigm, shifting the mirror, shifting the way I view myself, but, boy, is it heavy.

I could turn around and face the other way, but sometimes my feet are glued to the floor. Depression does this.

And though my past does not define me, it does not mean it won’t affect me. Because it will. I will be fighting a battle against depression for probably the rest of my life.

Some days I’m winning; some days I can’t get out of bed. And that’s ok.

Because I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process.

I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I think I am.

I’ve learned to find joy in the little things because sometimes the little things are what get me through the day.

I’ve learned that healing is painful. It’s about burning yourself to the ground and starting over again. It’s about accepting where you’ve been and discovering where you want to go. It’s about accepting every part of yourself–flaws and all–rising out of the ashes, and making yourself new.

I’ve learned to thank God for every day I wake up because life is a gift, and who knows where I’ll be tomorrow.

How do you define yourself?

I don’t know.

I’m defining myself one day at a time: who I am today is different than who I will be tomorrow. All I can hope is that as time goes on, and as my finite line of time approaches zero, my definition will have reached its maximum height.

And if it doesn’t, at least I tried.

Therefore, no one can criticize me.

1 Year

Confession time: I almost didn’t graduate High School. It’s a fact, and I’m not proud of that. I almost didn’t graduate because I almost failed a class my Senior Year that was needed to graduate. It’s another fact, and I’m not proud of that.

But the “almost failing a class” was a symptom of a bigger problem, Anorexia, which was just a side effect of the underlying condition, Depression, with which I had been suffering for years. I’d like to attribute my depression to my sexual assault, but I think it’s always been a part of me (for more on that, you can click here). As for the Anorexia, that started in 9th grade, became more acute after I stopped cutting, and didn’t stop completely until last year, September 24, 2013, during the beginning of my sophomore year of college.

It started in 9th grade when I began to realize I wasn’t as pretty as other girls. It became more acute after I stopped self-harming because all the hate I felt toward myself had to find other channels of escaping. It came to a complete stop during my Sophomore Year of High School after the grip it had on me for years gradually began to weaken as I began to love myself again.

During my Senior Year of High School is when my eating disorder became just that: a disorder that caused order to become chaos. I’ve never dealt well with chaos. My life felt like it was spinning out of control, so I tried to control what I could. I could control the amount of food going into my mouth, and so I did. I meticulously counted calories. I started eating less and less and less. My schedule was perfect: I woke up too late to grab breakfast, so breakfast was usually a granola bar grabbed from the kitchen. I was taking too many classes to have a scheduled lunch, so I grabbed lunch (either snack bars from my locker or something from the cafeteria). The good I bought (which wasn’t much) was thrown away. The food I grabbed from my locker went back.

My locker became a storage facility for all the calories I didn’t feel worthy enough of eating; I gave it away to my friends who need it more than me.

I almost failed a class because I couldn’t concentrate. My body was demanding food, and I was depriving it. You couple my roaring stomach with the screaming in my head, I was miserable. So I let my grades slip. And I barely managed to graduate.

But I did.

I swore to myself that when I went to College, I’d do better. I’d eat. I’d have a clean slate. I would not worry about others judging when I ate. I would forget the fact that with every bite I put in my mouth, I’d feel less and less secure and more and more judge by those around me.

But it didn’t happen. I walked into my campus dining hall on the first day of classes my Freshman year, and then I immediately walked out. There were so many pretty faces, and I wasn’t one of them.
. . .
When I tell people I was anorexic, they find it hard to believe. Sometimes I find it hard to believe. I find it hard to believe that a year ago I was skipping meals like an atheist skips church. I didn’t need God. My God was my rumbling stomach, and I found comfort in the rumbly in my tummy (as Pooh Bear would say).

I stopped eating because I didn’t think I was beautiful enough. I would get up every day, and I would look in the mirror, hate what I saw, and would compensate by being someone I’m not. And it was physically and mentally exhausting. Between the not eating and the not being, I was having a really hard time.

I was fighting a Battle of Comparisons, and I couldn’t win. I was always not good enough, not pretty enough, not ‘insert adjective here’ enough.

And people don’t understand when I explain to them I wasn’t trying to die. I was trying to live. People don’t understand that my Depression and Anorexia weren’t about a lack of faith, because I had so much faith. Every day I had to get up and have faith in the floor to hold me up, have faith that I wouldn’t die if I put food in my mouth, and have faith in God to get me through the day alive.

I didn’t want to die. I wanted to live. But I didn’t know how to live in a body I hated so much. I felt like my life was spiraling out of control, and there was nothing I could do about it. So, I controlled the one thing I knew how: the amount of food I ate.

And every day it was a battle. Every day is a battle for people who struggle with anorexia. Your stomach is telling you to eat, but your mind is telling you, “Nah, bro. No good.” And how can you argue with that? You know what they say: Mind over matter. Or in this case: Mind over stomach growling. It’s finding the perfect balance between how much you want to eat and how much you’re willing to let yourself eat. It’s about taking one bite at a time until you hate yourself so much you can’t take another bite. And then it’s about repeating this action over and over.

