I've been thinking about writing this article for a while now. It started with wanting to talk about what it's like to diet after having dealt with a binge eating disorder but to properly talk about that experience, I should start at the beginning. I have an eating disorder. I say have because even though I am happy once again, and my relationship with food and my body is no longer toxic, I'd be lying if I said I never have to deal with it anymore. For anyone who might not know, binge eating is taking in excessive amounts of food, far past once you're full. It's often associated with purging, the act of forcing oneself to throw up to avoid gaining weight from a binge. For me, purging was never part of the equation.
So Liv, the sports captain, straight A student, in charge of every school club ever invented-- how did this happen? Good question. Like many eating disorders, I was frustrated with my lack of control. I had all of those great things under my belt and then thing after thing happened that I had no say in. I got sick at the end of my junior year of high school. This body that I had carefully crafted over years with hundreds of hours in the gym, had failed me-- and I was pissed. Nothing was reliable, not even me. So I unconsciously decided to destroy her. What good was working on my body when it was just going to let me down anyway? I fell into a pattern of nervousness about what else could possibly go wrong which led to a depression I couldn't shake. I worked hard to fill my body with the certainty I couldn't find anywhere else in the form of food. I was removed from the volleyball team that I captained on the grounds of a bad attitude. I was bitter for a long time that no one saw the desperate cry for help I was making to the volleyball coach, the athletic director, my team; no one noticed that I was struggling, and it hurt. I felt like I spent so much time taking care of other people and when I really needed it, no one was there to care.
I continued to eat, in secret, lying about where I had been to my parents after having been sitting in my car stuffing my face. My parents had questions about why I always needed extra gas money. I lied, citing how busy I was but the reality is that I was eating every paycheck I made. I was also partying, telling more lies about where I was going on the weekends because I needed to be wanted badly enough that I was willing to spend time with people who did not deserve my company. By the end of my senior year, I hadn't been hungry in over a year because I never let myself. I had succeeded in ruining the girl whose body who had let her down. In a year I had developed anxiety and depression and added sixty pounds to a frame that has no business carrying that much extra weight.
I was unhappy and unhealthy, and my family was noticing. My mom got me to therapy, which was exactly where I needed to be. It took all of three minutes in my first session for me to break down sobbing. With my mom by my side, I admitted to myself and the practical stranger across from me what I had been up to for the last twelve months. The eating, the lying, the reckless behavior poured out of me and as I walked to the car afterward, I felt like I could breathe again.
Three years later, I still see my therapist but on a much less frequent basis, and I've added an anti-anxiety medicine to my daily routine. My relationship with my family is better than ever because I was lucky enough to be brought up in a home that talks through the messy. Learning to eat normally again was difficult. I still struggle now, but since starting college I have only slipped up in my progress twice. But I don't think about those times. I think about laughs with my sorority sisters and roommates. Instead of worrying about what I will eat at an event or if I'll be tempted to binge, I am able to just enjoy myself again. Being a survivor of an eating disorder doesn't mean that it's gone. There is always going to be that little monster in the back of my head telling me how much better I'll feel if I allow myself to binge. But these days, that monster can't speak above an infrequent whisper. Understanding food as a source of power and not what broke me has also been empowering and infuriating. There is no black and white way to solve the issues involved in having an eating disorder, and I can't tell anyone how exactly to do it, but what I can say though is that it is possible to let food just be food.
The further I get from the peak of my eating disorder, the easier it has been to recommit myself to resculpting the body I lost for myself. I don't want to be the teeny, multi-sport athlete anymore. I'm curvy as hell, and I LOVE it. But I am also loving spending time back at the gym and how good I feel after preparing a healthy meal for myself. Eating disorders affect millions of men and women and while my story isn't the only of it's kind, it's unique and really can't be used as a blueprint for how to beat an eating disorder. Be supportive and willing to talk to friends you believe may be struggling. Never be afraid to ask for help because it does exist and can make all the difference. So here's my testimony if for no other reason than it's something I am no longer ashamed to talk about.