She was unflinchingly still, her body strewn across the the immaculately made bed where it had dizzily fallen over an hour ago. She stared emptily across the room at the numbers on the clock - numbers whose green glow cut through the darkness of the room as they flowed one into the next, ticking off sixty second increments of the dragging evening. Numbers seemed to define her life as of late: the numbers on the scale, the numbers on the tape measure, the numbers on the treadmill, the numbers on the nutritional panels; each number was loaded with dread and dissatisfaction; no number was small enough.
That morning the scale had read 108, and those eight pounds attached to the hundred seemed simply extraneous. Her intake had been immediately restricted to a mere three hundred calories; breakfast was an apple and a nauseating cocktail of diet pills, lunch was skipped over entirely, and dinner - a miniscule portion of turkey and mashed potatoes - was choked down with a side of guilt. The next hour and a half had been spent pushing her every physical limit on the old treadmill tucked in the corner of the public gym. She'd hardly been able to stand through her shower - ice cold, of course, because periods of exposure to the cold was rumored to jolt one's metabolism as the body must work harder to warm itself - and as soon as she'd redressed herself, the lightheadedness she'd become so adept at ignoring intensified and knocked her into a haphazard heap on the bed.
Despite being physically drained, her mind was still in overdrive; the entire hour she'd been nestled in the mounds of pillows had been spent in an agonizing internal debate. Acutely aware of the recently purchased provolone cheese tossed into the dairy drawer of the refrigerator, her body was begging her for just one piece, but her brain was so repulsed by the ninety calories and five grams of fat heralded by the nutritional label that she couldn't bring herself to indulge. As she berated her psyche for pleading for a single slice, screaming at herself every demeaning term that came to mind, hot tears began to form and spill onto the ivory eyelet pillowcases. She'd never imagined that such misery could come from something as innocuous as a Sara Lee package. Slowly she swung her sore legs from the bed and shuffled into the kitchen, removed the cheese from the drawer, and flung the package across the kitchen. The tears were uncontrollable now, just as everything else in her life seemed uncontrollable, and she slumped to the tile, her back against the softly humming refrigerator. Reaching across towards the red and white plastic package, she sat sobbing for the next several minutes, the offending provolone sitting cold in her hands. Without thinking, she pulled herself to her feet and removed a gallon of bleach from the cabinet under the sink and poured half of its contents across the cheese, rendering it inedible. She mopped up her tears first and the mess on the floor second, dropped the soaked paper towels into a plastic bag from the grocery store, halfheartedly wondering if it was the one that carried home the damned deli slices in the first place, and tucked it into the bottom of the trash can, beneath the day's coffee grounds and newspaper, where it was unlikely to be found.
Still operating on autopilot and only half aware of her movements, she trudged back across the apartment and into her bedroom, pulling the down comforter around her shaking shoulders once again, eyes fixated back on the digital alarm that threatened to blare its morning wakeup call in only four short hours.
This is a slightly edited opening portion of an expository essay I'm currently writing for one of my classes, and it relays the defining moment in my life that I realized I had an eating disorder. It came about two months before I began the long and slow process of recovery.
I developed my eating disorder while living at home through my first two years of college. After transferring to a residential university, I alternated cycles of quintessential college student habits (Ramen and doughnut diet, anyone?) with regression into my eating disordered habits. Unsurprisingly, I climbed back to a healthy weight, but I was certainly not recovered mentally.
The past year I have immersed myself completely in nutrition, health, and fitness as a means of focusing on the right aspects of food. I may not wake up every day loving my body, but I do try to treat it with love. Fake it till you make it, if you will. I have learned to focus on healthy, hearty, primarily vegan foods combined with exercise, which I no longer use as a "remedial fix" for "overindulging". I'm learning that I actually have quite the appetite for superfoods! As I remind myself that it's a good thing to appreciate good food, I feel so much stronger and happier - who'da thunk that not depriving oneself could actually lead to a much cheerier disposition and outlook!?
Why do I feel compelled to post all this here? Because I see how many other women have struggled with disordered eating and found a balance in immersion in a highly healthful lifestyle, and I admire the strength with which they have risen above their past experiences and past tendencies. I have the utmost respect for what they are doing with their lives. I'm not going to pretend that I don't still deal with disordered impulses, but I realize that I can choose not to give in to them. Eating disorders are not creatures that you simply wake up one day and "get over". The women, though, have have been brave enough to share their stories on their own blogs, have greatly inspired me to do right by my body and take care of myself, and I feel that if my story can do the same for just one other individual, it's worth it. I'm here, always and anytime, to hear your stories as well.