One of my favorite quotes from an unknown author reads:
“difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations”.
I couldn’t agree more.
My story begins 4 years ago, during my freshman year of college, when I began a life-changing battle with Anorexia Nervosa. At the young age of 18, I couldn’t look in a mirror without seeing FAT all over my body.
ME, the girl who grew up loved and self-assured, now possessed a severely distorted perspective of herself.
For 18 years I was a strong and confident female athlete; completely fearless of the world around me. I had just graduated High School, and was moving on to “bigger and better things” in college. I had accepted a scholarship to play soccer at a small university, and was on my way to “living the dream”. As my parents left and I was on my own, I had no idea what challenges I was about to face down the road.
Being a freshman in college is scary; you don’t know what to expect. You’re excited but scared, happy but sad, and you “know everything” but you’re also clueless.
Being a freshman ATHLETE in college is even scarier. You see the fitness tests in your nightmares, are intimidated by upperclassmen, and you want playing time but also don’t want to screw anything up.
The pressure, stress, and anxiety people talk about is REAL. In a little over 3 months away at college, things began to change; I began to change.
My bold and once satisfied self began to lose control. Playing a collegiate sport became challenging, and my time was no longer MY TIME. The days became dark, repetitive, and passionless. Soccer became a “job” and was no longer enjoyable for me.
As I began to lose control of my time (and life) due to my sport, I started grasping at the only things I COULD control; eating and my weight. At the moment I realized I could control my weight through exercising and limiting my food intake, my view on life altered significantly .
For educational purposes, I’ll define Anorexia Nervosa as an eating disorder in which you obsess about your weight and every single thing you eat.
As I became fixated on controlling my weight, I also began obsessing over my appearance, and how “fat” I thought I was. I went through stages of over-analyzing myself in the mirror, to being too disgusted to even look.
I made goals with myself to track / count EVERY calorie I ate, and to exercise HARD to cancel everything out. My mindset was so distorted that every time I deprived myself of food, I felt “stronger” and proud of myself.
At the time, I viewed SKINNY as being HEALTHY. I started out with a goal to lose 5 pounds, and quickly became addicted to the feeling of accomplishment I felt once the numbers kept dropping.
I went from a HEALTHY weight of 120 pounds at the start of my collegiate career, to a brittle 97 pounds when I returned home from school the following summer. I transformed from a confident “I can do anything” woman, to a self-doubting, shattered body.
Once I was back at home, every single day was a battle between WANTING to eat, and ALLOWING myself to eat. I was completely terrified with the thought of gaining weight, but started realizing the damage I was doing to my body.
At (now) 19 years old, the destruction I put my body through was beginning to show. My hair was easily falling out, my teeth were BEYOND sensitive, and I was always cold. A blood-work study showed early signs of kidney failure, liver failure, and my potassium count was THROUGH THE ROOF.
Despite all of my symptoms, all of my lab results, all of my Doctor’s lectures, and the constant pleas from my family/friends... I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t allow myself to be carefree. I COULDN’T get fat.
Flash forward a couple of months... I can’t tell you exactly WHAT changed or WHAT happened, but one day something clicked. I was tired of starving myself. Tired of exercising multiple times in one day, and tired of being tired.
I couldn’t answer the question as to WHY I was starving myself, but I knew deep down something had to change; I had to change.
My changes were small, and very gradual. I began drinking more water, eating SOMETHING at every mealtime, and only working out ONCE a day.
As time progressed, so did my changes. I re-introduced foods I was “scared” of, ate snacks, and didn’t tear myself down for being hungry.
It DID NOT happen over night, but within a year of my new mindset, I was back on my way to a healthy weight and recovery.
The thing about Anorexia Nervosa that is so challenging is that it is a CONSTANT mental game. You have good days and bad, and have to stay positive regardless of whatever kind of day you’re having.
Remaining positive is SO IMPORTANT. Making a big deal out of little victories, and rewarding yourself is critical! Rather than focusing on the bad, make an effort to point out the good. Find joy in yourself, your body, and what makes you... YOU.
While people often tell me how bad they feel for me that I had an eating disorder, I laugh it off and tell them that Anorexia was my GREATEST blessing. Even though times were tough and days were dark, I feel like I was MEANT to go through the experience. Now (at 21) that I’m healthy, I am SO determined to help other girls NEVER go through what I went through my freshman year of college. I have taken the negative disease, and turned it into a positive. I now speak publically (and openly) about my struggles, and want so badly to assist other girls in seeing their worth, their potential, and that FOOD IS FUEL... not the enemy.
Through representing THINK and being a Fall 2015 Ambassador, my goal is to reach girls NATIONWIDE and help them see their individual beauty. I want to assist girls in THINKing Strong. THINKing Beautiful, and most importantly THINKing Me... because YOU are important.