Rarely do I see this worded as it is above, it's more often described as an eating disorder, however to take away the stigma and stereotype I've decided to re-word it. Plus, it's more accurate in my opinion as to what it actually is. When people think of an eating disorder, it's mainly focused on the one way: eating too little. We think of disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, anorexia binge-purge sub-type, etc, however we rarely think of the other end of the spectrum (obesity/overweight). This should be viewed in all directions and situations for they are all the same: disordered eating. What do you think causes disordered eating? Could it be emotions? Family background? Self-image? Disrespect of one self? Tragedy? Personally, I think it's all of the above, because I too have suffered from disordered eating and experienced the majority of the above. Today, I want to talk about my story with disordered eating, open the floor up to anyone who wants to share (no pressure, I completely understand how hard and painful this can be), and discuss how to heal 🤍.
To help you better understand why and how this can occur, I must go back to my root cause: tragedy. Winter 2002, I was eight years old and it was like any other winter; the snow had fallen, my brother, sister, and I were making snowmen and snow angels in the backyard, mom would call us inside for some hot chocolate with tons of cinnamon and whipped cream on top. One morning, I woke up ready to go outside and play in the snow with my siblings, we more than likely were planning to go sledding down the hill in our backyard. I walked from my room to the bathroom down the hall, came out, and my brother was outside the door waiting for his turn. I looked at him, and then I started to feel faint as my vision started to blacken. I panicked when all I could see was darkness as my brother slowly started to fade from view, I even tried to blink just to make sure my eyes were actually open. I began to scream however it became labored as I started to pass out right at the top of the stairs (in our home layout, the upstairs bathroom is right in front of the steps). I remember my dad running up the stairs in a panic, picked me up, and ran down the stairs. The next thing I remember is waking up in the hospital. Nurses began to hook me up to an IV, which I thought was absolutely terrifying. I remember begging the nurses not too, my parents inconsolable watching in distress. Tests were done, and the results were in: I had double pnuemonia. For those of you who are unsure what double pnuemonia is, it means there is fluid in both of your lungs as opposed to one.
I was in and out of the hospital a couple of times, finding that the hospital I was going to was actually making me worse and more fluid was building up in my lungs, so I was finally transferred to Hershey Children's Hospital. One of the first things I remember after being transferred was waking up in a crib. Even then, eight year old me woke up and thought "what the hell am I doing in a crib?!" A machine was eventually hooked up to my side and drained all the fluid out of my lungs. If anyone has ever had something hooked up to them, you know how stupid hard it is to move around anywhere. Every morning was always the same, nurses came in and re-assured me they were in for a quick shot (which after having several shots injected in me for days, I became numb to it), and they would try to get me to eat or drink something, but I almost never did.
During my hospital stays, I lost a lot of weight due to not eating or drinking anything. My only form of nutrition (I guess you could call it that) was the IV fluids. Finally, after what felt like eternity in the hospital, I was going to be released back home. They asked me what meal they could make me and I asked for my favorite sandwich at the time: bologne and cheese on white bread (my parents never got us white bread). I took one bite, immediately felt sick, and left the rest. It took me a while after I got back home to regain my strength, I don't remember being able to eat a whole lot which didn't help in trying to gain weight again. It wasn't until the fourth grade when my disordered eating began.
