Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Battle With Eating Disorders

This is a lengthy post. I mentioned in my previous post about not counting calories that I would write a detailed story on my eating disorder... here it is.
Feel free to skip this post if you find it triggering, boring, or just not something you're interested in.

Looking back, it is difficult to piece together the parts of this story. Half of me feels this is because the story is so complex- yet maybe it is because I have suppressed these thoughts and emotions. In any case, I will try my best to detail the tale in chronological order.

I was not health conscious growing up. School lunches were sandwiches, packaged chips and cakes. My favorite thing that I looked forward to was getting to buy my lunch on Fridays and get a popular school dessert- two cookies with a giant icing blob in between.

Me in 6th grade vs. me a few months ago, when I first started lifting. 

I admit, I ate better than most. My parents did not rely on frozen meals and we didnt eat out often. I did not obsess over sweets and soda wasn't a big deal (that is, until 4th or 5th grade came around and my mother and I discovered Sonic happy hour. Enter a daily 44oz coke and an extra 10lbs.)

While I never felt "fat", I remember being 9 or 10 and always "checking" myself in the mirror at school, looking at my side view and not liking my reflection. It wasn't until 6th-7th grade that I decided to take action and control my weight.

I began to use workouts from YouTube and magazines a few times a week. Exercise made me feel great and accomplished! No one in my family is very athletic, so my parents were doubtful I would stay with it. However, after they saw my commitment, they were very proud.

I read so many magazines with vague (and false) information regarding food and weight loss. Calories slowly became something I was aware of, and I very loosely watched what I ate.

Now here is when things become fuzzy. I remember stepping on the scale for fun, and seeing I had lost 12lbs. I think it was shortly after that when I really became passionate to lose weight.

At this time, my parents had yet to divorce. I was still in my own house, and already cut out red meat in 4th grade due to my sensitive stomach. I started to monitor what I ate, buying stupid "100 calorie packs" and special cereals. I worked out way too much and probably didn't eat enough, and my period had stopped.

Camping NOW vs THEN. I have curves people!! Get over it. The bottom picture was from a post I wrote last summer. Way too thin.

Things got really bad for me with my eating disorder once my mom left my dad (we went with her) and we were living with my aunt and cousins for nearly 6 months. My wonderful, tall, lean, beautiful cousin- whom gets compliments on her tiny waist, height, great curves and bright eyes EVERYWHERE she goes- was with me 24/7. I LOVE my cousin. But I also was (and still am) jealous of her great genetics. It was so hard for me to A) Already be under stress from my parents situation B) Have tons of school work and C) Be around someone who was taller, leaner, and (I thought) prettier than me although she didnt workout or care what she ate.

(DISCLAIMER: My eating disorder was NOT caused by my cousin, my parents or their divorce. It was my own, personal issues.)

This time was filled with lots of fake food, accompanied with exercise as compensation for eating. Not to mention binging on things like Nutella, cereal and birthday cake. My relationship with food was ruined. I associated food with being ugly, stressed and depressed.

After moving back into my house, I educated myself on the topic of "clean eating." I significantly improved the quality of my diet, but my broken relationship with food prevented me from really understanding the "clean" concept. Soon, I developed orthorexia. Divorce stress, school difficulties and personal insecurities- all paired with a very restrictive eating pattern- caused my weight (and health) to plummet.

Me at near my lowest weight. Smiling on the outside, dying on the inside. 

Going into my freshman year of highschool, I was nearly 90lbs (keep in mind I am 5' 5.5") My period was long gone, and had been for around 2.5 years. My hair was falling out, I wore two jackets because I was FREEZING all the time, I had zero energy and I was always moody.

I had been going to the doctor at least once a month, getting blood tests and asking why I was having awful stomach pains. My doctor finally told me she was sending me to the hospital... she was tired of seeing my weight drop with each checkup. I begged for one last chance to gain weight, and I also agreed to go to therapy.

