Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

Her Story: I Had An Eating Disorder

If you asked me to pin point when my journey began I couldn’t tell you, it just happened. I was about fifteen or sixteen in my sophomore year of high school, and six years later the memories and obsessions still haunt me. If you looked at me today, you would see a healthy girl who certainly does not appear to have an eating disorder, but if you take a closer look you will see a girl that still deals with exhausting mind games surrounding food on a daily basis.

Eating disorders are not one in the same; everyone’s journey is so different, yet so alike at the same time. If you know someone with an eating disorder, you will soon figure out that no matter what it will never fully vanish from their life, there will still always be those stubborn triggers that go along with everyday existence, and it becomes so routine, they cannot imagine a life free of this burden.

For me, it all began with an obsession with perfection. Somehow it crept up on me, I could no longer eat junk, nor anything with a high fat content for that matter. I spent hours online and reading magazines about “health” and “fitness” and I knew the calorie and fat content in practically every food imaginable. If I were going out to eat, the anxiety would creep in. I hated going out to dinner, I would go online and look up the menu and search for the calorie content of all the “safe” foods, before venturing into such a danger zone for a night out.

All I could think about was what I ate, what I was going to eat, and how much I weighed. The scale became both my archenemy and best friend, I weighed myself upwards of ten times per day, and meticulously wrote down everything I ate as I counted up the exact number of calories several times. I remember going over my designated calorie amount as the tears rushed down my cheeks in my bed, a feeling of utter hopelessness washed over me. Reading my diary this year, I felt a pang in my heart for that scared girl, and had to put it down.

I had a boyfriend at the time, that typical first romance that one gets so wrapped up in, and years later they look back and ask what the hell they were thinking? He had no clue what was going on. I would go to his house and try to enjoy myself, but the entire night all I could do was repeat what I ate over and over again in my tortured head, it became exhausting. I was using most of my mental energy to analyze what I ate, it got so bad I began to have dreams of overeating, and I would hate myself, but be completely relieved as I opened my eyes to my enduring reality. What I didn’t realize until now was I wasn’t waking up to a happy state of relief, rather just another nightmare, except this one was a lot more vivid.

My days always began the same way; I got up, ate my usual one hundred calorie breakfast, and would go on with my routine. Some days were worse than others. If I wasn’t eating enough, I would black out, and fall down to the ground, my vision completely obscured, my hands and feet were frequently numb, and my complexion grew pale. I went to my annual check up, and I could see the look on my doctor’s face as he weighed me. He told me I was anemic and at an unhealthy weight, I was skinner than I was in middle school, and people were beginning to notice. When he asked me when I had gotten my last period, it started to really sink in, “six months ago,” I answered sheepishly. That’s when the doctor told me I had an issue that needed to be resolved, I wasn’t getting my period because my body wasn’t at a healthy enough weight to conceive, if things didn’t change soon I was in serious danger.

With my doctor’s guidance I put on a few pounds.  Nothing earth-shattering, but enough to get my body back in gear, and at a healthier BMI. My period returned, as did the color in my cheeks, and my black outs became less frequent. This didn’t change my thoughts, I still was completely and wholly consumed by my diet, it was as if what I ate and what I was going to eat was playing on a never ending loop in my head, the most unbearable broken record imaginable.

Fast-forward a few years, and I was freshman at UMass Amherst, thrown into a whole new world, and I was excited for the new possibilities. I had just found out about my boyfriend of three years cheating on me, and I was single in a hookup culture that I was not accustomed to. Before arriving at college, I had gotten my wisdom teeth pulled, and the complications and negative medicine reactions ensued. I lost five pounds in a day, from repeatedly throwing up everything from food to crushed ice. Dehydrated and shaking, I entered this new world of college, I was also skinny, and I liked it. Being exposed to a buffet of delicious food right outside my door, endless amounts of booze, and late-night pizza orders, I easily gained back the weight I had lost, reaching my highest weight ever of 125 lbs. 