It gets to the point where you have two options: either you die, or you get help.

I got help. I told my friends. They started holding me accountable, eating lunch with me, checking to make sure I ate, making sure I didn’t skip a meal.

And I don’t know when things began to change. I didn’t wake up one day and decide to start eating. And I don’t know why I had the sudden change of mind. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide I was worth enough to eat. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide I was beautiful. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide my life was back in control, because it’s not. I don’t have my life controlled. At all.

Every day is still a battle: a battle to get out of bed, a battle to put food in my mouth, a battle to not hole myself up in the library somewhere. But I try my best to do what I can to live. Life is not about surviving; it’s about thriving. I was barely surviving for so long, I want to thrive.

I was so focused on trying to be beautiful, I missed what was right in front of me. I am beautiful because of who I am. I am beautiful because of who I was. I am beautiful because God made me in his image.
. . .
I’m a Senior in College, and I’m experiencing the same feelings of terror and panic I did when I was a Senior in High School: the crippling fear of the future, the uncertainty about what lies ahead. Only this time, I’m a lot happier. I’m a lot healthier. And I still have my bad days, but I know where to find my strength to persevere.

It’s September 24, 2014. I haven’t skipped a meal in one year.

I’m a recovering Anorexic.

And I am beautiful.

Goodbye, Ana

December 23, 2011:

“Hello, yes. It’s Dr. — from the Pediatric ER. I have a 17 year old female with mild anorexia. She also has appendicitis.”

Wait, what? How did he know? I thought I hid it so well. I mean, he is a doctor. I hope he’s not judging me.

Anorexia.

For me, it started when I became so depressed I wanted to die. It started in 9th grade, and it didn’t end until college. It started when the cutting wasn’t enough to make my pain go away. And even when I decided to live, when I put down the razor for the last time, I didn’t start eating again.

It got worse.

August 2012:

I walked into the Dining Hall on the first day of my College Experience. I saw so many beautiful faces. I wasn’t one of them, so I walked out.

….

When I tell people I was anorexic, they find it hard to believe. Sometimes I find it hard to believe. I find it hard to believe that a year ago I was skipping meals like an atheist skips church. I didn’t need God. My God was my rumbling stomach, and I found comfort in the rumbly in my tummy (as Pooh Bear would say).

I stopped eating because I didn’t think I was beautiful enough. I would get up everyday, and I would look in the mirror, hate what I saw, and would compensate by being someone I’m not. And it was physically and mentally exhausting. Between the not eating and the not being, I was having a really hard time.

I was fighting a Battle of Comparisons, and I couldn’t win. I was always not good enough, not pretty enough, not ‘insert adjective here’ enough.

And people don’t understand when I explain to them I wasn’t trying to die. I was trying to live. But I didn’t know how to live in a body I hated so much. I felt like my life was spiraling out of control, and there was nothing I could do about it. So, I controlled the one thing I knew how: the amount of food I ate.

And everyday it was a battle. Everyday is a battle for people who struggle with anorexia. Your stomach is telling you to eat, but your mind is telling you, “Nah, bro. No good.” And how can you argue with that? You know what they say: Mind over matter. Or in this case: Mind over stomach growling. It’s finding the perfect balance between how much you want to eat and how much you’re willing to let yourself eat. It’s about taking one bite at a time until you hate yourself so much you can’t take another bite. And then it’s about repeating this action over and over.

It gets to the point where you have two options: either you die, or you get help.

I got help. I told my friends. They started holding me accountable, eating lunch with me, checking to make sure I ate, making sure I didn’t skip a meal.

And I don’t know when things began to change. I didn’t wake up one day and decide to start eating. And I don’t know why I had the sudden change of mind. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide I was worth enough to eat. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide I was beautiful. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide my life was back in control, because it’s not. I don’t have my life controlled. At all.

But I went to Guatemala, and suddenly my life began to change. I found God again, and for once in my life I knew what my purpose was and is.

I was so focused on trying to be beautiful, I missed what was right in front of me. I am beautiful because of who I am. I am beautiful because of who I was. I am beautiful because God made me in his image.

It’s March 24, 2014. I haven’t skipped a meal in 6 months.

I’m a recovering Anorexic.

And I am beautiful.

 

 

 

Game of Comparisons

Note: I wrote this piece in January, and I’ve wanted to share it so many times since then, but I’ve never found the courage. I’ve shared most of my story, but I haven’t shared all of it (except in hint form). And I believe that now is the time to share all of it, because over the last 6 months I have worked so hard to overcome this problem, and I’m pretty sure I have it beat.

Remember that this is a judgment free blog 🙂

 

Game of Comparisons

By, Kaleigh Distaffen

I have never been particularly fond of myself, and my self-esteem has always been relatively low. So, I believed too much, was too over trusting, and was too naïve to know any better. In other words, I believed what people told me I was, I trusted everybody was my friend, and was too naïve to know that I was worth more. It came as no surprise, therefore, when I was sexually assaulted that I believed everything those guys told me.

“You’re not pretty enough. You’re not good enough. You’re worth nothing.”

