Entering my freshmen year of High School, I felt an overwhelming pressure to be skinny. What started as a small thought that crossed my brain - needing to lose some weight - turned into two years of anorexia and complete misery. The summer leading up to freshmen year is when it all began. I started working out for hours at a time. I slowly cut my calories down more and more every day, counting them religiously, never failing to forget even one chip. All day long, all I could think about was how overweight I was (even though I was only 120 pounds). I would look into the mirror and feed myself lies- If I wasn’t skinny, no one would like me. If I didn’t have the perfect body, no guy would ever find me attractive. If I was even slightly chubby, I was worthless. Naturally, my weight began to plummet. At the start of freshmen year, I was playing volleyball and basketball, both of which required intense daily workouts. On top of that, I was working out alone, sometimes running 6-8 miles at a time. Given this insane workout regiment, I should have been in-taking about 2,200-2,400 calories a day. I was eating no more than 700 calories every day. If I went even 20 calories over this limit, I would berate myself for hours, sometimes even resorting to self harm. Not only were these patterns consuming and destroying my physical and mental health, but they were also wreaking havoc on my social and family life. To avoid any situations with food, I entirely stopped hanging out with my friends outside of school. I spent all of my free time in solitude, becoming extremely lonely and depressed. Because I didn’t see my eating disorder as a mental health issue, I did not confide in anyone about my slow deterioration. However, my family realized what was happening and became worried sick. Every single day, I would have raging, yelling fights with my parents. They wanted me to eat more or go see a therapist and I screamed rejection at both ideas. It tore my family apart and created a constant tension, especially regarding the topic of food. I would cry myself to sleep almost every night. Over the course of two years, as I continued to whither into nothing, I consistently had to go to the doctor to get blood work done, for I was deficient in everything. Two years before, I was full of life, joy, and energy. Now, I didn’t even recognize myself. I was constantly lethargic, pessimistic, irritable, and depressed. But, I would tell myself, at least I was 5’5’’ and 90 pounds. It wasn’t until a day during my Sophomore year of high school, when I was laying on the floor doing my daily 20-minute ab workout, that I reached my breaking point. As I laid on the floor with a sports bra on, my mom walked in and immediately broke into sobs. My hip bones were protruding more than they ever had, out of what was left of my body. I vividly remember my mom saying through tears, “I am so afraid you are going to disappear into thin air”. She was afraid I was going to die. To starve myself to death. And, honestly, so was I. And all for what? To be stick thin? Suddenly, it all seemed so absurd. It seemed insane that I would sacrifice my friends, my family, my joy, my peace, my experiences, my entire life- all just to fit inside of those size 0 jeans. That day changed a lot for me. While the journey to recovery was a long, difficult one, it all began on that day when my mother had to fear for her daughter’s dwindling life. Every day after that, I got a little better. Slowly raising my caloric intake, I slowly let go of my fear of food. I gave my body some rest. And I watched my life transform. I learned that food can be used as fuel. That our bodies can do amazing things for us when we take care of them. I realized that it is so much more attractive to be fit, healthy, happy, and strong, than it is to be skinny, grumpy, weak, and depressed. Most importantly, I learned to love myself. Flash forward four years, and I am incredibly grateful for everything my eating disorder taught me. Since having anorexia, I developed an unbridled passion for nutrition and healthy living. I now take care of my body by listening to it, feeding it the nutrients it needs to thrive, doing workouts that make me feel good and energized, splurging on dark chocolate when I want to, and looking in the mirror with thoughts of love, appreciation, and grace. Through doing so, I have been able to focus more of my energy on being optimistic, hanging out with friends, and pursuing my dreams. I now have a zeal for promoting and helping others achieve self love and body confidence.
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