An Open Letter To My Eating Disorder

This may trigger those who are currently going through treatment for or are recovered from anorexia, binge eating disorder and orthorexia.

Dear Eating Disorder,

Go away.

"I'm hungry" fights "I'm fat" in my head as I try to tell my tired, weak knees to run "just one more mile to burn off that ice cream you ate last night with your friends," or, "you ate too many carbs today so you need to go to the gym and burn 1,000 calories--whether or not your legs physically can't take any longer."

It's a cycle. My body tells me it's hungry. I ignore it. This comes back to bite me later in the day during my long run or after work, which results in the consumption of a whole day's worth of food in one sitting, my brain desperately telling my body: eat. Then I weigh myself, discovering I now weigh 15 pounds more than I did two years ago, and freeze.

"This cycle is ruining my life"--I thought to myself two evenings ago, two miles into my usual five mile run when I began to feel faint.

Slowing down to a walk, listening to my heart beating rapidly out of my chest, feeling my lungs fill with the crisp air, I remembered—I'm alive. I'm tired of living day to day trapped in this cycle where I have no control of my own body.

Guess what ED?

I'm tired of you.

When I was about 10, I started developing unhealthy habits. While most 10 year olds were outside playing manhunt or four square, I was inside watching television and eating snacks. I vividly remember my father, confused as to where the entire box of Chewy bars went, asking me how many snacks I had to eat that day.

"1,2,3,4,5..." I responded, counting on my hands.

Flash forward to eighth grade. I was the same height I am now, 13-years-old and 40 pounds heavier. Every day this group of guys at lunch would look at my friends and I, and call us "whales" as we walked by. I had a formspring.me account, where I read things like: "You're fat," "You'd be pretty if you were skinny," and "You should kill yourself, you fat whale." Paralyzed by these thoughts, I vowed to never weigh as much as I did in that moment ever again.

Flash forward to junior year of high school. After two years of being a member of the track and field team as a long jumper, I lost about 20 pounds, lessening the difference in physical appearance between my peers and I. I got a boyfriend, switched my track event from long jump to the 800m run and was relatively healthy—until I saw a Tumblr account, "tight skirts and skinny dresses."

What was marketed as a motivational site, was, after further research, what is called a "pro-anna" blog—promoting anorexia by promising a skinny body with just one catch—to stop eating.

So I did.

I decided 800 calories a day without exercise, and 1400 when I ran over five miles at practice, was sufficient enough. After I dropped another 10 pounds I realized I needed to do more.

So I did.

With the promise of a vacation and junior prom coming up, my competitive nature catalyzed my eating disorder into full swing. I began leaving track practice to do one to two hours of online workouts to "better my running." Ask any other high school runner if they do pilates. I highly doubt they do.

30 more pounds flew off. I was the smallest I had ever been. I had a "bikini body," which I only realize now. I remember going out to dinner while I was in Florida. I went for a run that morning, made sure to do over an hour of cardio, and secretly cried in the shower when I realized there would be no way for me to do my online workouts while in the cramped condo I was sharing with six people. "They might ask questions," I thought to myself as I made sure to take bites at meals, but not enough to actually fill my stomach.

Flash forward to last summer. While training for a half marathon (after experiencing several stress related injuries like herniated discs and stress fractures), I realized I no longer had time to do my online workouts. A 13 mile run took me over two hours to complete. It also burned 1,300 calories, which I didn't realize until I fainted behind my cash register at Shoprite after school one day, realizing a banana, half a spinach salad and a bowl of oatmeal for the entire day plus a 13 mile run was not enough.

That summer I gained about 10 pounds. But, it was also the best summer of my entire life.

Flash forward to college. While relatively keeping in shape, I still gained about five pounds as I stopped counting calories because I realized I had more important things to do. But after realizing this, old habits began to reappear which has resulted in the position I'm currently in.

So here I am, 40 pounds less than I was at 13, and 15 more than I was at 17. But you know something? That's OK.

Weight is just a number on the scale.

Previously, I blamed everything that ever happened in my life on my weight. The end of my relationship with my boyfriend. The possibility of me getting fired from my job. When a friend didn't respond to my text, or no one wanted to hangout with me. Even now "It's because I'm fat," tends to play in stereo in my head every time something goes wrong—and it's just not fair to me or my body.

I have previously said this year was the worst in my entire life, but today I challenge the purpose behind that notion. Last year, my life changed. I grew up. I saw things I'd never seen before, discovered my passion for social justice, switched my major to what had always been my dream—journalism, jump started the very channel I am currently writing this on at my university, was published in a newspaper (twice), got a bid from a sorority and landed an internship! Why was this year so bad? Because I got fat.

So, eating disorder, please leave me alone because I'm sick of hating myself. My body is strong. So what if it has more fat on it these days and has softened a bit?

That's OK.

ED, stop making me hate the thing I love—running.

I have been running since I was 13 years old. I know I need to eat to run stronger. The constant cycle of gaining and losing weight is wearing down my muscles and bones, and I'm over it.

ED, stop telling me to isolate myself. Stop telling me everyone hates me.

They don't. Some days people are busy. Relationships and friendships end. Maybe the restaurant that might fire you simply didn't need to hire as many people as they did. Maybe they're going out of business.

ED, stop telling me I'm not going to get my dream job because i'm fat.

Stop denying me happiness because I got an internship or was published in a magazine because it doesn't matter since I'm too fat for them to hire me after.

These words have been screaming inside of me for far too long, and I'm not going to let them pester me anymore. Goodbye, ED. You may have brought me down before, but I'm not going to let you do this anymore.

-Jess

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