My mother knew I wanted to do this the natural way, so she let me purchase a Hemp protein powder (I used the one from Manitoba Harvest... thanks guys, you kinda saved my life!) I made smoothies with them twice a day, and focused on eating more in general and getting over my "food fears" (oils, salt, sugar, ext) This was SO hard. I remember days that I would break down and cry because I did not want to eat. Some days, I would skip lunch at school and not tell anyone.

Me now. I feel SO much happier and healthier. 

Therapy, although humiliating at first, was the best decision I have ever made. I refused to take medication and my therapist completely supported that. She was so calm, understanding and really helped me see the subliminal and underlying causes of my food fears, body hatred, and my thoughts in general. I saw her for a year, and decided to stop going once I felt I had learned enough to help myself. I honestly don't think I would have ever "recovered"-I use that term loosely- without therapy.

During this time, I educated myself on REAL food and nutrition. I realized that most magazines, TV shows, books and conventional wisdom was completely false. I am still learning, but what I know now is far more accurate than what I knew two years ago.

Through SO much pain, trial and error and hardship, I feel better now than I have in a very long time. I recently stopped counting calories and my entire outlook on eating has shifted. I dont feel the urge to overeat nearly as often, and I experience much less "food guilt." I eat wholesome food. I eat when I am hungry, and if I crave something I am not afraid to have it.

Thank the lord for powerlifting. It has given me a new purpose.

Another factor that has greatly aided in my recovery is lifting weights. For quite a while I was a boney size 00, NOT due to genetics but from an eating disorder. Naturally, my body has always been a slender yet womanly shape just like my mother and grandmother.

In December I paid for my first gym membership and now have taken up powerlifting. My body changed quickly. Seriously, if you look at images from January to February, there is a difference! It has been difficult having to buy all new clothes and visually seeing myself as "bigger." But in truth, I have never felt or looked better.

Now I have muscle. I feel strong for the first time ever! Lifting weights has set me apart from the crowd in a wonderful, fullfilling way. I proudly broke up with the scale AND calories months ago, and now I focus on the weight on the barbell.

I dont want to say I am recovered, because I am not sure if that is possible. Dealing with my food issues and body dyspmorphia is a daily task. I do know that each day I can tell myself to STOP the disordered thoughts, is a success. I am not perfect, but I try my best and that is what counts.


In the words of Brittany Dawn, I am an ED Solider.

Now I want to be a sponge and absorb factual information on wholesome, holistic nutrition as well as weight lifting. I want to educate others on how to properly eat and train-or, tell them how they SHOULDN'T do so- so that they won't have to learn the hard way like I did.

I will be pushed down. Sometimes I will be my own worst enemy. But I know that at the end of the tunnel, there is a bright light and a successful future that I will attain.

So that is my story. If anyone would like me to add detail to a specific area or has any questions, please tell me. I am not ashamed of my past.

Also, PLEASE feel free to message me if you or anyone you know is struggling with food or body issues.



Marc said...


Abby said...

I am so proud of you, Natalie. I know how hard this post was for you to write and I can't believe you did it! :) I love you so much and 100% support you in whatever you decide to do with your eating and lifting. (Just don't go to MacDonald's! :P) You go girl!!! <3

Anonymous said...

I think it's fantastic that you have triumphed over this.
As someone who used to binge eat as a coping mechanism for depression and then not eat for days, I'm always glad to see others beat their disorders.
My personal approach has differed in that I don't worry what I eat, so long as it's in moderation, and I exercise at least 3 times a week.
stay strong girl! And remember, it doesn't matter what other people think. So long as you aren't harming anyone, do what makes you happiest!

Unknown said...

I love your honesty. The greatest challenge in life is to find peace inside that can exist even when life is hard. I love the song "Try." We women (and even many men) have to work hard at ignoring what American society says we "ought" to be.

Also, all families have some dysfunction -- all of them -- so again, we all have to find a way to love ourselves and be tender with ourselves no matter where we come from.

I had a friend who had an eating disorder -- she got help and has been well since she was in her 20s. She's now 52.

Love to you from way up in Philadelphia!