Updated: Oct 5, 2020
A few days ago, I stepped on the scale and realized something: I have been dealing with this eating disorder for ten years. TEN YEARS! I couldn't believe it.
And that was probably the longest I had ever spent on a scale. I was just staring at my weight, trying to wrap my head around the fact that this all started when I was a junior in high school--and the fact that high school was ten years ago.
After a rough volleyball season, I decided to lose weight. I wasn’t obese or even overweight, but I was on the heavier side of the weight range for my height. With the help of my mom, who was also losing weight, I lost 20 pounds, no problem! But I began to struggle when I hit a plateau. It led to an eating disorder.
For the rest of my junior and senior years I struggled with everything - starving myself, binge eating, and emotional eating. I even tried to throw up meals a few times. The worst part of it was that I linked being skinny with being popular and having a boyfriend. Like hitting a certain weight would solve all my “problems.”
One misconception about eating disorders is that they are solely about eating. It’s also about the struggle to love yourself, take care of yourself, or feel worthy of love. Each cause is unique. Thoughts like that take their toll on a person’s self-esteem, it certainly did mine.
It wasn’t until college that I realized this mental state was wrecking my life. Emotional eating had taken over my nutrition habits and depression ruled every aspect of my day. I couldn’t function so I returned home for my sophomore year of college to work through it.
I started writing to figure out how to express my emotions. By understanding how others expressed love, hate, frustration, etc I was able to figure out how I was supposed to express those emotions. It took months, but I finally stopped eating my feelings and I started loving myself. Problems solved, right?
Why has my weight yo-yoed since then?
Simple. It was never a top priority.
I didn’t realize that I never totally fixed the problem during that year. Overeating and stress eating was still a problem. I never realized it was lingering because losing weight had always been on the back burner. It was last on the list of things to do -- finish the semester, find a job, work on my book, and then maybe lose weight.
I have always been a positive person. After every setback, I would pick myself up, dust myself off and keep going -- thinking I just need to be more disciplined and work harder.
As I stood on that scale thinking about 10 years of struggling, lots of thoughts went through my head:
Why aren’t my good habits enough? I know how to do it, but I can’t for some reason. Maybe I just can’t lose weight.
It must be mental. Do I need to talk to a psychiatrist? I have tried to lose weight for so long, but I have only gained weight. There must be something blocking normal behavior.
That’s when I realized I still eat when I’m stressed. I still have an eating disorder. When I’m overwhelmed, I just want to feel better. I know that eating will make me happy so I do it. It’s comforting. It makes the stress go away if only for a little bit.
I knew that it had to stop. It wasn’t going to continue for another ten years, it couldn’t continue for another ten minutes.
So what changed?
Why did I stay on that scale for so long that morning?
My future children.
I recently got married to the most wonderful man in the world. We are already planning our fiftieth wedding anniversary -- probably a fabulous cruise to the Carribean. But the other big life event we are planning is our children. We want at least two and God willing, we will have more. I can’t struggle with an eating disorder, because I want to be able to keep up with my kids and I don’t want them to struggle with it too.
This is where my mom comes into the picture. I have been watching her struggle basically since my little sister was born. The amazing lady who helped me become a strong independent woman also showed me how to eat a whole box of Little Debbie's. I can remember coming home from school in first grade and literally eating eight oatmeal pies. I wish I was exaggerating. My body is used to eating 4,000 calories a day because that’s how much I probably ate when I was eight. Kids learn from example.
But that isn’t the worst part of this whole situation. In the past few years, my mom has slowed down. When I was in high school she impressed all my friends with her cartwheeling skills, but now she can’t carry a box up three flights of stairs. I recently moved and my mom left her first box on the second landing, then took on cleaning and unpacking instead of the heavy lifting.
I want to be able to keep up with my kids whether they are five or twenty-five.
The thing is, I don’t blame my mom. I can’t sit here and say my mom has caused me to be 50 pounds overweight. I made those choices. It’s not my mom’s fault. Pointing fingers won’t solve anything.
I don’t see the past as good or bad, because I can’t change it. The past is the past. I only see the past to understand it and learn from it. The present and the future is mine to change.
I have learned that I don’t want to pass this problem down to my children. My husband and I want to give my children healthy habits and be able to run around with them and with our grandchildren. My eating disorder doesn’t rule me anymore and it is not going to rule my children. The problem stops with me.
As a result of my longest stay on a scale ever, I started Noom. It’s a diet to un-diet. The program focuses on the mental part of weight loss while encouraging and teaching you how to eat right. What I like about it so far is there are daily articles to read. That way fixing the problem is always on the front burner!
Full disclosure: I am not affiliated with Noom in any way.
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