My Eating Disorder is Not About Being Thin

Trigger Warning: This content may be upsetting to those that struggle with eating disorders or body image 

It’s a Tuesday and I just got home, I am hungry after barely eating all day. My first response should be to get a snack, but it isn’t. To get a snack because I am hungry is a forced thought, my first thought is to push through the hunger. I tell myself I do not need to eat, to go do something else, to go try to distract myself as the feeling of hunger grows. 

I have struggled with body image from a young age and have had a serious eating disorder since I was 15, but I do not feel like the two connect. Many people close to me know I have issues with eating, most do not realize the extent of those issues, and most assume it is because I want to be thinner. People think of eating disorders as a superficial issue. They do not understand that I would not cause myself this much pain if my appearance was the only objective. Sometimes I hate my body and sometimes I love it, these are normal feelings that come from living with societal pressures to look a specific way, these are not feelings that cause me to self destruct. I do not have an eating disorder because I want to be skinnier.

When I get home on a Tuesday and ignore my hunger it is not because I want to be skinnier. I got home and realized I had no plans, I felt lonely and sad and empty. I hate feeling lonely and sad and empty, but on this particular week I had been feeling that way a lot. It is hard to consistently feel that way and easier to instead blame everything on my body. 

It is a Wednesday and I am up late studying for a test that I am terrified of doing bad on, petrified with my fear of imperfection. It is easier to blame that fear on my body. It is a Thursday and my life feels like a windstorm verging on becoming a tornado. Rather than sort out all my problems it is easier to blame it on my body. It is a Friday night and I am supposed to go to a party but I am getting more anxious every second about all the people I will see, running through all the negative possibilities of them not liking me. I do not want to fixate on feeling rejection, instead it is easier to blame it on my body.

I often feel overwhelmed and out of control, and I cannot handle all the emotions that I experience all at once, so I transfer them to the physical. If the only problem is my body I can control that. Not eating is not about how I look or about just losing weight, it is about losing what I feel. It is not about shedding pounds, but shedding the loneliness, sadness, emptiness, the need for perfection, the fear of rejection, my desire to always be in control, and every other emotion I cannot cope with in the moment. When I feel hungry and push through that hunger I get a high, I achieved something, I feel more in control. I cannot control every aspect of my life but I can control this. 

The hospital trips, IVs and heart monitors, disappointing my family, the tears of my scared mom, were not because I wanted to be thin. Losing out on life would not have been worth being thin. It was more. In my worst the illness was my everything- it was what I leaned on for support, it was what comforted me, it was always there to help me feel like I could handle life. At the time all the bad seemed worth it if it meant I could hold onto the one thing that I could always depend on. It was not worth it. It will never be. The support from this illness is really parasitic, sucking away my life, leaving me isolated and incapable of surviving. I have to fight that feeling of thinking this is the one thing I can control. My first response should be to eat when I am hungry but it isn’t. I have to remind myself that leaning into my eating disorder is not control, it is letting it control me. I have to stop and remind myself that what I feel is seperate from my body, that how I feel has nothing to do with being skinny. My weight dropping will not mend the pain I feel or problems I face. There is nothing stoic about starvation. Jutting hip bones cut down my chance at happiness.

It is hard to write about this illness like it is in the past when I truthfully know it is still intertwined in my life. I pretend that if I can recognize it as not being the answer, see that it is not about being thinner, then I am past it. I consider myself recovered for two years now. I rarely talk about it and when I do it is only as something I used to struggle with. I say I am recovered because I am not where I once was, I am not constantly afraid of fainting or in need of a nutritionist set meal plan. Can I still be sick if I am not dying? There are days when I justify a hard boiled egg as lunch and dinner. Nights I stare at the fridge and cry because I cannot get myself to open it. Weeks I set myself up to fail by acting as if I am too busy to grocery shop so food will just have to wait. But there are also days when I have big meals, days I eat out with friends, days I bake and eat desserts with a smile, days I don’t think about it. Where does inconsistency land you in recovery? 

This might be something I have to consciously fight forever. There is no linear path to getting better, it is filled with backsliding and rebuilding. Sometimes I am doing great. Sometimes I am not. There are periods that are much rougher, but the difference between this illness in the past and where I am now, is I am trying. I now remind myself why I have to be healthy. I will not let my eating disorder control my life again. I will struggle but I will push myself to get help, to reach out, and to allow myself to fully live my life.

For more information about eating disorders signs and help, visit NEDA or reach out to the ANAD Helpline 630-577-1330