I hated myself; when I saw that dreaded number on the scale I immediately made the decision to lose the weight as soon as possible. I began going to the gym five days a week running until my legs ached, doing two hundred crunches at a time. I made a list of good foods, bad foods, acceptable eating habits, and unacceptable eating habits, and I followed this blue print religiously. I would measure out my food painstakingly, if I ordered a wrap I would ask for one slice of cheese, two slices of turkey and a dot of mustard, I would then ask them to cut the wrap in half, and sometimes I would let myself eat one half.  Going to dinner was like approaching a battlefield, I would read the calories for everything available, and if I overate by eating a dish of pasta and a salad, I would sincerely hate myself for the rest of the day.

I plummeted down to my lowest weight around 105 pounds, a weight too slender for my 5’5″ frame, and my friends started to worry. While home for winter break, my friend of fifteen years helped me pack my clothes for I was about to return to college, and when I left the room she started crying. My clothes were so small, and she knew something wasn’t right. During that same break my mom saw me walking around in shorts, she panicked and began to cry. I didn’t know what to do, in her eyes my legs were waifish and I looked skinnier that I had been at fourteen, to me I could still afford to lose a few pounds; each pound lost was another battle won, and at the same time an even bigger battle lost.

I began going to therapy, they put me on medication, and officially diagnosed me with a restrictive eating disorder, and I was in disbelief. I was always aware of my condition, but hearing a name be attached to it scared the sh*t out of me. They insisted I go to a clinic, I made the appointment and canceled it, made the appointment again, and naturally proceeded to cancel it. I couldn’t bring myself to accept my condition, and I was happier ignoring the issue. Meanwhile, I began experimenting with purging the food that I ate, sometimes I would reach such low points that I would grab a toothbrush and shove it down my throat; I don’t know why, but each time it didn’t work, I’m not sure if I have a weak gag reflex, or if my mind would not allow myself to engage in such self destructive games any longer. Either way I am thankful for that.

Today I have stabilized my weight at about 125 lbs, and yes, the eating disorder still stays with me. No, it is not as poignant and life altering as it once was; I now eat a lot more than I used to, and way fewer foods are off limits. I consider myself to be a somewhat normal eater now; I enjoy cooking for others and myself. Still, it doesn’t mean I don’t look at myself in the mirror and think how I would love to lose those last five pounds, or think “Wow, I ate so much today, tomorrow I’ll go back to eating healthy”.

After going through much therapy with a variety of different counselors, I have learned a lot more about my condition and myself. I learned you do not need to be a stick to be diagnosed with an eating disorder, even when a person with an eating disorder is at a healthy weight; they have only won half the battle. For me, it is the negative, obsessive thoughts that kill me, rather than the actual physical skinniness that goes along with it. Perhaps most importantly I learned the root of my eating disorder, a need for a hold on my life, a sense of control. No one can tell you what to put into your body, only you have that right, and so I used my eating disorder to gain control in at least one major area of my life. Although it may have been for the worse, there is something so satisfying about encompassing that control within the palm of your hands, no one could take it away from me, and so it began. I had lost that necessary sense of control in other areas upon my life, and due to issues at home, I began to seek this control, which lead to an eating disorder.

This will never fully escape me, no matter how much I wish it would. It’s a lifelong battle, and I’m sure anyone who’s experienced it first hand would vouch for me on that one. I will say that I am doing better than I ever have before, and I plan to maintain a healthy weight, rather than plummet into the danger zone again, I have found beauty in curves, and I do not even want to be stick thin, the way that I used to. That doesn’t mean I don’t count my calories, and write down what I ate in my school notebooks during class. That also doesn’t mean I’m not trying to lose that last five pounds, but it does mean that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and for now that light is all I’ve got, and I’m going to let this ray of hope light the way for my future free of an eating disorder.

Photo Sources: 123456.

Her Campus Placeholder Avatar
Shanna Coffrey

U Mass Amherst

Shanna is a junior English major at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She loves reading, writing, and drawing in her spare time. She is very interested in health and well-being through eating, exercise, and meditation. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a career in journalism or education.
Similar Reads👯‍♀️