I cannot tell you the exact moment that I began to eat differently. I cannot place the single moment of impact when I discovered that there were ways to manipulate eating habits in order to lose weight.
I don’t remember the first time I looked in the mirror and saw someone else.
I don’t remember the day that I thought my 00 jeans meant that I was fat.
What I can indeed share with you is that I have struggled for more than a decade with body image issues and disordered eating.
I do remember logging in online one summer and looking up those magic words “How to lose weight fast,” right before entering high school.
I do remember the first pro-anorexia website that I found.
I do remember the very first meal that I skipped.
I do remember the very first meal that I purged.
At first, I starved myself.
I started a competition with a girl that I had met online and logged my starting weight at 101.
I went a month with water fasting for three days, eating under 300 calories for two days, and then repeating the cycle.
By the end of the month, I weighed in at 80 lbs.
The rush was exhilarating. I had complete control of this, and this was mine to keep.
Soon though, I was unable to maintain the starvation.
I began to binge.
And discovered purging.
I would wait until midnight, when everyone else in the house was asleep, and I would go into the kitchen.
Thousands of calories ingested within 30 minutes. I would fall to the floor from the cramping and bloating, and would literally crawl to the bathroom where I would stick my fingers down my throat until I vomited clear liquid. That way I knew I had gotten rid of all of the food. The feeling that rushes over you after you purge is one that I cannot really describe. It is calm, and yet shaky. It is powerful, and yet weak. Nonetheless, it was worth repeating.
Of course, the binge-purge (b/p) cycle brings a lot of shame. Why couldn’t I just not eat? I had no willpower at all! I was failing. I was losing the control that I had tried so hard to hold on to.
Eventually, after the bloody vomit began showing up, I would drop the purging. I’d just binge. I would eat and eat and eat and it would stay in my body.
I discovered laxatives around this time. I would start by taking three a night. But sooner than you’d expect, the laxatives quit working. I moved on to five a night, ten a night, then the entire box. The pain was excruciating, but worth it in the morning. It was false weight loss, I know that realistically … but you can’t tell that to someone that just wants the scale to go down.
I continued the ‘starvation for a few months, b/p for a few months & binge + laxatives for a few months’ cycle all the way into adulthood. I would gain and lose, gain and lose, gain and lose, all the while hating myself a bit more each time I stepped on that scale.
I went into treatment once and was diagnosed with ED-NOS (more info here), which is commonly referred to as the most deadly of all eating disorders; but of course, I just felt like a failure. I couldn’t even get my ass a “real” E.D.
The desperation kicked in once again at 23. I still had no control over anything in my life. Everything went wrong, every time. And I couldn’t even get to my goal weight. I was at my highest weight, after another attempt at quitting drugs, and was miserable. Miserable seems too pretty of a word. I was fucking trapped inside of a body that wasn’t mine. I convinced myself that it was my weight, but in hindsight, I had always felt that way. There was no goal weight, no holy grail. After all, each time I had gotten to any goal weight, it would quickly change.
That didn’t stop me though.
I began eating only dinner, purging when the dinner was too large. For two years, with some fuck-ups of binge-eating along the way, I lived on less than 1000 calories a day. The power had returned; my control had returned. Each time I denied food that I was salivating over, I had a rush of accomplishment like I had just climbed Mt. Everest. My body still looked disgusting, but at least I was heading in the right direction.
Of course, fucking with your metabolism catches up with you. I didn’t lose as fast and it would be extremely triggering. If 1000 calories wasn’t cutting it, I’d move down to 500. Still not working? Try 200. The last two years of my life have been stuck here. Until now.
I’m engaged, you see, to a boy that doesn’t want me acting like this anymore. While his worry comes from a genuine place, I don’t think he understands that it isn’t a choice. You don’t erase more than a decade of something in a day. But I cannot explain it to him, because I cannot explain it to myself. It is something that just simply is. And … in the depths of my mind, I have to admit, there is a repeating thought that says, “You will not let him take this away from you, Erica.”
Yesterday, I discovered that a friend of mine had passed away from heart failure due to years and years of struggling with an eating disorder. This is, sadly, one of many friends I have lost to it. At first, you want to honor their life by never again starving or purging. You want to be better, to win, to throw the eating disorder away! But, like I said, it’s not to simple. It always comes back, because it never really left. It is you, and you it. Most people run from things that threaten your life, but sometimes, we don’t get that choice.
I do not know if I will ever be free. Of the thoughts, of the behaviors, of the actions. I do not know if I will ever treat food normally, or ever not be haunted by what the scale has for me. I do not know if I will ever see a reflection that I am content with, or if I will ever stop torturing myself. I do not know if I will ever let go of that addicting ‘control‘.
So that is where I leave this; a place of one great big unknown. I know this isn’t a happy ending where I’m cured, nor is this even an ending. It is just me telling a story that I hadn’t yet shared here, that is all.