Yes, something VERY exciting happened to me and Preston last week, I’m just waiting on the pictures so I can tell you the whole story! (spoiler alert: we’re officially getting hitched!)
But today. No gimmicks. No catchy opening. Nothing.
I want to talk about eating disorders.
I’m not a doctor. Or a therapist. Or a nutritionist. Or an expert.
However, I am a woman who has been plus sized my entire life.
Eating has been a very constant battle every day.
I want to talk about ED (eating disorders) and my experience in having them.
And let’s be clear. I do NOT want pity. These are my life experiences. I hope maybe someone can relate. Or feel happy to share their story too. I wouldn’t be who I was if they weren’t part of it and I’m pretty freaking great. So again, I’m not brave, you’re not sorry that this happened, etc.
I did Schoolhouse Rock Live Jr. when I was in seventh grade. We were choreographing Interplanet Janet and we had some cheesy little dance number where we were all pretending to be the planets. I got put as Saturn which meant bopping around while holding a hula hoop around my waist. I didn’t have to swing it – just literally hold it around me.
One of the boys in the show, who was 13 and dumb and later became one of my close friends and has probably no recollection of this moment, says, “Do you even need that hula hoop? Aren’t you big enough?”
I was devastated. I cried in the wings. Sobbed. Now, I’d say, “NOPE, GIMME THAT HULAHOOP!”
But it wasn’t now. It was then.
My friend agreed that she would switch with me and I could be Mercury and she would be Saturn. So we switched the next day. The teacher yelled at me for switching. When I privately told her the story, she said it was unprofessional and undermining to do that. Yeah, some people take middle school musicals THAT seriously.
That is one of the first times I remember someone else making me feel bad about my body. I’m sure there were other times. But….this one stuck.
Subsequently, I was thirteen and in seventh grade the first time I realized that I could just NOT eat. That it was an option. My mom made my breakfast, my dad made me dinner, and I bought lunch at school. That was it. I’d usually eat a small snack after school and a small snack after dinner.
So let’s tally that up. I ate approx. 5 times a day.
But…in my thirteen year old mind – I could cut out THREE of those times without anyone knowing. Then no one would comment about my hula hoop or wide hips.
I could have zero snacks and skip lunch.
So I did just that. I used to eat a bowl of Special K (because it had diet plans listed on the box), half a power bar for lunch, and whatever my dad made for dinner.
I was thirteen. I barely even had my period. I was transitioning out of training bras and reading diet plans on cereal boxes. I got my glasses in seventh grade and that’s also when I started counting calories. It seems so messed up like that.
Then I increased the restriction. I started asking my mom for Special K bars that I could take on the bus with me in the morning. I just opened the power bar and broke it into tiny pieces that I made disappear over the course of lunch – like a well timed and awful sleight of hand trick.
I ate half a Special K bar for breakfast and half after lunch, out of my purse, in tiny nibbles. No eating in class, but it kept me awake and functioning in the afternoon.
I couldn’t figure out, at thirteen, how to get out of dinner – so I just ate it. I figured that I probably needed SOME calories, just to like, survive and stuff, so dinner seemed an opportune time to do that.
I drank a lot of water. All the eating disorder websites said that was a sign to look out for. So I started doing just that.
You heard that right. I looked for books, articles, websites, etc. AGAINST having an ED or how to spot the warning signs to GET IDEAS FOR HOW TO BE BETTER AT HAVING ANOREXIA.
I was thirteen.
I considered bulimia for the whole dinner situation but anyone who knows me knows that I HATE THROWING UP. hatehatehatehatehate with the passion of a thousand white suns. I hate when people make fake gagging sounds, if I see people do it, I’ll do it. My stomach is turning just writing this paragraph.
Long story short: bulimia wasn’t really an option.
I didn’t really lose weight. I just felt empowered. Hunger pangs were music to my ears. I loved feeling empty. It felt successful. Feeling full was depressing.
