For years, I have been wanting to figure out the best way to share my story and the story of so many other women and men, but I haven’t quite figured out the right way to do it. So here’s just me giving it a shot:
Did you know that roughly 90% of women in the United States are unhappy with their bodies in some way (according to DoSomething.org)? I bet if you ask females their feelings about their bodies, most of them will say that they are unhappy with some aspect of their physical appearance. This ideal image that people have ingrained in their minds is often affected by family, friends, social pressure and the media. Now, let me make sure to mention that I am not discouraging setting personal fitness and body goals. In fact, I believe that having role models and personal fitness goals are extremely healthy and should be more followed in society. I personally look up to several women including Katya Elise Henry, Jessica Arevalo, Linn Lowes, and more. However, when having this pressure and obsession about the perfection of your body over your happiness, it is not ideal and is unfortunately all too common today. Whatever the extent of the unhappiness, whether that leads to general discomfort, self-confidence issues, or even severe health problems including eating disorders, it is an issue that I feel strongly about and believe should be discussed.
Earlier this morning, I watched “To The Bone” on Netflix, a 2017 short film starring Lily Collins that tells the story of a young woman with anorexia. This film, I believe, gave a decently accurate look into the distortion that goes on within a young woman’s mind when struggling with an eating disorder. Now, I wish to be a voice for everyone, but I can only speak on behalf of what I experienced. So here’s a short, fast-forward version of my story a few years ago.
Several years ago, I had a severe eating disorder. I want to preface that the reason I am posting this is not so I can show you my personal progress, but rather to use media as a platform for awareness.
I grew up ice skating, training day in and day out until freshman year of college. At the peak of my competitive ice skating career, I was an impressionable fifteen-year-old, mislead in nutrition, and obsessed with competitive progress. I dropped from a muscular, lean and healthy 130lbs to a frail 90lbs in a short few months. I lost everything I had worked so hard for.
I was abused by my own mind.
Now, having an eating disorder doesn’t necessarily mean, I overexercised or threw up what I ate. I had Anorexia nervosa, which by definition is “a physical and emotional illness where an abnormal fear of being fat leads to unhealthy behaviors”. Every day, I was consumed by the voice inside my head that was constantly telling me, “you’re fat”. When my eating disorder was spiked, I was criticized for what I was doing, when I wasn’t even aware I had a problem. I was seen as worthless and weak. I was told by others that I was a problem, not a person. I was looked down upon, felt bad for, and completely misunderstood. I went from being a role model to those I skated with, to something (not someone) that some skating parents would say shouldn’t be seen in public.
You may think I’m being dramatic, but this is what my every day looked like.
But what you may not know is that Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder (NMHI). It’s also the only disease that discourages those who’ve recovered from aiding others in treatment facilities. Telling someone with an eating disorder to just let it go, is like telling someone with a broken leg to just walk it off. But the hardest part of recovery is when you are in a constant battle with yourself, and you’re unsure that you want to recover. Your mind is distorted.
In the film, the director does a tremendous job in showing the need for control that is uncontrollable, the obsession, and the distortion that the main character goes through. There often isn’t one specific cause for this type of behavior and therefore it isn’t easy to target and overcome. But this film, offers a look into the constant daily battle that your mind and body go through. It is complex to understand how something that seems so simple that people do at least three times a day can be so difficult for someone. The film does a great job in showing how not only a person’s body is tarnished, but how it affects their mental and emotional state, as well as their self-esteem and confidence for the rest of their lives.
Never again, will I let myself stand at the fridge, crying because I have to eat one brand of yogurt over another. Never again, do I want to weigh in every night to make sure I don’t drop under a certain weight or be sent to an institution. Never again will I find myself make sure that my arm is never bigger than what my hand can hold. I will never let this obsession of looking a certain way be more than my life.
What I realized recovery is, is ignoring the pressure to be perfect. Recovery is finding the fight within you that realizes there is more to you than your body. I am nowhere near perfect, but I am happy with myself, some days more than others. I’m just lucky that I had the strength and support to recover, not everyone does. I only now have the confidence to share my story over five years later.
*Note: I debated posting pictures from back then when my eating disorder was spiked and I was at my lowest point, but for this post, at least now, I’ve decided not to share them. If you or someone you know is going through something like this, please contact me and I would be more than happy to personally speak with you.