You may be wondering about my mention of “anorexic by accident,” and wonder why anyone would choose to become anorexic – this is partially my point. I never expected to go through it, and part of that is due to the stigma around eating disorders. We expect that certain groups of people will experience them – “other people” – when really, it can happen to anyone for many different reasons.
Perhaps, you clicked into this expecting a testimonial from a person that is insecure, reckless and naïve. But you would be wrong.
I wasn’t a young girl when I started what I did, nor was I making poor life decisions overall.
I grew up in a family of strong, educated women, liberated, and living not in the days of the hardships that our ancestors had faced in America.
I was the valedictorian of my high school class.
I was rarely stressed out.
I often exhibited shirts that supported body positivity and loving yourself.
I even showed support towards Facebook content that drew awareness to eating disorders.
That didn’t stop me.
The scariest part about starving myself between 2007 and 2009 was the fact that I did not even realize it. I did it intentionally, yet tried to mask it to myself, and to others. There is so much stigma that is concentrated around this topic, that I consciously did not categorize my unhealthy behavior within the “eating disorder” group. I figured that was just something that happened to others, whether they came from broken homes or were trying to push themselves physically in an industry that is more visual.
My experience was nothing like that.
It started with me developing a strong desire for physical fitness, which actually started out very healthy. I attended the gym near my apartment once, sometimes twice a day. I was enticed by my own bod, as I began to feel solidity developing in my biceps, and eventually this result spread everywhere.
Except to my abs.
After almost a year of countless exercise regimens, I was mildly frustrated. My entire body looked properly toned, aside from my abdominal muscles. I wondered if something was wrong. Regardless, I enjoyed these activities and challenges so much, that I thrived on the accomplishment.
On a rainy Saturday, I spent some time writing my thesis for school. I focused for so long, that I discovered my hunger upon walking to the gym. I ignored this feeling, and later, realized that my midriff was looking increasingly similar to that of the rest of my body. I wondered if the issue was that I was eating too much.
It started with cutting out processed sugars and less complex carbohydrates, and now looking back, I realize that I began secretly applauding myself when I began to skip meals. This might sound really stupid as you read this, but quite honestly it was a feeling that I was getting closer to ultimate health and balance, or at least, I felt so at the time.
I never forced myself to throw up, and I never took laxatives or anything to adjust my digestive processes. I simply did not eat if I could help it. At times where I lacked the energy to exist, I would nap. If I was at work or at university, I would drink black coffee, followed by water.
I became empowered in the concept that I controlled how I looked. Eventually, I became entirely adjusted to the concept of “micro meals” and fasting on a regular basis (not something I would ever recommend to anyone).
It wasn’t until my friend came back for the holidays from medical school, that I was approached or even noticed seriously in my endeavors. My friends had in past, made playful comments that I ate like a chipmunk, but other than that, I had remained under the radar. At first, I was angry at him for feeling that he had the right to comment, doctor or not. I wasn’t fainting, ill or experiencing many negative symptoms, thus, I felt I was in the right. Yet once he returned to school, I began to reflect on his words, and saw that there may be some unhealthy practices here. It also wasn’t until my interaction with him that I noticed things really were changing physically – while I no longer had the issue of even toning, I did create new issues, for example my hair and nails had become weak, while my body as a whole was starting to look like something other than my own. And I was not saying that when I started to develop muscle, which goes to show how different your body becomes after experiencing unhealthy starvation practices.
Scary Medical Risks
Had I continued down this path, I could have opened myself to several health risks in weakening my body, with a few examples being heart disease, kidney disorders and nerve degenerations. Even today, I don’t consider myself a temporary victim of Anorexia Nervosa, because I had ingrained so heavily in my mind back then, that what I was doing was normal and just to “even my body out.”
FYI, if you are looking to “even your body out,” two years of refusing to eat is not the way to go!
If you have young people in your life, please express to them how easy it is to get here – it is so easy to start with something healthy like wanting to get fit or healthier, and have it go south due to unrealistic expectations. Also, don’t do what I did, in thinking that eating disorders happen to a certain type of people, as that false sense of immunity is part of how I got to where I was. I think that is partially why I felt that I was anorexic by accident – I didn’t aim for it, yet then again, I wasn’t aiming properly for my long-term health.
If you learned a lot from this piece, you might benefit from reading this one about swimsuit anxiety: ‘If You’ve Felt Swimsuit Anxiety, You’re Not Alone’.