My appetite was finally starting to come back and all I wanted to do was eat. I was eating breakfast again (normal), have lunch at school (normal), and was thinking what to have for a snack when I got home (normal). Unfortunately, the majority of the time when I got home from school I was home alone for both of my parents worked so they couldn't tell me what I could and couldn't have for snack, so one day I went looking through the refrigerator and found some hot dogs, and so began my hot dog snacking. I can't remember how long this went on for, however I know it was more than once, I would come home and have one-two hot dogs as a snack. My weight started to creep and I became a little chubby. Of course this was one of the worst times for this to happen because puberty starts to hit and you know what that means: acne. In addition, my hair was so brittle and dead due to the malnutrition from my hospitalization that my hair was all chopped off and I was the only fourth grader with a bob. With all this being said, I'm starting to go into my next topics-self image and disrespect
Self Image and Disrepect
I was starting to no longer respect myself as a person and thought I was only as good as what I put in my body. If I indulged myself in a slice of pizza, the hatred started appear and I would torture myself with negative thoughts: "you're disgusting", "why would you eat that, you were doing so good", "that pizza just cost you breakfast for tomorrow". My anxiety would begin to grow, I HAD to burn these calories or I would gain weight from that one slice of pizza. I would immediately go down stairs, hop on the eliptical, and go for an hour and a half, sometimes two hours.
The anxiety started to get worse, soon I started to delve into the field of purging. Now I've never actually forced myself to get sick after I ate, however I tried on several occasions. I would either take my finger or a tooth brush and try to stick it down my throat but it would always end in failure. I resorted to when I felt I had enough, I would pretend to eat something or I would sneak a bite of cake/pie, grab a paper towel or napkin, and then spit it out. Over time, I started to think of new routes such as laxatives but I was always too scared to do it (thank god!).
Several of my relatives and even my parents would make comments saying that I was so skinny and thin, and honestly part of me was happy for a brief minute, but then I would hate myself. Part of me hated myself that I wouldn't allow myself to enjoy simple delicacies in life, and the other half of me hated that I wasn't losing more weight.
When I entered high school, I was the thinnest I had ever been in my life. For those of you who don't know me, I'm a pretty tall gal at five feet eight/nine inches. At that height, I weighed around 120-125. Now that's not horrible, but I do think that was a little too thin for my height personally. Same thing as followed while I was in middle school, I would only allow myself salads every day during lunch. Even the cafeteria lady would take notice and ask me, "are you sure that's enough for you?" I would always laugh it off and say it was plenty, which in reality it was because the only base for salad they had was lettuce which is primarily water with no other nutritional value. So, in reality when I thought I was doing my body a favor I was still depriving it off essential nutrients. Due to this disordered eating I was always very conscious of what I put in my body, however there was another factor that caused it which is my next topic to discuss: family background.
When I was very young, around five or six years old, my dad developed Type 2 diabetes. For those of you who are unsure the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, they are vastly different. Type 1 typically occurs in those who are born with it, it's a defect in the body where it doesn't produce insulin to regulate blood sugar levels so these individuals have to take insulin on a daily basis and must be incredibly careful of their diet. Type 2 diabetes is more caused due to poor diet such as high intake of sugar and can actually be eradicated when proper diet and exercise are put into practice. My dad unfortunately has poor knee joints and finds it incredibly difficult to exercise properly and has never been able to get rid of his diabetes, however he handles it incredibly well. Once my dad was diagnosed, it took some time to adjust however now he knows exactly what to eat and if he can indulge a little and have a piece of cake or scoop of ice cream. Now, I want to put a big fat disclaimer here, I am not at all in any way, shape, or form blaming my dad's diabetes for my disordered eating. In actuality, I don't blame anyone or anything for my disordered eating (including myself), I am simply laying out all the factors in my life that have contributed to my diet. With that being said, I will continue. Growing up with a diabetic family member meant our diets were also changed. Kids in my class had the chocolate and strawberry milk along with sandwiches on white bread while my brother, sister, and I only had sandwiches on whole wheat bread with a glass of skim milk. Looking back, I'm so happy they didn't feed us junk, however with the little amount of bread that I saw my dad able to eat that fueled my desire to limit myself on bread. I looked at it as if I ate bread and didn't burn it off, I may end up diabetic, which is clearly not correct thinking.
