Anorexia Athletica (noun): A disorder where the sufferer expresses their concern with body weight in the form of an exercise obsession and excess calorie restriction.
I can still, to this day, remember the exact moment my eating disorder started. It was in November of 2011. One of my good friends could not stop ranting and raving about this must have website we now like to call Pinterest. As you all may know, if you take a peek at the fitness section, you will be flooded with images of ideal bodies, faulty diet plans and unfortunate standards of beauty. Late one evening, I finally created a Pinterest account of my own. The first pins I was consumed with were nothing short of perfect bodies, flawless women and what I now actually see as faulty images and expectations. However, before I realized how unrealistic the images were made out to be, I didn’t know any better and began a journey into one of the darkest times of my life.
My obsession with the images I found of size 00 women who had visible collar bones, thigh gaps and hip bones were seen in my eyes as the only standard of perfection. They were perfectly gorgeous and absolutely beautiful in my eyes, therefore I began to plaster these pictures all over my bulletin boards and mirrors. Little did I know, these images were consuming my mind and fueling my eating disorder more and more every day.
There is was; the scale. For one of the first times in a year, I stepped on and learned that my body shed 30 pounds in the span of about two months. This weight was nothing I needed to lose and for that matter, could not afford to lose. This is when my life took a turn for what would soon be the hardest and most heartbreaking part of my entire journey. I started my journey at roughly 158 pounds. I previously lost 10 pounds without putting forth hardly any effort. This being said, I then thought to myself, “I wonder how far I could go if I really tried?” When I first started, I would weigh myself anywhere from once or twice a week.
Slowly but surely, the routine became more frequent and three weeks in, I found myself stepping on the scale two to three times a day. It was easy hiding my obsession seeing as my bedroom was upstairs. Some nights, after dinner, I would step on the scale and notice my weight increased by 2 or 3 pounds. I was immediately overwhelmed with the feeling of having to burn it off, so I ran. And by this I don’t mean a light evening jog. I mean running until there was nothing left of me. It was almost routine that I would make the drive to our high school track at 9 o’ clock and not leave until 11 o’ clock, or later. My workouts consisted of running laps, doing bleachers, bear crawls, plyometrics and circuit training. I was never satisfied until I wa completely exhausted, my calories were spent and I could see my abs. Basically, I did anything and everything I could think off until I thought my dinner was earned and burned.
My skinny obsession grew as I started to become unsatisfied with the fact that I couldn’t see my hip bones and didn’t have thigh gap. It triggered me to start training even harder and restrict my calories even more. By this point, I was taking in roughly 1,000 calories a day and working out 2 to 3 hours a day. I can even recall a man coming up to me late one night at the track and asking if I was “training for an event,” because I was always training. I became addicted to the feeling; the feeling of flats abs, protruding hip bones and having a thigh gap.
In the beginning of 2012, I vaguely remember going shopping and trying on a size 2 pair ofjeans. (Keep in mind the average American woman is a size 8). To me, size 2 just wouldn’t cut itand was nowhere close to good enough. You can only imagine this instance drove me to traineven harder and cut calories even more. Within a couple of weeks, I managed to fit into a size 0, and at one point I could even fit into a size 00. To me, that was my happiness and what mademe feel whole. I was finally like the women on the internet and nothing could possibly make meanymore satisfied.
However, what I failed to realize was the people who loved and cared for me were watching me dwindle away. What I was doing was completely normal to me and the only logical way to lose weight. To the closest people to me though, it was seen as harmful and essentially blinding me to a healthy reality. My calorie restriction became overwhelming as I was at war with myself anytime food was around. Every single minute calorie put in my mouth was tracked to the very ounce. At restaurants, I only allowed myself to healthy options such as salads and their “under 300 calorie” options.
Around the same time, I discovered the beauty behind not feeling full when I consumed meal replacement shakes, soups, salads and low calorie foods such as fruit and vegetables. I especially focused on drinking protein shakes and fruit smoothies because they never gave me that “full feeling.” Anything under 100 calories was considered edible in my eyes and deemed as satisfying to my aesthetic goals. At this point and time in my journey, I was lucky to reach 800- 900 calories a day.
I remember forcing my body through 30 minute ab workouts if I ate food late at night. Several times I would actually cry myself to sleep if I even touched food a few hours before bed. Even if my body felt starved and my stomach was growling, I would force myself to sleep it off. Most nights I thought I would actually get sick. Yet I still refused to eat. Part of the motivation behind my actions was spring break (I’m sure many of you can relate). My boyfriend and I planned a trip to the coast with several of our friends, and the fact that I would be seen in a bikini a majority of the time terrified me. Keep in mind I was basically skin and bones, at this point, yet still not considering myself thin enough. Those few weeks before spring break I pushed my body to extremes, and to this day I will never be able to do again.