Fast forward a few years:
I’m in high school. I decide that I’m going to start working out. This leads to a LOT of working out. This leads to me remembering how good feeling empty was. This leads to me thinking if I was EMPTY & WORKING OUT that I would lose weight. This lead to me feeling hungry a lot and losing interest in working out. Turns out *major spoiler* you need to eat to be able to work out.
I lost some weight. It didn’t stick. I wasn’t unhappy with my body but everyone else seemed to be. Adults offered me diet tips and weight loss tools. Customers at the grocery store I worked at asked if I knew that eating white grain was bad for me. Boys said I was too fat to date in public. I didn’t get parts in the musical unless they were kooky aunts. Friends gave me concerned and hesitant side eyes when we went to the mall or asked about going out swimming. People said they felt fat and then turned and apologized to me for saying it.
I was wearing a size 16. The national average for women.
I didn’t feel like there was anything wrong with me.
Everyone else made damn sure that I knew that there was.
Fast forward again:
This is going to get heavy real quick.
So, I had who is now an ex-boyfriend, but was my boyfriend at the time. Our relationship EXPLODED into a million, billion, microscopic shreds and left us not speaking for the last half a decade or so.
And I’ll admit that I’m bossy. That works for Preston. This did not work for this guy. Let’s call him…oh, I don’t know, Paul? Paul. *NOT HIS REAL NAME* – but Paul and I had a very long and complicated and weird and stressful and muddied relationship. When things were good, they were the best. When things got bad, they were the worst.
But Paul and I were going to go to different schools and he wanted to break up. I said nope, that’s dumb. He became increasingly angry at my inability to let go. I got crazy and clingy. He restricted when we could talk and yelled at me a lot and made me feel constantly on edge for the next time we’d have a fight. I was desperate. I got dramatic. It doesn’t matter. It was messy no matter what way you slice it.
But the core part is: he controlled when we talked, how our interaction was going to go, he made several plans to visit on weekends and bailed every day for months and then yelled when my feelings got hurt and stopped talking to me longer. Then I would try harder to get his attention.
I was really mad. I’m bossy. I’m controlling. And here he was, controlling, what essentially, was my happiness. I was on edge ALL THE TIME because I never knew what was going to happen. He literally disappeared from my life in the middle of the night. Never saw or spoke to him again. That was nearly five years ago.
So, I knew it bothered him deeply when I didn’t eat. So, I didn’t. Just to get back at him. I felt like I was completely out of control of my life and my happiness and my future. I could control that and there was nothing he could do to stop me. I stopped eating to spite him. It made him worry and upset and mad and I was constantly worried and upset and mad so I felt like it was fair.
Okay. Cut me some slack on this logic. I was 19. 20? 19? Who knows? Young and stupid.
I worked out two or three times a day. I ate an apple and a yogurt that I spaced out over the day. I would drink broth. I ate plain celery for a snack. I lost tons of weight during this time. Here’s the famous picture of that transformation:
This was, maybe, two months worth of work? This is what people do in six months or a year. I was dropping weight faster than I could keep up.
I hung each one of those pictures in my bathroom in a row. Right above the scale.
Every time that he bothered to show up to visit me my clothes were looser, my cheeks were thinner, my weight loss was obvious. Acquaintances complimented me on my progress. He fumed next to me. My parents were proud of it. He got angrier.
I wanted to rub my mental health issue in his face.
Seems healthy, right?
Spoiler alert. It wasn’t.
I passed out on the treadmill. I got light headed a lot. I loved staring in the mirror and pinching my fat and rolling my hands around the waistband of my loose jeans. Every single time that I drank – I would pretty much immediately get drunk. Sometimes that made me make bad choices. I became obsessed with the results.
And then finally, the worst happened. He left me. I finally felt relief. I didn’t have to worry about when he was going to up and leave me. He just did it.
I didn’t feel the same satisfaction from it anymore. I tried to keep up but by then it was summer vacation and I wasn’t as committed to someone who was stomping my self respect under their shoes so I wasn’t eating one carrot a day. I started to gain the weight back.
But I am far happier than I was then. I was terrified and sad. Every concerned eyebrow made my stomach pangs feel wholesome. Every time I said I was going to the gym and then left my phone at home, I felt superior. It was how I survived.
