When does a healthy lifestyle stretch a little too far? ++ what exactly does that look like? It’s not easy to tell when healthy habits cross over the line + start to become harmful ++ that gray area looks a bit different for every person. One of our Kent State CHAARG girl’s, Monica, shares her story on realize discovering when her habits had crossed over into the territory of an Eating Disorder ++ how she found help…
“Saturday morning became the most nerve racking, dreaded moment of my entire week, every single week. The anxiety would wake me up early, as I anticipated what was to come. My heart would actually start to race as I made my way to the bathroom. I pulled out the scale like did each weekend + held my breath, waiting for the number to show a conclusive measure of how much I weighed, to dictate to me my mood for the rest the day. I denied it until I was blue in the face, but I was a slave to the scale. That was my life for almost a year + a half. What started off as an innocent attempt to drop a few pounds suddenly morphed into a full fledge eating disorder without me even realizing. I knew I was out of control, but oddly enough, at the same time, I had this overwhelming desire to be thinner. + thats that anorexia does: it consumes you until you cant separate your own thoughts from the little lies it whispers in your head.
My downward spiral happened both slowly + in the blink of an eye. In January of 2013, once I made the decision to improve my diet + add in more exercise, I never faltered. I never hit a plateau, or took a step back. I was fully committed. Initially, this “lifestyle change” began the same way as every attempt of mine to lose weight in the past: simply by cutting back calories. At this point, I remember joking to myself that this whole thing would be easier if I was anorexic. However, this time, I was REALLY in it for the long haul, so I realized I needed to make drastic adjustments on the quality of my calories, not just limiting the amount. So at the age of 17, a girl who had never even touched a vegetable finally gave in. + little by little I tried new things + even grew to like them. That’s the one positive thing that came out of this experience: my love of healthy foods.
Like I said, I never hit a plateau. The number on the scale dropped every week + it made me so proud of myself. People began to notice + for a little bit, I felt good. I didnt care that I wouldn’t allow myself a treat once in a while, or that eating out was something that was unheard of. I had a goal, + I was going to reach it no matter what. In four months, I had dropped 12 pounds, which eventually turned into 17.
My “goal” ended up turning into me not being happy with myself. I had this never ending, unattainable quest to always look better. There wasn’t even a goal anymore, I had no clue what it was that I was chasing. No destination, no prize, nothing. I constantly compared myself to other girls. What they looked like, what they ate, how much they worked out. It was maddening. But I had hidden my struggle so well under the facade of a “healthy lifestyle”, never skipping meals or starving myself, that no one questioned my behaviors. In fact, they praised me for my dedication.
People would say to me “I wish I was as skinny as you!” + all I could do was smile politely + think: no, you really don’t. Certain foods became off limits. I meticulously planned out every meal for the week, strategically tapering off calories towards weigh in day. Food had rules. I only could eat at certain times of the day, + couldn’t eat the same thing two days in a row. Occasionally I would spit food out when people weren’t looking. I worked out at least 5 days a week; mostly cardio. Eating at restaurants could drive me to tears or trigger anxiety attacks. Gradually, I pushed people away + isolated myself; becoming very introverted. I was constantly cold + perpetually tired. I would beat myself up if I thought I “ate too much”. The body checking was constant, it was the first thing I did in the morning, + it controlled my mood. In my fits of rage + disgust, I’d even go as far as punching myself in the stomach. All the while I would sit in my room + cry to my parents about how I was fat. I couldn’t see the damage I was doing to my body. I was miserable, but nothing else mattered other than staying skinny.
My parents were concerned. They could see how thin I was getting + they noticed my obsession. When I dropped to around 102 pounds, I stopped denying my problem + decided to get help. Stepping into my therapist’s office for the first time in February of 2014, I naively thought this would be a one-and-done visit. Oh how wrong I was. She assessed our conversation + the papers that I filled out about myself before my session. This was the first time that the words “eating disorder” came out of her mouth + even worse, they were directed towards me. She said it so casually + continued talking to my parents, but I was immobilized. My heart sank, I got chills, my stomach tied in a knot. All I remember is that I kept thinking ‘How did I end up here? How did I let this happen to me?’.
Recovery was hard, way harder than I expected. Once an eating disorder has poisoned all your thoughts, its tough to think of things in the way you used to. No, you can’t “just eat”. It’s way more complicated than that. I’ll probably deal with the after math of my disease for a long time. Brandy (my therapist) saw right through all my tricks + called me on all my crap. She pushed me despite how much I resisted, + I’ll thank her forever for that. My parents stuck with me during my recovery so well that Ill never be able to repay them. They were my biggest supporters through everything + they’ll never know how much I love them for putting up with me through this.
It took a while, but eventually, one by one, the rules + stigma that surrounded food melted away. The part that was the hardest to fix was my body image. I was so used to seeing myself as 99 pounds + emaciated that any weight that I put on seemed like a big flashing sign to me. I was worried people would notice + comment on how I was getting fat. I was terrified of gaining back the 30 pound I worked so hard to lose. Being skinny was what I was finally good at. Because, after all, my weight loss became my identity. But I was always reminded– I wasn’t a walking eating disorder.
That girl that used to loathe Saturday mornings doesn’t exist anymore. Im not saying I don’t still struggle, but my good days far outweigh the bad. The whole experience has made me stronger. During recovery, I found a balance. I began to understand what loving your body for what it can do is a powerful thing, + you should workout + eat right because you LOVE your body, not because you hate it. I refuse to weigh myself + be a prisoner to that number, I’d rather focus on what my body can DO rather than what it looks like. Life happens. + its so much more enjoyable when you’re able to let go + eat that ice cream cone. Above all, Im learning to be happy with myself the way I am, + not care what other people think. There are so many more things to life other than being thin. I cant stress that enough. The size of your body says nothing about the size of your heart, + being happy with the life you live is the most important thing of all. By learning to accept my body, I’ve realized that the eating disorder’s voice has no power anymore. Im free to be + to do whatever I want. + I choose to love myself.
I am #inCHAARG because I am strong, confident, + learning to love myself more + more each day! I love the support system that the CHAARG community has to offer. It makes me so happy to so other women reaching their goals + going after what they want in life, + I appreciate the support I get back from our CHAARG family. It has shown me that nothing is impossible.”
“YOU CAN’T HATE YOURSELF INTO SOMEONE YOU LOVE.”
#CHAARGJourney highlights our members’ amazing journeys through CHAARG — physically, mentally, emotionally. Continue to follow Monica’s CHAARG Journey on instagram — @mw_inchaarg ++ join Kent State University CHAARG here: Kent CHAARG Membership.