I’ve been meaning to write about National Eating Disorder Awareness Week for a few days, but I wasn’t sure what exactly to say.
Like many women, I’ve suffered from an eating disorder. Mine wasn’t severe enough to require hospitalization, and I overcame it without therapy, but disorders come in many shapes, sizes and type, and I’ve definitely experienced one.
I never worried too much about my weight in high school. Thanks to swimming, I could eat whatever I wanted. I wasn’t the healthiest of eaters, but I wasn’t overweight by any means. And then I went off to college and UGA’s famous dining halls and gained a little weight. Again, nothing earth-shattering, but that, combined with the fact that I made very few friends my freshman year, made for a pretty bad situation.
And so, I exercised. I went to the gym and ellipticalled, biked and stairmastered those pounds away. I probably lost 25 pounds over the course of four months. When you turn down social invitations because they interfere with your work-outs and survive on cereal and fruit, it’s a disorder. The cycle continued for the next three-and-a-half years, although I was never as obsessive as that first semester.
I was discussing body issues with a friend recently, and I could honestly say that, for the first time ever, I am perfectly happy with my body now. I rarely, if ever, eat processed foods and I eat very little meat. I do yoga three to seven times a week. I’m strong. I have no problem with the way I look.
And if I want a piece of cake for someone’s birthday at work, I’m going to eat a damn piece of cake.
I know what it’s like for people to say, “oh you look so skinny!” and then not eat the rest of the day to stay “skinny.” I know what it’s like to look in the mirror and just see love handles and thighs that touch instead of gorgeous eyes and beautiful curves. I know what it’s like to eat sugar-free Jell-O and Lean Cuisines. It sucks.
I know what it’s like to be so preoccupied with the scale that you eat Rice Cakes for dinner. I’ve used the excuse, “I just didn’t eat enough for dinner!” when I got drunk too easily. I’ve had my entire self-image hang in the balance of a stupid number on a stupid scale. It’s insane.
I’m a big believer that everyone can choose to be happy. Sure, we all have bad things happen to us and negative thoughts, but we can’t dwell on them. Eating disorders definitely qualify as “dwelling on negative thoughts.” If you treat your body well, you won’t have to be preoccupied with the number on the scale. It’s a stupid man-made measurement, not an actual representation of us.
I wish every woman — and man, for that matter — could look in the mirror and love what they see. I wish we could appreciate our bodies for how strong they are and what they can do, instead of what they can’t. Life’s too short to be monitoring every single bite we eat.