I Am Alive - My Eating Disorders are Too

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

I've written numerous posts on eating disorders  and specifically my eating disorders. And I've been debating about whether or not I should write this one. 

I'm not sure why exactly except for the fact that it's very painful for me and I have been in continuous recovery now for nearly two years. This is something I am not sure I ever thought was possible. And quite honestly, there was a time that I didn't want it to be possible. I was afraid of who I would be without my eating disorders and I was afraid of what I would look like. And most of all, I was afraid of the lack of control I would have over my eating - and my life if I didn't have my eating disorders. 

For those of you that don't know, the eating disorders I struggle with are: Orthorexia and Anorexia Nervosa. In short, orthorexia is a lesser known but increasingly prevalent eating disorder in which the person is so fixated on being healthy and eating healthy that it becomes unhealthy. 

To give you a tiny glimpse: I was in my mid-20s (5'4") and weighed a whopping 95 lbs. Mind you, prior to my eating disorders I was very healthy all around with a strong frame and weighed about 118 lbs. In the depths of eating disorders, I landed myself in the hospital twice with agonizing stomach pains and long story short - my pain was due to the fact that I wasn't eating enough food for my digestive system to function properly. I was so severely depleted of nutrients and under my "set" weight for so long that it took my body four years to regain my menstrual cycle. 

This post isn't to mull over everything that my eating disorders are and everything that they are not - I have done that several times over and you may read them in links posted above if you choose.

This post is to honor my past struggles with my eating disorders, celebrate the leaps and bounds I have made in my recovery, and stay humble in knowing that my demon may rear it's head at anytime. 

I recently did an interview with a women's health magazine on Orthorexia and was asked if I am "fully recovered." No, I am not and don't believe that I ever will be. I have not acted on my eating disorder thoughts. Those thoughts are not as strong as they once were but they are still within me. It's still something I face every day, with every meal, and I have made a commitment to myself to not allow my eating disorders to control me. 

I have eating disorder thoughts now and for the most part, I am able to see those thoughts for what they are and say "hey, I hear you, and I'm not going to listen."

I have finally come to a place in my life were intuitive eating is something that comes naturally to me. I never knew this to be possible. I was so reliant on other people's concepts and viewpoints that I lost the connection with my own body and hunger. At some point, I will write more about the how in intuitive eating because I think it's essential for me to live a peaceful life with food and I think others could benefit from more of that story - but I want to keep this post about my celebration and raise awareness about the types of eating disorders, dangers, and offer hope to those struggling.  

This week (February 26th-March 4th) is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. It's always a time where I reflect deeply about the long battle I have had since 2010. Over the course of those eight years, there were times that I was in complete denial about my eating disorders, other times were I was acutely aware yet succumbed to the panic, and other times I tore through walls I never knew I had the strength to bust apart. And, it was not a linear journey - at all. I had many relapses in both my thinking and behavior. And, while thoughts may not be visible - they can be just as destructive - trapped in your mind, consumed by obsession. 

 Left: my Dad and I, winter 2012 (95 lbs) ; right: my nephew and I, summer 2017  (? lbs I don't weigh myself)

Left: my Dad and I, winter 2012 (95 lbs) ; right: my nephew and I, summer 2017  (? lbs I don't weigh myself)

Over the years, I found myself in various parts across the country and I cannot even begin to express my gratitude for the people who helped me along the way.

My dearest family and friends, I would not be where I am today without you. Thank you.

And, to my loving boyfriend who helps to keep me so grounded - you amaze me each day. You are my rock. I love cooking for you - for us and reminding myself of "oh yes, this what a wholesome meal looks like." I love you so much my darling, my sweet. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for your support. 

A diet will never be able to tell you how to eat like your body can. Once you trust your body, it will teach you everything you need to know. 

With love & gratitude,

-AEB