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NEDA Week: My Story

Photo: Barbara Puzanovova

 

This week is about spreading awareness about eating disorders. I think we’re all pretty aware of them, whether we are survivors or whether we know someone in recovery or someone still in its grips. Most of them don’t land you in the hospital, but all of them make you face your fears, your darkest self.

 

I began my eating disorder with a passion for fitness. In fact, the stuff that gets blamed for beginning eating disorders — running, tracking food, regimented workouts — helped me with my anxiety and self-harming habits. It was a better alternative, but one that would soon turn against me. 

 

I spent a lot of my time at Vanderbilt thinking about food — and I didn’t even try the Rand cookies, the Commodore Tso chicken, the Tortellini Tuesdays. I avoided social gatherings that had “bad” food like s’more cookouts and pizza unless it was a cheat day. Dressing was foreign to me. I either ate like a competitive bodybuilder, or I would use my whole meal swipe on 5 sides of dessert because passing by the dessert bar three times a day and restricting myself was too much.

 

It was when I realized that I was anxious about weekends and breaks — because I would lose the “healthy routine” of 3 close-to-perfect meals a day — that I thought it may be time to see a professional. But I felt like I didn’t look like someone with an ED. In fact, I was toned, muscular, strong, healthy, fit, everything people want to be, everything I wanted to be. 

 

In Fall 2014, I saw a therapist. I saw her once a week, then a couple times a month, then once a month, then checked in a few months, until I told her — I think I’m good. Because for the first time in a long time, I made a New Year’s Resolution to not track my food for January. If I didn’t like it, I would track again. I ate anything I felt like. Dessert at lunch? Sure! Cinnamon rolls for breakfast? Yes! Soda? Bring it. I learned to feel what my body and mind liked, what gave me energy and what made me want to puke, not because some numbers on a screen told me I should eat more or exercise more. So February came, and I didn’t feel like it.

 

I haven’t felt like it since.

 

Does that mean my problems are gone? Nope. I just dug deeper. I still have all the dark parts. I just don’t make food good or bad. I don’t divide my body into parts. I don’t decide if I deserve to eat something based on how many calories I burned that day. I’ve conquered my fear foods — they may just look like Pop Tarts or potato chips to you, but they’re a badge of honor for me. They mean I am not afraid of food anymore. I can live. And thanks to CHAARG, I hope to continue spreading that message to college-aged women everywhere.

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