This post is long overdo, since my story is the main motivation behind this blog. I share my story openly because I want you to know who I am and the work that God has done in me through my story. I also want to encourage others who are going through an eating disorder or recovery. There is hope! Life free from an eating disorder is incredibly abundant!
Disclaimer: If you are going through an eating disorder or are in the early stages of treatment, this post may be triggering for you. If you are struggling with body image or eating, please do seek professional help.
My story begins when I was in fifth grade. There were many other things in the years leading up to my eating disorder, but fifth grade was a significant time for me. I was self-conscious of my body – it was on the chubbier side, and I was going through the beginning stages of puberty. I was never athletic and was a very sensitive, shy little girl. During fifth grade, I experienced a lot of emotions (puberty hormones I’m sure) and feeling out-of-control. I remember being extremely distraught about how my body looked and at times crying because I felt as I had no control over it. I imagined that I would always be this way, and I would never marry or be anything important because of it.
Finally, the summer after fifth grade I took action. I decided to become “healthy”. Looking back now, I know this is a common route to an eating disorder – trying to lose a little weight, gain control, or become “healthier.” I discovered calories and started limiting those and my fat intake. I don’t remember everything I did, but before I knew it, it was out of control. By the beginning of 6th grade, I had lost over 30 pounds (in less than 3 months). I was exercising obsessively, skipping meals that I could, and eating only the bare minimum. While I was at my lowest weight ever, I still saw a chubby girl in the mirror. My eating disorder skewed how I saw myself and compounded my fears of gaining weight. I was completely blind to the fact that I had an eating disorder.
Later that fall, my parents stepped in to help. At that point, I outright refused to eat many foods because I was afraid I’d gain weight or lose control. I thrived off the feeling of being hungry because it made me feel disciplined and in control. Living in Moscow, we didn’t have access to treatment centers or American therapists and dietitians, so my parents helped as best they could. I started eating 3 meals a day plus snacks, and regained a little weight, but I was still enslaved to my eating disorder.
Over the next seven years, I maintained the appearance that everything was okay. I ate meals and snacks, exercised a “reasonable” amount, and wasn’t dangerously thin, however my eating disorder still controlled me. I was terrified of gaining weight, and did everything in my power to control it through food and exercise rules. Looking back on the rules now, they seem ridiculous, but at the time they were very real. Rules about how much and what foods I could eat plagued me. I would avoid social situations because I didn’t know how to handle food. I made excuses about why I wasn’t eating “xyz” because I wasn’t hungry or I didn’t like that food. Exercise also controlled me. Regardless of the day or how I felt, I had to exercise a certain amount of time every day, and only certain types of exercise counted.
For years I lived in bondage to food, weight, and exercise. They were constantly on my mind, keeping me from enjoying life in the moment. My relationships suffered because I was shy and so preoccupied with my weight. I became so self-conscious about everything I did, and I wanted to be the best at everything.
The funny thing is that even though I was at my lowest weight, it was never enough. I constantly felt that I had to do better – be healthier, more fit, and skinnier. I felt extreme guilt for eating and had extremely low body image. I was terribly unhappy, but wasn’t willing to change. My mother was a constant support at this time. I confided with her my fears and unhappiness. I wanted to be free, but was so afraid that if I let myself eat what I wanted I would be out of control.
During late high school, I went through a period of rejecting God. This was probably in part due to teenage rebellion, but also deep inside me, I knew that if I let God in I would have to let go of my eating disorder. I was not ready to let go yet. This was one of the darkest times of my life. I literally felt the distance from God. Finally, I did turn back to God because I could not stand the distance. Nothing dramatic changed with my eating disorder at this point, but it was the beginning of change.
To be continued…