Please note: This is my personal story of recovery. It may be triggering to some individuals who suffer from disordered eating or who have eating disordered tendencies. My intent with this post is to ultimately provide hope in recovery.
I don’t talk about my own struggles with food all that much. Mostly because its not the easiest story to work into conversation. But its an important part of who I am and how I became the dietitian that I am today. I’m honored to share this story with you.
In 2004, I was a sophomore in college. I had just started the dietetics program at Central Michigan University and loved it. Mostly, I found nutrition fascinating, but I also realized quickly that nutrition education just came naturally to me. For the first time in a very long time, I felt good at something. I felt accomplished. The year before, my freshman year, I gained a little bit more than my share of the freshman 15. More like the freshman 65. My self-esteem was at an all-time low and I decided to put my new-found nutrition knowledge into practice.
Everything started off well. I started eating more nutritiously and began working out. Pretty soon, just as my basic nutrition knowledge predicted, the weight started falling off. And as the weight fell off, the more accomplished I felt. I loved that feeling. A few months in, people really started to notice. I got complimented all the time and everyone wanted to know what I was doing. I told them – I just started eating better.
What I didn’t tell them though is that my portion sizes also began to shrink. Or that the list of foods I allowed myself to eat became smaller and smaller. And although I was eating less, I found myself thinking about food more and more.
More time passed and I continued to lose weight. I continued to get compliments. And in between the hunger I still felt pretty accomplished. Like I was doing something that very few people could actually do. But surprisingly, I didn’t classify myself as having an eating disorder. To me, an eating disorder was complete starvation or eating lettuce. Not eating 3 very small meals a day and a few bites of granola here or there. Even after I lost my period and started passing out all the time, I didn’t think it was because of how I was eating.
That was until I went to a free video screening on campus for NEDAwareness week. In that video we saw a girl all too similar to myself. Eating about 600 calories a day and working out for a couple hours – that was me. My boyfriend, who went with me to the screening, saw the similarities too and he urged me to get help.
That video probably saved my life. If I wouldn’t have gone, I wouldn’t have gotten help as early as I did. I would have continued to spiral, probably unnoticed.
Awareness and education can be essential components to recovery. It was for me. And through the years I’ve come to love food and, even more importantly, myself. Now as a dietitian, I help others find that healthy balance too. Its an honor I don’t take lightly because of my own personal food story.
So thank you NEDA for continuing to spread the message and get the word out. With your help, I’m able to enjoy a very full-life with my amazing family, friends, and community.
For others, its important to realize that eating disorders don’t always look like what you think they do. In fact, separating fact from fiction may be one way you can help someone struggling with their own food choices.
In a recent science update from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Cynthia Bulik, PhD from the University of North Carolina, debunks a few of these myths. For example, the myth that eating disorders only affect women or that you can tell by someone’s size whether or not an eating disorder exists are just a few she addresses.
For a full list of Bulik’s myths worth busting, please read the science update on the NIMH website. Each myth also comes with a YouTube video for further explanation.