These words repeated over and over again in my head, never shutting up or slowing down. The Game of Comparisons started, and I lost every time.

She’s pretty; you’re not pretty enough. She’s skinny; you’re not skinny enough.

 Soon I became so full of self-hatred I was virtually incapable of feeling anything else. Every laugh, every smile, every tear was forced out. I felt dead—a human void of emotion is no human at all. In order to feel something, anything at all, I began to cut myself. And every time I cut myself open with the razor of hate, you’re worth nothing echoed in my mind. This routine continued day in and day out for six months. Eventually, cutting wasn’t enough anymore. So I stopped eating.

Well, ok. Technically, that’s not entirely true.

I stopped filling myself up. I started eating less and less, only eating enough to stop my stomach from rumbling. Sometimes, if I completely hated myself, I would skip a meal here and there. The cutting, not eating, and the voices continued for another year and a half. Until one day, I couldn’t take it anymore. I wanted to die.

And I almost did. But there was a quiet voice in the back of my head whispering, you are good enough. That tiny voice was enough to give me hope that things could get better.

Over time, I stopped cutting. But I didn’t start eating again. It got worse. The summer before Senior Year, I went two weeks without eating anything but a few crackers every day. Senior Year I didn’t eat lunch: Partly because I was taking too many classes to have a lunch period; mostly because I couldn’t stand the thought of people watching me putting food in my mouth.

If I didn’t like myself, how could I expect anybody else to like me enough to want me to eat?

Graduation came and went, and for the first time in a long time, I almost, kind of, maybe a little, liked myself. I started eating a little bit more than I had before, and was pretty much excited for college.

Until I went to college, that is. It’s funny. College is much like High School, at least my High School. There are the same groups of people—the popular kids, the athletes, the music nerds, the nerds. If I didn’t fit in before, how was I supposed to fit in now? At a College like Roberts, where the number of girls heavily outweighs the number of boys, I have found many more people to compare myself to.

When I walked into Garlock on the first day of classes, I was terrified by the number of people sitting there, talking amongst their groups. I saw many beautiful people. And I wasn’t one of them.

Sitting alone at a table the first day, I was overcome with feelings I hadn’t really felt in a few months. So, I retreated to the library; there among the books, I felt comfortable. Nobody cared how much food I ate, or didn’t eat. Nobody cared that I sat alone, procrastinating on important things, while scribbling away in my notebook.

But the Game of Comparisons continued, and I lost every round, even the ones I didn’t participate in. Only this time, it was different; the voice wasn’t saying “you’re not.” The voice was saying, “I’m not.”

I’m not good enough. I’m not pretty enough. I’m not skinny enough. I’m not ‘insert adjective here’ enough.

And trust me when I say that telling yourself you’re not good enough is a whole lot worse than having someone else tell you. It’s true, you know. You are your own worst critic.

Every day I would look in the mirror, hate what I saw, and would compensate by being someone I’m not. And it was physically and mentally exhausting. Between the not eating and the not being, I was having a really tough time.

But when you spend all your time in the library, among the books and the silence, you have a lot of time for soul searching. Towards the end of November, I was sitting quietly sitting at my table, trying to study when the quiet voice was back. Then, it hit me. I wanted to stand on my chair and tell the world, “I am having some major epiphanies going on up in here.” But, I didn’t. I was in a library, and shouting in the library is highly frowned upon.

So, I went in the bathroom and cried.

Three things hit me that day.

  1. I am capable of so much more. In the battle between Who I Think I Am and Who I Could Be, Who I think I am won every time, because that’s what I let get a hold of me. That’s what feed off my energy. It doesn’t have to be that way.
  2. We are all capable of doing something great. I am, you are, we are all. But, we all have something holding us back.

Every mirror tells me something different. I can tell myself that I’m beautiful over and over again, until I’m blue in the face, but there is an irrevocable flaw ingrained deep into the recesses of my brain that refuses to let me believe it. And even though deep in my soul I know I’m capable of greatness, there is something holding me back. And until I figure out what it is, until I figure out how to overcome it, I am destined to live in my own shadow.

I have figured out what mine is: fear and self-doubt.

3. I decided I shouldn’t spend so much time in the library, because it was making me all emotional (but that will never happen because I love books too much).

Even though I have figured this out, it’s still a struggle. I’m only ‘fine’ 20% of the time, which is good but not great. But it’s a whole heck of a lot better than 10%, which is how I felt before. There are still many days when I don’t want to eat (which is more than I’d like to admit).  Often times, I can eat a little bit every meal; but some days, I don’t like myself enough to force myself to eat (At the time that this post was written, that was the case. However, since I’m Italian, and therefore genetically bred to love food, I have decided that food is too delicious to not eat). 

Sometimes, when I’m sad, hate myself, and don’t want to eat, I look at the lines on my hands. They remind me that I have been stitched together by the master sew-er, and I’ve learned that sometimes, that is enough.

 

 

 

Related Posts:  “Accidental Inheritance”   “Your Body is Not Your Own”  “Testimony 2.0