National Eating Disorders Association

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Young Athlete with Bulimia

Hey everyone! I am currently at a residential treatment center for mood and anxiety and I just want to share my story of the eating disorder that has taken over my life. Feel free to share or reply with anything you feel comfortable with, or anything that you might relate to! I’m currently 18 years old and I have been struggling with my ED for a little over two and a half years. I have always struggled with self confidence, body image, depression, but one year it kind of took me to the point of starting to do unhealthy behaviors and it took over my life. About two years ago I was in a relationship with an athlete and being active was their life. Seeing them I always felt as if my body, my performance, or just what I looked like in general was not good enough. Subconsciously I thought that if I lost weight that is would be more likely that 1) I’d be good enough and 2) I’d feel better about myself. That’s when the target behaviors began, and it really took over my life. I was constantly thinking about food, counting every calorie, and restricting very extremely the day after I had had a target behavior incidence, or I would just do the target behavior every day multiple times a day. It was miserable. The person I was in a relationship with new nothing about my mental health or eating disorder, and for a while not a single person did so I just felt lonelier and lonelier and it got worse and worse. I thought losing weight would help but no matter how much weight I lost or what I looked like I was never happy. Being an athlete on top of all of this made it so much worse. Without getting any nutrients I made no progress with sports. I would be in the weight room 3-4 times a week for about two years, and I made no progress. With my ED it made progress practically impossible, and any time the weights did go up and I made any sort of progress, my ED got worse and I lost it all 20x faster than I made it. All my friends were lifting gettin bigger and stronger, and I was the only one who was lifting and getting weaker. Being a young male with the majority of my friends being talented athletes, it really didn’t help. I was embarrassed by my size, wether I thought I was big or small at the time, I was embarrassed by my performance, the weights I could lift, and pretty much everything. This was life, and it was only getting worse. I felt extremely depressed every day, guilty, and like a failure because I couldn’t control my eating habits. My girlfriend would make fun of me for not eating a lot and I would kind of just laugh itoff, but she had zero clue that the night before I had binged and purged significantly to the point where I didn’t want to even looks at food because I thought it would somehow make me gain weight. The day of my very first track meet I took off my shirt to change into a jersey and a couple guys told me “ you aren’t built for this sport” and I had a mom come up to me after words and say I was too skinny and I needed to eat food. I couldn’t win no matter what I did, and I still thought I needed to lose weight. I have a picture of me very thin and it was supposed to be the “ before” picture for a “ weight loss journey”. To me it was never the number on the scale even though seeing it go down helped, but I just was never happy with how I looked. The thought of my girlfriend having any affection towards me was impossible, just because I couldnt believe anyone else could love me just cause I don’t see any positives about myself. My last season of soccer was two years ago, last year was cancelled cause of Covid, and I am not able to participate this year because of my mental health. I feel like the ED has taken everything from me. I am still struggling, but I want to end this story with some positives. I am getting help. I am currently at a residential center and even though I still feel hopeless, it feels better just to be doing something about it. Eating disorders really suck, especially while you’re an athlete. No matter what age you are, gender, anything, just know you’re not alone. Asking for help isn’t easy, but I can say from experience that this is nearly impossible to do alone. Thanks for taking the time to read this, I hope everyone is taking a step towards recovery and making a change for the better.


I'm not sure if you meant this as a gift, but thanks for taking the time to post about your experience.
Even though we are supposed to know better, I think people still tend to believe that EDs are for women. But your reactions are almost exactly the same as what other ED sufferers go through.
The "good enough" thing, and the lure of self-discipline really can draw a person in, in ways that seem reasonable to begin with, but which can begin to assert control over a person in the opposite way that they expected it to.
Plus like you said, when getting bigger seems wrong, and getting smaller seems wrong too, things really can start to feel mentally disorienting, and it can become hard to put much faith in our thinking at all.
You didn't mention if you were residential voluntarily, but just to say, the fact that you could list some potential positives, that's a good sign I think, even if things still feel hopeless at times.
Also, I hope you find that you are willing to take some risks while you are there. I'm suspect you know what I mean, in that a person can be asked to do things that simply don't feel right at all, so being able to take risks, and being willing to believe that they might actually help move things forward, no matter how wrong they may feel at the time…if you find that you can take those risks, even if at the time it may feel like you are losing control instead of gaining it. If you find yourself willing to experiment in those ways, despite what those ED thought patterns may be trying to tell you, then that may be a positive sign too.
Whatever the case, if you feel like writing some more, I hope that you will. The whole recovery thing, it's like a mental journey I think, and like explorers of old, we can't always be sure where we are, but being able to keep walking forward, in spite of our doubts, that really is a lot of it I think.