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TW: College, Eating Disorders And a Pandemic

Trigger Warning: this article contains content pertaining to disordered eating and weight loss

Author’s Note: This is my open and honest experience with eating disorders and recovery. It is not something I intend to glamorize. I hope this gives comfort and strength to those seeking healing.

If you think you are struggling with an eating disorder, there are safe and confidential spaces for you to be heard. Please consider contacting the National Eating Disorder Helpline at:

Text: 1-(800)-931-2237 (Monday – Thursday 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. EST)

Call: 1-(800)-931-2237 (Monday – Thursday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. EST, Friday – 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. EST)

Chat: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support/contact-helpline (Monday – Thursday 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. EST, Friday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. EST) )

person reading poetry books next to tea and flowers
Photo by Thought Catalog from Unsplash

I don’t talk about my eating disorder. Well, I guess I do. It’s hard not to when I want to look like everyone says I should. The sly, self-deprecating comments I make about my arms, stomach and legs. They may seem like general, empty complaints, but after, I would sit on my phone, hours at a time. I’d document everything I saw in other girls that I wanted, and shame myself, dissipating any hunger in my body.

Before COVID-19, I had been in recovery for only a few months from a past relapse of anorexia. I had a routine set when I felt myself falling into old routines. I would make myself a special dinner, go out with friends and generally maintain control. Once COVID-19 smashed my routine, I had no plan B. When I lost control in my life, I found it in anorexia.

When living at home, I could lock myself in my room all day, only really moving to sit up for class. I felt the compulsion to move a certain amount, burn a certain number of calories, to deserve to eat. When I moved into my apartment, I convinced myself I didn’t have an issue. Whether it was working out instead of eating or saying that school was more important than lunch, I would say anything to deny the truth.

As my stomach weight plateaued, the anxiety around my weight and appearance peaked. I would become nauseous at the thought of eating in front of someone else. If I felt hungry in class, I’d take a nap to avoid eating. My body was so angry. She was fighting a mental and physical battle every moment of every day.

I was sitting in bed, thinking more about how my stomach looked in an Instagram picture than my homework, when I realized this is not who I want to be. I don’t have to be physically small, look a certain way or weigh a certain amount to be deserving of larger things in life.  

I didn’t think I had an eating disorder because I wasn’t “thin enough” or that I still ate any food. I met with my therapist who assured me, there is no “look” of an eating disorder. So many people, regardless of gender and body type, suffer at the intrusive hands of negative body image. It’s this reason why I want to share my experience.

Anorexia and eating disorders are not something to be ashamed of. It is possible to live a mentally and physically healthy life, one where food is not demonized.

I didn’t magically wake up one day and love myself. It’s something I continue to work on every day as I strive to work on my recovery and heal. There is no straight path in life, and the same can be said with eating disorder recovery. It’s been during recovery where I’ve found those who love my heart more than my body and have discovered self-worth is not defined by a number on a scale.

Lila is a Sophomore who recently transferred to VCU. She is studying Mechanical Engineering, and enjoys writing, crochet and music.
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