National Eating Disorders Association
Blog

I remember the magic of my first cross-country season back in 7th grade. I remember how running felt more like playing. How I literally laughed as I ran, because I was having so much fun. How races were adventures between me and my teammates. 

I remember so clearly, because this free-spirited joy in running now feels elusive. In high school, the pressure to perform in order to get recognized by college coaches is high. Once in college, the competition is fierce, sometimes even amongst teammates. Perhaps most insidious is the underlying belief that thin = fast.

A best friend is always there for you. They will make you laugh until you cry, support you through late nights of studying and working, motivate you to not give up, and they’ll come running to your side no matter the time of day. They allow you to let your true colors shine with no shame or judgment. A best friend is your other half; they complete you. 

Perfectionism is often a trait of many folks who are in recovery from eating disorders, including me. My childhood traumas left me feeling flawed, inherently bad, and not good enough for anyone. I believed that if I was a “good girl” and excelled at all things, my life would be better. 

​I didn't always hate my body.

I remember running barefoot in the soft, freshly mowed grass as a little girl, chasing after fireflies. I remember digging through dirt to pull out weeds in the garden, and planting my mom’s favorite flowers. I remember hiking through the woods behind my house, imagining I was moving among fairies, until it was dinner time.

My body was a vessel for excitement and joy.

During the safety demonstration on airplanes, the flight attendants always remind passengers flying with children to apply their own oxygen mask before they place one on their child. Why? You need to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. Being a caregiver for an individual with an eating disorder is not always an easy task. Your primary goal is to look after that person and provide them with an infinite amount of care, love, and support. It’s important to remember that caregivers also need support and to practice self-care.

Knowing the right thing to do or say is not always easy, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to navigating eating disorders. In fact, the “right thing” to say one day may be the “wrong thing” to say the next. It is a challenge both for the individual battling an eating disorder and their support system. 

For some, this may come as a surprise, but for the majority of my teen years, I was consumed by an eating disorder. It has been difficult for me to speak about it openly because I kept it a secret for so long. 

There have been many moments in my life when I have questioned if I am lovable. My belief about what being lovable looked like began when I was a toddler and realized I'd much rather play with the boys than be around the girls. As we aged together I began to feel rejected as some of the boys uttered, “You can’t play with us. You’re a girl!” The words, “You’re a girl” would be repeated by many others as I grew into my young adult years. Each time was another blow to my gut, knocking the wind out of my body and leaving me feeling lost, broken, and unaccepted.

There is enormous cultural pressure to have our bodies look and feel the same after pregnancy and childbirth. These narratives about “getting your body back” are presented as a focus on health, but there is nothing healthy about the expectation that your body will be unchanged by birthing a baby. This version of what it means to be healthy is fueled by a diet industry that encourages self-hatred in order to capitalize off of body modification and a health industry that promotes fat phobia rather than emphasizing access to health at every size. 

Everyone faces obstacles. No matter who you are, what you look like, or where you live, we all face road blocks while moving forward in life. Some of us get through them very easily while others struggle through each one, hanging on by the smallest of tree limbs. Most of us have one thing that has really affected our life. For me, that one thing was my eating disorder.

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