You wouldn’t know it by looking at me, but I had an eating disorder or as some call it “ED.”
For over six years now I’ve not physically partaken in my eating disorder habits, but that doesn’t mean the mental and emotional ramifications aren’t there. For me, an eating disorder is much like someone who is addicted to a substance. I was a wild card; when I quit smoking it was very easy for me to do, I simply got sick of it and I quit. I’ve never craved the cigarette as much as I have craved the feeling I had from purging or denying food. The false sense of accomplishment when I felt empty has been the hardest to overcome.
I’m a perfectionist. I felt pressured during my years in high school; I sought to bring control into my life. Food became that control, the very essence of being able to allow or deny myself something. I could give or take and that ability made me feel in control of myself. Losing weight was a side-effect that I hadn’t really expected, but then became obsessed with. I became focused on physical looks and how I felt other people saw me. I wasn’t anywhere near popular, my boyfriend really liked porn, and I felt like I was nothing. You are blasted with images on the internet, T.V., magazines, and movies of these perfect people with perfect bodies. For someone who kept striving and failing at perfection, I simply waded through the misery that was my imperfect image.
I was mocked for my eating disorder by my peers; I felt ashamed. Everyone wanted to support her, the more popular one; I was the plankton in the sea of fish.
I eventually met B, who wasn’t very supportive but didn’t seem to judge harshly. All he said was “If you do, don’t blame me.” Eventually what had me stop the physical aspects of my eating disorder was moving in with B. I tried so hard to keep my privacy when it came to what I was ashamed of. I knew I would be looking at long-term health effects if I didn’t stop. I knew it was wrong the entire time, but it was the feeling of power that I gave myself that I had to wean off of.
Eventually some weight crept back on, but not enough to make me go up a size. I filled out and became a little softer; I became healthier and my grandma stopped worrying about me so much. The battle that I would continually fight would be against the voice in my head. The inner workings of my mind and how my brain programmed itself lead to my self-image issues. Seeing me though the eyes of a normal person who hasn’t suffered from an eating disorder, I look great. I’m fit, I’m toned, I’m muscular, and I’m healthy. I have strong forearms, and my biceps are shaped nicely; my back is toned. I have a nice butt and strong leg muscles; I love my calves.
I have a distorted vision of myself, tunnel vision if you will; I see all of the perceived negatives about myself.
My tunnel vision is much like a person who is craving their last cigarette of the day. That undeniable urge to light up; you think you need it. I know I do not actually need to be critical and judgmental of myself and body, but it’s a hard habit to break. It’s probably the one habit of mine that most people will not understand. Self love is something that I work on giving myself when I can, but I still struggle with it on a regular basis. The days that I can look at myself in the mirror and complement myself are growing, however, it’s a slow process. It’s a long ways away from being ideal, but it’s better than it used to be.
I still have a hard time not comparing myself to women who I feel fit the “ideal woman” for a male; there are aspects of my body which I feel uncomfortable with. Smaller breasts and a soft stomach aren’t traits that I find appealing in my eyes; I understand that I would be told I’m wrong by many. What do you offer a person who describes themselves as a “breast man” when you have little to give? How do I feel confident when I feel so lacking? A soft, somewhat toned, and womanly stomach is nothing to be ashamed of; however I like it best when it looks flat.
I’ve found I will have the eating disorder for the rest of my life, I just manage it. It’s not going to burn out like an ember from a cigarette that fell to the ground; it smolders. I sometimes have thoughts where I wish I could and I have to tell myself in a very frank way to shut up. My physical health and well being are so much more important than allowing me to do what I know isn’t worth doing.
I have to live mindfully every day and sometimes it’s difficult to do or allow. Sometimes it’s truly day by day. All I can do is be thankful that I was strong enough to quit and keep working towards a healthier me.