Author: Alex K.
When I was in the depths of my eating disorder, I wasn’t even sure if I would make it to college. But, I did, and I have experienced the best year of my life. I have met people that have changed my life and made me a different person, in the best way.
The eating disorder, however, has not fully gone away. No, I am no longer anorexic, but I still struggle with thoughts everyday. I would actually say that in college, I had the opposite of anorexia, I had binge eating disorder on what i would consider a lower scale. On top of that, one huge issue I had when coming to school was comparing what I ate to what everyone else ate. Still – although not as severely – I have trouble eating at different times and eating more or less than others. Each morning i woke up and still wake up telling myself i need to lose weight. I would only eat once a day my freshman year, and it had to be when others around me were eating. It’s always easier for me to eat something “unhealthy” when my friends are eating it with me. Also, when I came to school, drinking played a big role in my weekends and even some weekdays, which affected the eating disorder in more ways than one.
For one, I gained a large amount of weight from it. Which was the last thing I ever thought I would do in school after being so obsessed with being thin for so long. I told myself i would never gain the freshman 15 but although i haven’t weighed myself in months, i am 100% sure i gained just that and probably more. This made the disordered thoughts even worse, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t act on them once in awhile. I put on weight quickly, due to my damaged metabolism. I had comments said about me and how different I looked from the first day to the last, and I wish people would have known how much of an impact their words would have on the eating disorder. Yes, it bothers me that others see the weight gain, but what’s harder to deal with is my own self seeing the weight. Negative comments like that would affect any person, not even just someone with an eating disorder. This breaks my heart. Did I drink to stop the thoughts? No. But, the food I was able to finally binge on was something my body subconsciously waited for when I knew there was a night of drinking. The drinking not only caused me to put weight on, but it also blurred the disordered thoughts that I often had while eating. I was able to eat more than normally and not give a care in the world. I don’t know if I binge ate because my body was still starving, or because, for me, drinking made me excessively hungry. But, either way, I was able to eat a lot and fast. That is something I still have trouble controlling.
It is hard because with disordered thoughts, a person is always conflicted. Do I go out and have fun? Or, do I stay in, so I don’t binge eat? It was hard to silence the voices, which caused me to have a very unhealthy eating pattern during the day, to make room for the extra food I would be consuming at night. On top of it all, the night after drinking, I would always be too hung-over to workout, which caused me to put on even more weight. This encouraged the disorder to be even louder in my head. I can’t sit down without overthinking about my stomach creasing, and i can’t get dressed each night without trying on 6 different outfits still to feel fat after looking in the mirror. Some days, I have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, knowing I look nothing like I want to look. I looked forward to going home on breaks to “start my diet”, but each time school came around i would be back at square one.
Conflicting thoughts are in my head every single second of the day. Everyday, I wake up, regretting having put on so much weight. Yes, I’m sure people all have body image issues when they wake up, and thats something i wish i could change about myself and everyone else. For me, having people look at old pictures of me without even saying anything fills me with shame. Now, however, I am binge eating less and working out a little more often than before, but I still have trouble eating on a regular regime without the company of others to reassure me it is ok. But, I know that I went through so much to get to college. I cannot and do not want to risk getting back to where I was during anorexia.
I do a lot more comparing in college than I did in high school. Maybe it is because I’m at a weight that I have never been at before or because there are so many more girls around me all the time than there ever were in school. But, either way, this comparing brings disordered thoughts that are very different from those I experience at home. At home, I had more control over my eating and regular habits than I did at school. I am so busy and there is always food or people around me eating. My mind wants me to starve but, at the same time, eat everything I see others eating. My body, unfortunately, cannot handle the amount of food some other girls can because of the damage done to it in the past. I think that since my anxiety over what others think of me is so much greater in college, the thoughts are louder as well.
I also think college is harder because I am not in the comfort of my own home when dealing with disordered thoughts. In school, I am constantly around people and, thus, try to suppress the thoughts and let them out when I am alone. I am stronger than I was last winter and the winter before – the times when I was ill with anorexia -, but I still have to battle some form of negative voice screaming at me, telling me I am too fat (which is not true). I tell myself, everyday, that I will eat well and workout, but there are always occasions when things come up, and I ruin what I promised myself the night before. Just that drives me insane. I sit through classes, worrying about if I look to big or not, which truly should not be the case.
While writing this, I am actually proud of how far I have come because I am able to pull out most of the healthy thoughts in my mind to tell you that you need to LIVE YOUR LIFE. You need to go out to eat, go to parties, to classes, to the dining hall, to any event that may include food or even drinking. You will regret it if you don’t. I tell you this from experience because I had missed out on so much in my life because of fear of food and weight gain. The first year of college – besides putting on weight – was the most amazing, life-changing year I had ever had. I would never give it up for anything, especially an eating disorder. You need to balance college parties and the food with monitoring your health and just staying aware of your everyday routine. You may feel the need to purge or restrict after a night or meal of heavy eating, but you don’t want to look back on your college career, remembering the nights you spent over the toilet or locked in your room. You want to remember the late night pizza and parties that you woke up laughing at the next morning. I have not yet been able to distinguish healthy and unhealthy thoughts; however, as I have grown and lived around other people going through changes in college, things have truly become easier.
Although I hate admitting it, boys play, and have always played, a huge role in my disorder because I never felt good enough for them; however, I learned that if a guy only likes you for the size of your body, then he isn’t a guy at all. He is an immature boy that you are too good for anyways. I have convinced myself that I received more attention from guys in the beginning of college than I do now, which may or may not be true, but I can’t do anything but move forward from here. I have faked too many smiles each day and cried too many nights. I’m not saying I love my body right now, but I am working on it, as all people learn to do throughout their college and after college careers. You should never let other people be reasons for negative thoughts you have about yourself. I am going to try getting healthier and living a fun life at the same time for MYSELF, not for anyone else. I think that’s another step in recovery a lot of people don’t realize is so important. You need to be confident in yourself for other people to see you the way you want them to see you. I still have a lot of work to do on confidence and controlling thoughts, but that’s what recovery is all about. Eating disorders are chronic illnesses, and the more we fight them, the stronger we get.