Hindsight is always 20/20, right? I've always found that to be true in my experiences. It's like you look back on a past event or situation or phase of life, and there are always things that come to mind that you didn't recognize when you were going through it. For instance, you didn't realize how good that time in your life actually was until you started reflecting back on it. Or you see now how you could've reacted differently. Or you can now understand why things were unfolding the way they were. Or you look back and discover that everything you were experiencing was shaping you for the life-stage you are in right now.
So as I share my own personal story, I share it with a "hindsight 20/20 mentality" - meaning I now have a lot more clarity, appreciation, and wisdom as I look back in retrospect on my past struggles, battles, experiences, pain, and victory. Maybe, hopefully, my hindsight will influence your foresight.
I didn't ask for an eating disorder. I didn't want it. I didn't do it myself. It just happened. It stemmed from low self-confidence as a result of our society's false standards of beauty, from lack of knowledge about health and nutrition, from the diet industry's cunning marketing tactics, from peer influence, and from several other stressors in different areas of my life. Now I can tell you this out of retrospection. None of that was clear during my years of ED suffering - which is what makes recovery so hard.
I remember the first time I looked at myself and was ashamed of what I saw. I was in high school, my junior year actually. I was looking back at prom pictures, and I hated every one of them. All I could see was what I thought at the time was a fat girl in an ugly prom dress (which, in all honestly the dress was pretty ugly). From that pivotal moment, I became increasingly concerned about how I looked. At this point, I began an innocent endeavor to become healthier, and maybe shed a few pounds if I could help it. Now keep in mind, I was a young and impressionable 16-year-old, very active in school sports, and ate wonderfully balanced meals prepared by my (sweet) mom, but the weight of societal standards and worldly voices that said I wasn't good enough became fuel to an eventually harmful fire.
From that point forward, I began trying lots of different diets and restricting calories at meals. Then I started cutting out foods altogether and exercising a lot more. These patterns continued and grew as I began college, and they became controlling as my undergrad years progressed.
Eventually all of my thoughts, decisions, motives, and experiences revolved around food and exercise. It began to affect my relationships, spirituality, mental clarity, and essentially every area of my life. I had this mad internal battle with myself, food, and exercise going on that I subconsciously continued to provoke.
The thing to understand here is that it all started out very innocent and grew uncontrollably. It grew to a place where I restricted, binged, and overworked my body physically. I became so focused on eating the "perfect" diet and eliminating anything "not healthy" and working out for extended periods of time 7 days per week. And then my body's intuition would get the best of me, and I would binge eat foods I had been restricting (always in private - no one ever knew), feel awful about myself and ashamed of my body, then start the cycle back over with restriction and overexertion.
It was a vicious rollercoaster that I didn't even know I was on at the time. This had become my way of life, and somewhere along the way I accepted that lifestyle and never realized something was wrong. Again, hindsight 20/20.
The rest of my story is a little blurry, even as I look back on it. I had several conversations with friends and family who were desperately trying to help, but I took offense to most of those conversations (because according to my sick mind, nothing was wrong). The truth is I had gotten to a severely low and unhealthy weight, and that was starting to become clearer to me. I can't pinpoint when or how I started seeing little glimpses of truth, but I eventually started asking myself if there was a problem here. If I needed to change something.
One day a switch flipped, and I (slowly, very slowly) began to see what others saw. It's like my eyes were opened. I had been so OBSESSED, so blind to reality. But this is where things got worse before they got better. They got much, much more difficult before they got easier.
If you think eating disorders are hard, try recovering from one (actually please avoid both situations altogether). My recovery process was long and hard and tiring and sometimes seemingly impossible. It took patience and perseverance and help and a lot of prayer. It's a story for another day, but know that it didn't happen overnight. It took years.
I'm in a beautiful and peaceful place now. I've never felt more free or liberated to live and create the life I want. I see food for all of its purposes and exercise as an empowering experience. I no longer diet or restrict or obsess. I know how to listen to my body and take care of it appropriately. I have thriving relationships and a very full life that is not dictated by food and workouts.
I believe our purpose on this earth is far greater than to shrink our bodies and obsess over food. I believe we are worth more than a pant size. I believe that a life enslaved to food and exercise is not a life we were designed for.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder or actions associated with disordered eating, know that there is a life far greater on the other side of this. Please feel free to reach out and talk if you are comfortable.
Below are resources for those who want to learn more, seek help, find clarification, or raise awareness: