I know it’s not just me, I just hope there is not a lot of us. We are the girls (Hey, there can definitely be some guys out there too) who submerge ourselves into starvation as a result of not loving ourselves enough or feeling the need to win approval. Sometimes it might be a silent scream for more love, perhaps attention is lacking and we just want to say “Hey, I’m still here, can you see me?”. On the other hand, it can be the result of a traumatic experience. Whatever the reason for your eating disorder, it’s not about food, it’s about the mind. An eating disorder, after all, is a mental illness.
The voice of your eating disorder, in whatever way it manifests itself in your life, decides to be inexplicably loud and rambunctious. From the time you wake up to the moment you go to bed, always loudest when you are alone, as there is no one there to stop you, advise you or question the fact that you aren’t eating.
Mine came about for a few reasons, mainly to have my mom’s approval and be in her good graces. She once told me it would be nice to see my spine more clearly. She hadn’t meant it in a bad way, I’m sure she had the best of intentions. But so did I. I wanted her to be proud of me. I was dancing Jazz and Ballet at the time and what sticks the most is when your mom points out how the other girl in the class has better figures and energy in their movements. And so I began on a spiraling and dangerous journey. Within a year I lost 30 pounds. I had the worst diet and an even worse mental state.
When the new school year was starting, I was entering grade 11 my mom took me to the doctor to see my dramatic weight loss. They asked me ‘why’ it happened. I was so far gone I didn’t know and I wouldn’t know for another ten years. When I started swimming that fall I was force-fed two breakfasts by my parents until my weight ‘improved’ in their eyes.
Over the next ten years, my weight fluctuated it never stayed the same for very long. It’s hard when you keep hearing “You could lose a bit of weight” or “you’re too skinny, you’re not eating enough”. I feel into binging and purging. Sometimes the binge would be in eating a kilogram of cheese in under a week (which twice gave me hives) or a 300g of chocolate in a sitting .. which was usually on my bed or in my closet. This would be followed by “Tomorrow I’m going to eat as it did back then” and I’d fall into my rituals and would restrict foods from my diet and shame myself if I ate something that I should not have.
I always prided myself on ‘loving myself’. But I believed back then that not caring what others thought of you was the same as loving yourself. Clearly what my mother thought was in a separate category (I can honestly say, though it’s not 100%, I am doing very well without her approval in my everyday life). It turns out loving yourself is about what you think about yourself at your greatest and at your lowest, it’s about being your biggest support system, it’s about always having your back and being okay with yourself when you make mistakes, but also knowing when to give you a serious talking to.
I may have loved myself when I was little but it wasn’t until the spring of 2016 that I began to fully love myself again. A major contributor to this what realizing that I still had an eating disorder. In the fall of 2015, I played games with myself. Taking supplements on an empty stomach, which would make me too nauseous to eat breakfast, having green pressed juice for lunch and going home to put my own food on my plate or simply be to “full to eat”. Christmas came and so did chocolate. I ate and ate and gained all the weight I lost over a few months back in no time. I stressed out my body, my cortisol was sky-high. I was pushing all my energy into opening a business which also fell through and I spiraled into a pit of letting my Eating Disorder (which I assumed I kicked it back in high school but was still with me) rule my life.
I took a break. I went to visit my best friend in Trinidad for a few weeks and as soon as I got back I decided it would be good to take a class on Eating Disorders that my Nutrition School was offering in Toronto. By the third class, I had a nervous breakdown and it was at that point that I began my recovery. I took a really good look at what I wanted to do, what I needed t do for myself, and I also became very honest and open about what was going on with me and my Eating Disorder.
I asked my family not to comment on my weight and to help me by being there for me when I needed someone to talk to. This did not work. However, my wonderful friend in Trinidad is of great support. On top of that, I have gotten a lot better at telling my parents that they do not have any right to comment on how either too skinny or too fat they think I am.
My relationship with food has improved. I eat when I am hungry and when I am full I don’t. I am still working on saying “No thank you” when I am offered food that clearly has no room in my stomach. It may seem strange, the simple act of eating when you are hungry and not when you are full. However, Eating disorders tend to irregular one’s ability to realize when one is hungry and when one is not. You may get to a point when you will always need to go to bed when your stomach is completely empty, or to a point when eat and eat and eat and not realize that you have gone way past the point of being full, you may simply realize later on that you feel very ill. It’s incredibly nice to not be in a place where I do this still.
I can also proudly say that I have kept the same weight on for the past five months. Of course, it is all a work in progress but the feeling is incredible. There are certain rituals that I can’t seem to shake off just yet, but I’m changing them up. An Eating Disorder will take a long time to get over. There are good days and there are bad ones. Sometimes the voice shouts out, but for the most part, I heard learned not to listen. Like I said at the beginning an Eating Disorder does not start off with food. It will definitely change your relationship with food and not for the better. It is important to seek help, to find someone to talk to and dig deep and look into what may have spurred your Eating Disorder. Ask yourself “Do I love myself?”, “How much do I love myself?” and once you’ve received an answer you are one step closer to positive change.
Remember! You are amazing and you deserve the very best!!!!
Kyla Fox Center — Eating Disorder Recovery
Sheena’s Place – Support for Eating Disorders
Edgewood Health Network — Personalized Treatment Centre
Amanda Filipowicz is a certified nutritional practitioner (CNP) with a bachelor in environmental studies (BES) from York University. She also has certification in clinical detoxification, prenatal and postnatal care as well as nutrition for mental health. She has been working as a nutritionist since 2013 and is a lifelong proponent of eating healthy.