After I hit the one year mark, the inevitable happened and I started gaining some weight back. Not from backing off on the healthy eating or the exercise, but because, frankly, that’s what my body felt like doing and I didn’t know what to do. I started getting obsessive about it. What I had been doing at the gym simply because I loved doing it was becoming something I HAD to do because if I didn’t, I felt guilty and I felt ugly. My workout time tripled, and thanks to the aid of an online calorie counter, my calorie intake was slashed in half. While that was happening, I was taking 2 summer classes and one of them was Abnormal Psychology. It was in that class that it hit me – I had developed an eating disorder.
It was a very weird thing for me. Up until that point I really only had the “media definitions” of eating disorders. I wasn’t starving myself. I wasn’t throwing up what I ate. I was, however, very restrictive of what and when I ate. If I ate something “bad” my already increased time in the gym doubled. I stopped allowing myself to take a day off from exercising here and there to give my injuries a breather. I found myself writing “do not enter” on the fridge whiteboard. I knew I had to get on top of the situation before it got any worse.
Thankfully, my school offered free counseling services. I can’t say I learned anything technical from it – I already knew the psychology – but it was wonderful to have someone impartial to talk to. While the stress of my honors project, research assistantship, and general emotional stress were all getting to me, the one thing I had control over was the way that I looked. Having someone to talk to who wasn’t going to give me the “oh poor baby” face or hover over me gave me a place to channel all of that negative energy so I could work on healing myself from the inside out.
Now I’m set to go on vacation and in the past 2 weeks, I’ve found myself stepping on the scale more. I’ve gained back a few pounds since the sudden weight loss I had a few months ago and while I rationally know that’s a good thing, I’m having nightmares of my clothes not fitting me by the end of vacation. I can’t help thinking that I’m going away already weighing too much, so I’ll weigh even MORE when I come back. I’m telling myself that I “should have known better” than to buy some new clothes after that weight loss because “skinny Ash” never sticks around. That being skinny just isn’t something I succeed at. The sad thing is the size I’m afraid of going back to was actually a smaller than I ever thought I’d be to begin with. I’m already planning when I can hit the gym every day. I’m already planning what I WON’T eat to compensate for what I WILL eat. And it’s making me nervous. Which makes me more obsessive about it. It’s a vicious cycle.
But I’m still going to enjoy my vacation. I’m going to eat at the restaurants I look forward to eating at every year without feeling badly about it.
And I will NOT weigh myself again until after I’ve been back home for a week.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, NEDA and The NOW Foundation's Love Your Body Campaign are great sources of support.
Artwork above is by Sarah Neuser, and is the winning poster in the NOW Foundation's 2010 Love Your Body Campaign Poster Contest.