That’s my story. Those are the big ones.
And for my mom, and your mom, and the friends who didn’t see it or didn’t know and are quick to say ‘that’s not what happened’ because they feel guilty they didn’t know – I worked really hard to make sure you didn’t know.
Now, I want to talk about something that flips a spark of anger in my soul and I can’t believe this hasn’t been changed yet.
If you do not meet a certain BMI standard – you cannot be diagnosed as anorexic.
If you haven’t eaten in a month but STILL have too high of a BMI – you technically have an ‘unspecified eating disorder’.
That’s right folks, you can be TOO FAT TO HAVE AN EATING DISORDER.
Because you know who needs to be told that they are too fat to even qualify their problems as problems? PEOPLE WHO HAVE EATING DISORDERS.
Like, for real, this gets me in my soul. I cannot think of a reason that mental health professionals thought that saying you’re too fat to have anorexia was a good idea. But that’s literal garbage.
The moral of the story: there have been several times – three specific examples listed above here – that my relationship with food was scary. And all consuming. And felt victorious to be able to have an ED.
I felt like being plus sized and having an ED was what I was supposed to be doing. If I wasn’t in a mental place to have drastic and dire results, was I even doing it right?
There was something wrong with me and I needed to fix it, immediately. I had no time for 2lbs a week. I needed to lose five pounds a week. Or ten. Or 100. Who cared? More.
I needed to drop weight.
I had no respect for consequences. Some of the side effects can be scaly skin or losing your hair from lack of nutrient. I longed for that to happen to me so I could prove I was doing it right.I was so proud the first time I fainted. I loved looking at my calorie counter app and having it come in at under 200 every single day. Days that hit too many I would skip the next day.
It is not glamorous.
It’s mostly not even about weight. It’s about control.
I couldn’t control my happiness so I felt like I should do something to change that.
Everyone else seemed to think it would make me happy. It really did not.
I’m happy now, though. I swear.
I don’t want to give you a speech about ‘Don’t do it!’
But for real, don’t.
And I don’t want to preach about getting help….but I’ll just leave these resources here:
This link here is the national eating disorder resource center and can help you find local resources.
This link is the Eating Disorder Hope Center with resources to connect you with support groups and therapists.
This link will give you some hotline numbers if you need to talk to someone.
Call: (630) 577-1330 is the Eating Disorder Hotline
I know this was a little bit heavier of a topic today, but I feel in the plus sized community it is important to share our struggles with ED and how they affect us.
Thank you for listening.
And blah, blah, blah, – check me out on Instagram here! I also started a Twitter account! Find that here! Follow Preston’s brand new fashion Instagram here! I also have a selling Instagram page where I sell some of my old clothes/styles so that I don’t drown in my own wardrobe.
SO HERE’S THE “END OF BLOG” SPIEL!
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Love all you wonderful ladies (and gents!) out there!
Thanks so much for sharing this, Abby. I find it interesting that one can be “too fat” for being diagnosed with anorexia even after exhibiting all of the behaviors. I was in a similar situation in middle school- 6th and 7th grade. I was always the chubby girl. Never quite thin enough to be considered “normal” so during those middle school years I would not eat breakfast, and I would only buy an ala carte lunch of a small pizza square and maybe a low fat milk, some days not even that, then I would ride my bike about 2-3 hours a day if I had enough sunlight. Did 100 sit ups in my room every night. Modest dinners. Often felt very sick. I thinned out quite a bit and people would comment that I was “finally losing the baby fat” but I would never consider myself thin. But looking back, I definitely had behaviors of an ED, and I wasn’t healthy. Isn’t it scary that we can do all of this without our loved ones ever finding out? Anyway, thanks for sharing, and I’m glad you’re happy in life now!
Thank you for sharing your story! I find out all the time the stories I was embarrassed to share often times ends up to be a huge part of my shared narrative. It’s amazing to hear others’ stories! Thank you! And I am glad that you are happy and healthy now!