My disordered eating and growing up with a diabetic dad are actually the reasons why I chose the field of education that I did: Health and Nutrition. I currently hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Promotion with a Minor in Nutrition Studies and though I may not have found a career in that field, this is why I created my blog. I created my blog to utilize it as a channel for educating others the importance of healthy balance in all areas of life as well as promoting health and nutrition. Now, I personally did not have as extreme of a case compared to others out there who are hospitalized due to malnutrition, however I hope these healing techniques that I have utilized may and will help others are have and are currently struggling with disordered eating.
My first step in healing, as weird as it sounds, was college. With the degree I chose, we tackled several different topics related to healthy lifestyle and balance and one of those topics that we discussed a lot was eating disorders/disordered eating. The education I received in learning more about this topic really opened my eyes as to what it is. A lot of people relate disordered eating to food however this is not the 100% truth. In reality, it's almost never about food itself, it's actually more psychological. There's a root cause or causes that triggers your brain, whether it be self-image, disrespect and/or hatred of oneself, emotions, these are all psychological. Let's take for example emotions, for some people when they get stressed out they either cannot eat or even think about food whereas on the other side, some people overeat and refer to it as "eating your emotions". Another example is for self-image, now a lot of you may think "What do you mean? Of course this has to do with food, super models and athletes limit they're food intake and they have amazing bodies, so I want to look like that". Well yes and no, this does deal with food intake however the reason why we're denying ourselves the food is due to lack of self-esteem and poor body image. In reality, we're denying ourselves the food to look better and appease our thoughts and image however this rarely ever occurs. Once this dangerous ride starts, it evolves and becomes pretty hard to stop. When the pounds start to come off, it almost becomes an addiction for some people and they want to see how much more they can lose. On the outside you may look great, however on the inside you're denying your body of essential nutrients for function and for severe cases the body begins to shut down and can result in death. The same goes for the other end of the spectrum, for those who struggle with being overweight or obese can be just as unhappy with their body image and self-esteem as those who deny themselves. This ties in with emotional eating and "eating your emotions", maybe someone is unhappy with the fact that they are overweight and their new exercise and diet regimen is not working as fast or giving the results that they desire fast enough, they may be unsure how to cope so they turn to food for comfort.
Once the root cause is determined, now we can start to understand why and how the disordered eating occurred and techniques to overcome it.
For severe cases, I highly recommend either counseling or going to a psychiatrist. Talking about how you feel and exploring the reasons why it occurred as opposed to suppressing it helps immensely when dealing with disordered eating and other psychological problems.
Surround yourself with positive influences
Nothing is stronger than surrounding yourself with those who love and support you. If you're around negative influences who only worsen your thought process and emotions, it will only strengthen your disordered eating. For those who are a more severe case, I'd recommend joining a group created for those who are struggling with disordered eating. They're experiencing the exact same thing you are experiencing and are usually moderated by someone who has overcome the disorder and has been trained to moderate.
This is a big one, if you're really unsure as to what food choices are healthy and what would keep you at a healthy weight I'd recommend seeing a Registered Dietitian. Nutritionists are great as well, however Registered Dietitians are specifically trained and educated on how the body works, how nutrients are broken down for the body, and how to create meal plans for those who are struggling with cooking at home.
With all of this being said, I am not a doctor or dietitian and don't claim to know more than they do so please if you are struggling, are scared, and unsure what to do please seek help with your doctor, psychiatrist, and/or dietitian. I simply wanted to share my story and what I have learned to help me overcome my disordered eating.
We need to end this stigma associated with weight, whether you may be viewed as too thin or too big, you never know what that person is going through. Maybe the person you deem as overweight has struggled with anemia for most of their life and have finally come to a place of peace and love with their body, maybe the person you say is too thin and "needs to eat some meat or a sandwich" is dealing with a family tragedy or just had a new baby and is putting their family's needs above their own. It's time to end this ugliness, I hope this post can help enlighten in any way and push ourselves in the right direction of body positivity and self love and acceptance. To end for today, I would like to add in some affirmative quotes to help whoever may need to read them. Peace and love to you all 🤍