Something you don’t see often when talking about ED is non-thin people. People have this idea of what it means to have anorexia. They cut to those images of women so thin you can see their bones. I think the face of anorexia many times is not this. It’s someone that is fat. It is someone like me. Just for a number of reasons their body never lets them get that thin.
Doctors encourage anorexia like behaviors. They will tell you go on extreme diets and counting calories to extreme lengths. I have been told it would be a great idea for me to live off of less than 800 calories a day. They have you start to label food as good and bad. Many doctors when won’t ask a fat person how they are losing weight. They just say “Oh, Wendy you have lost 20 lbs in a week keep doing what ever you are doing”. They think that as long as you are losing weight it is better than being fat. Many people in the world think like this also.
I use to fear to look at my body. I didn’t really let people take my picture unless it was from really the chest up. I didn’t really look in mirrors if I could see more than my face. I honestly didn’t even really like to look down at my body. So I lived in this world that I didn’t really have a picture of what my body looked like. I know this probably sounds really odd but it is the truth. I think it was just my mind’s way of protecting itself.
Well that changed in December 2010 when at work I got my picture taken and I could see my whole body. So from December 2010 – April 2012 I went on a diet. I started to count my calories and everything I was doing. I even knew how many calories were burnt from sleeping. I counted it all. At first I was fine eating normally amounts but the culture of diets is horrible for anyone that has a history with anorexia. I started to eat less and less. I lived off less than 500 calories a day. I learned what I could eat that had the least amount of calories and I drank lots of water. I didn’t tell anyone at the time what I was going through. I held it in. No one knew and I was careful with making it look like I was eating more around others.
When I was a teenager I had a lot of issues with self hate. My depression was in full gear. I spent much of those years living off the littlest amounts of food, water, and sleeping pills. I was thin during this time (size 8 at my smallest) but never what people would call “anorexic thin”. I had so much pressure to be pretty and I didn’t feel it. There were also many other issues I was dealing with.
I learned during these years how to make people think you were eating. I learned how to avoid looking at my body. When I took showers I pretended like it wasn’t my body or I just did all I could to not look at it. I didn’t really let people take my picture. I have huge chucks in my life I have no pictures or very few because I thought I was too ugly.
When I got help for my depression, anorexia, and self harming behaviors. I thought my anorexia was something I had moved past. I really don’t know why I thought this because I knew I had to always work at my other mental health issues. I didn’t realize how my ED was still in my head. It was like it was waiting to hear the right words. Honestly how I think of it is like a worm that is waiting for someone to open the window of self hate enough. Well in December 2010 the window opened.
People need to know that when you have ED it is something you have to work at staying in recovery. I made the mistake the first time to make one my coping skills to just not look at my body. I find ways to hide my body to make it take up less space. All I really did was let the worm sleep till I was forced to look at my body.
Recover of anorexia is something hard for me to talk about. I have been trying to ask myself why is that. I normally will say because it’s so personal and what worked for me would probably not work for others. Though honestly if I was to look it more that argument is kind of wrong. I am a person that will talk about so many other things openly knowing that why yes my story is personal but I hope that part of it can help someone. I think it’s because I have a lot of shame. I sometimes question myself if I really did suffer from anorexia. I was diagnosed as a teen but like even with my issues of anxiety and depression I sometimes question if I’m just broken.
It is also the shame I get from many people in the ED community. The few times I have talked about my recovery I get so much hate. I get more hate from the ED community than another community. They don’t realize how their hate is their own fatphobia. They stopped me for many years from getting help. I have talked with other women that don’t fit into rail thin anorexia look. They also didn’t get help or talk about their struggle because of the hate the ED community has shown. I really think this should change because this can kill people. If I listened to them I would throw myself back into my anorexia. I am stronger than that but many in recovery aren’t. If I am honest there are times I maybe not stronger than that. We all have our days we must fight through. Their fatphobia can kill people.
So what made me recover from that horrible diet I put myself on? Well I started to have health issues and a lot of stress at work. It all was becoming too much. I ended up leaving my job where I heard a lot about my weight. Everyone there would talk about how proud they were of me to have lost so much weight. No one knew of my secret shame. I also had a toxic friendship there that feed into my dark thoughts.
So I changed jobs and decided to go back to school. I threw myself into school and honestly started to fall back into not looking at my body. It also helped no one around me was counting calories. Even at my new job no one for at least a long time talked about diets. I got lucky with this. But I also really didn’t deal with my issues. I just went back to acting like my body wasn’t really there. I went back to not looking at it. I know that many people who suffer from anorexia have it worse than me. Their recovery story was worse than mine. Though I think the health issues I was having at the time was from a year of barely eating. I am sure I was on the road to something awful. I was lucky that I left a job that was horrible. I was lucky I had going back to school to throw myself into. I was lucky no one around me was doing diets. Though I didn’t really have many people in my world at that time. I had my wife, family, and very few friends. I honestly at that time had a couple of friendships falling apart. Which in the end was best for my mental health.
I honestly believe many of the issues that I had from my anorexia I didn’t even start to deal with till I joined the body positivity movement. Around 2014 I started to read and look at pictures of fat women on Instagram and other social media. It wouldn’t be till 2016 I finally decided to face myself and share that. I am still working on my issues. I do still have times that I feel like I am not worthy. I still have moments I think I don’t deserve to eat. Most of these moments are when I mess up something.
What I would say is the best thing for me with recovery is facing the reasons why I wanted to be thin. To figure out triggers for it and try to work on those. I feared being fat because I thought that made me ugly. I thought it made me less than. Much of my triggers also have to deal with my other mental health issues. I have issues with feeling shame, feeling of being a fraud, feeling of not being good enough, fear of one day waking up and being a bad person, feelings that I am selfish, feelings of not doing enough, and fears that the world will see me for what I am a dumb poor white trash girl. The fear of being seen as a dumb poor white trash and the fear of becoming a bad person is HUGE for me. I question myself on these more than I should. I am trying to learn to face these. For me I feel like I don’t have control in my life and my self harming behaviors is something I can control. I hope my story can be helpful for someone.
Many of my issues with anorexia go hand and hand with some my other mental health issues. Which makes sense. I tried to only talk about my ED. I do want you to also know that you can’t deal with your ED without also dealing with your other mental health illness.
An extra note :
Something I’ve been getting a lot from the ED community is that there is no way that I was anorexic because of my size now. Do they not see how much that statement is rooted in fatphobia ? That is the root of anorexia and bulimia. It’s that fear of being fat. I have had people message me asking me to stop saying I had an ED because I’m triggering them. The ED community needs to wake up and help people like me. People don’t get help because we “don’t look the part”. Also anorexia/bulimia is not something that just magically goes away. That’s a Huge point of my message. It’s not like a cold you take care of it and it’s gone forever.