One night, about a week before we left, I came home from work late one night and my mom had dinner ready for me. Naturally I turned down her offer and told her I ate at work, which I hadn’t. I walked upstairs to my bedroom and forced my body through an hour of Insanity. I didn’t even factor in the 5 miles I ran that morning or that I was already utterly exhausted from work. It didn’t matter because I still thought I was fat in my bikini.
The closer spring break got, the more I tried on my bikini. I would stand in front of the mirror with it on anywhere from 4 to 5 times daily. I would pinch and fold my skin until I convinced myself that I still had weight to losethat I still had room for more beauty. I would stand in front of that mirror every day and pick out each and every flaw until I had enough motivation to get another workout in, or until I no longer felt my hunger. The worst part? Even if I felt skinny, it still wasn’t good enough. It was sickening, and completely depressing. By this point, I was weighing in around 119 pounds and standing at 5’ 9”. Eating out became a nightmare and water became my best friend.
Soon enough, it felt natural to be lethargic, exhausted and nauseous throughout the day. I was sleeping more than I ever had and my hair started falling out in the shower. My routine became waking up, running and falling back asleep. When I showered, my hair fell out in clumps which is absolutely heartbreaking to any woman. I knew exactly why this was happening, but had no desire to fix it. My hair extensions went in everyday to avoid looking unhealthy. Soon enough though, my parents picked up on my dangerous patterns and began to make remarks. They didn’t phase me though and of course I blew them off. Then my friends noticed, and soon more and more people became aware of it. I got picked on and questioned every time I said “I’ll pass”when offered food. My excuses were anywhere from, “I just ate” to “I don’t feel good.” Eventually the excuses became extreme and they were slowly called out as issues, yet I was still in a state of denial. An eating disorder couldn’t possibly happen to me.
To this day, I will never forget driving home one night and asking myself the most heartbreaking question a person could possibly put upon themselves. “I wonder who would noticed if something ever happened to me and I was no longer here?” And there you have it, rock bottom. The words “no longer here” resonated in my mind for a good while and, by the grace of God, I finally came to realize I needed help. The last episode I had was in March of 2012. I still weighed 119 which is considered dangerous for a 5’ 9” woman. I came home one night to yet another plate of food waiting for me, and once again I pushed it aside and went straight to my room. Soon after my mom called me downstairs so she could talk to me. I sat down across the couch from her and she handed me two information sheets over “Anorexia” and “Anorexia Athletica.”
At first I was appalled, angry and completely in denial that my unhealthy motives could be considered an eating disorder. I yelled and screamed at her, cried and continued to deny everything she was telling me. God bless that mother intuition because she saw right through me and it changed everything. She gave me the ultimatum to get better on my own, or get help. I made a sad attempt at trying to fix myself for a few months, because for one, I cannot stand the thought of someone telling me what to do. Stubbornness and strong will is deeply rooted in my genes, so I was determined to make things right on my own. By the grace of God, and completely out of the blue, I got offered a job at the top gym in our area. I believe it was solely God’s doing and His passage to freedom from my eating disorder. I had never even set foot in the gym, yet somehow I was asked to work there. I still find it hard to understand how that was possible, but God made it possible. I was hired on the spot, and soon enough I was introduced to weight training. It wasn’t three months later until I started to consider the idea of competing in my first bikini competition. I sat down with my coach and little did I know this would entirely change my life around.
Training saved my life. It has, and still does, teach me that I can make my body into anything that I want it to be, through healthy, realistic and practical means. I don’t have to starve myself to have abs and I don’t have to run mile after mile everyday to maintain my leanness. I have found who God created me to be through transforming myself physically and more importantly, spiritually.
Overcoming my eating disorder, in general, was the hardest mountain I have ever had to face. Mentally overcoming the thought that I was never thin enough tore me apart and pieced me back together all in one. An eating disorder is not something that will ever completely go away, seeing as I still struggle with how I see myself to this day. I believe it is a deeply rooted mindset woman face almost everyday of their lives, but you have to decide to be bigger than it. I have learned what triggers my worst days, and can now even prevent them from happening.
The one aspect I have learned is the more you learn to love yourself, the easier everything becomes. You will never be perfect and quite frankly, no one ever will be. The unhealthy mentality becomes healthy, the mirror starts to look beautiful again and you start to love yourself for everything you are made of: perfect imperfections and flawless flaws. Yes, I still have some bad days where I can simply look at my boyfriend with tears in my eyes and he knows exactly what it’s about. I am hard on myself and, quite frankly, always will be. Even with competing and winning my pro card, I still face battles regularly. My strength and freedom is in God’s hands now, as He broke the chains that essentially took the life out of me. Everyday I look down at the tattoo on my foot and am reminded, “For He will free my feet from the enemies net.”