Recovery from an Eating Disorder: A Snapshot

**WARNING: TRIGGER POST. If you are currently struggling with an eating disorder, or body image issues, this post may be triggering to you. If you’re curious about the hope it provides, perhaps have a loved one read it and give you the highlights.** 

I saw a picture of myself today… from circa 2008. A snapshot. It was a picture a friend of mine had snapped back in 2008 of my husband and me. At this time, we weren’t dating yet, but it was clear to anyone within a 10 foot radius that we both had feelings for each other.

I love that this photo was documented for two reasons:

1. For the sweet reminder of how our relationship had begun, and some good conversations we had that day.

2. For the reminder of where I was at, mentally and emotionally, at the time. What I’m about to share with you is a small glimpse of what can be going on in the mind of someone with an eating disorder, or someone with a history of an eating disorder. It’s messy. It doesn’t make sense. It’s sad and frightening… but there is always hope for healing.

In the beginning of 2008, I was on a downward spiral of depression, suicidal thoughts, alcohol abuse, and an eating disorder. I tried so many things to numb out: studying for school during the week, partying like I was getting paid for it on the weekends, and being fixated on my weight.

I had gained some weight my first couple years of college, because that’s what happens when you stop running 50 miles a week. I remember my junior year in college, recently after starting a new semester, thinking I could lose those pounds if I just stop eating again. I’ve done it before, I can do it now. Here’s the thing y’all, I didn’t even need to lose weight. My body was finally at a healthy weight. 

But I did. I limited myself my calorie intake severely. I would work out in between classes. I started running long distances again. Then I got back down to my high school weight.

I remember thinking, I think I still wanna lose more weight. I just wanna see if I can get below 100 pounds. Then I’ll stop. More restricting. More exercising. I planned my semester around my favorite workout classes. I was thinking about food constantly. I thought about how many calories were in an apple, a slice of cheese, a handful of grapes, etc. I was amazed that a serving size of Goldfish was 55 crackers, and surely I could stretch that out to be my breakfast and lunch. I started drinking water with loads of ice, because I read somewhere that when you’re cold to the point of shivering, you’ll burn more calories, and ice water was recommended. I’d have a salad without dressing. Everything was calculated. 

Then I did it. 98 pounds. I smiled. I wonder if I can get below 95 pounds? Surely if I get below 95 pounds, I’ll feel satisfied with the way my hips and legs look. I filled up on water and black coffee until dinner time, only to consume the tiniest portion. I stopped enjoying food. I only ate the bare minimum to stay alive, and sometimes I debated not even eating that much.

Now, this last memory is engrained in my mind. After my favorite Pilates class, I stepped on the scale at the gym. 92 pounds. Ninety freakin’ two. I loved it and I hated it at the same time. I loved it, because in a sick and twisted sort of way, it felt like an accomplishment. I remember thinking, I may not be great at school or sports or really anything… but I can lose weight. Maybe I can get below 90 pounds. Surely then, I’ll feel better about myself. It was sick and sad and disgusting. You can convince yourself of horrible lies when you hide in the dark. Don’t do that, y’all. Bring those lies to the light, and replace them with truth!

That’s about the time I got help. I didn’t go to therapy at that time, but I should have. However, I opened up to some trusted friends and a mentor at church (oh yeah, in the middle of my mess I met Jesus and He saved me by His grace), and they helped walk me through it.

Now, I no longer have anorexia, and I haven’t for years, but I still struggle with my thoughts. I wish I could say this is an area in my life where I’m fully healed, but I’m not. I have come so far though, and that’s worth celebrating. Also, I am believing for full healing in my thought life, and I am taking the steps necessary to get there. I am in recovery, and that’s a good place to be.

Here, at 33 years old, after having 4 kids in 5 years, my body looks different. I’ve got some pounds that like to hang around. I did lose those pounds at one point a few of years ago, but that was only after severely restricting my calories and working out intensely 6 days a week to the point of injuring myself. That’s no way to live, y’all.

So I made a decision. I do not want to live the rest of my life trying to lose 10 pounds. I want to live my life trying to love God and my family well. This simply doesn’t happen when my mind is consumed by food, calories, and weight. I want to exercise because I enjoy it, not because I “have to.” I want to eat a piece of cake at my kid’s birthday party, and not have to make up for it or shame myself for it. I want to wrap my taco up in a tortilla instead of big piece of lettuce, because homemade flour tortillas are delicious. I am DONE. I just want to live my life and be free. Don’t you?

So, what does this look like for me now? Be on the lookout, I’ll be posting about this topic next week! In the meantime, if you’ve ever struggled with body image issues or an eating disorder, what’s helped you recover?