You can be an amazing athlete.
You can be an influential teacher.
You can be a successful physician.
You can be a great coach.
You can be a very involved parent.
You can get straight A’s in school.
You can be the valedictorian of your class.
You can be the CEO of a large company.
You can be a man.
You can be a woman.
You can be an adult.
You can be a child.
…and it’s possible to still have an eating disorder.
See, the misconception is that it is visibly apparent and obvious if someone is struggling with an eating disorder. People cannot imagine that it could be possible for someone who is so successful in their livelihood to have such a disorder. They believe that if they are established and prosperous in their career, then they could not be sick. Or, if they are thriving in the classroom then they are focused and sensible. And, if they appear happy and content, then there could be no way they would be battling such an issue. Unfortunately, eating disorders are far more complex, and well beyond one’s physical appearance.
The truth is, I had an eating disorder way before I was identified as having an issue. Eating disorders develop behaviorally through routine, rigidity, and intense self-control. One can become so incredibly obsessed with food and compulsive with restriction and diet that it becomes an internal fixation that nobody would be able to visibly see on the outside. Not only is it inner thoughts that occupy one’s mind, but it is an additional voice in one’s head that constantly dictates and enforces rules regarding what foods are allowed to be consumed, and which are considered to be unhealthy, or off limits.
For so long I battled this eating disorder without having lost a significant amount of weight. I was able to maintain a number on the scale through fierce self-control and monitoring to prevent others from having to worry or express great concern. However, what was going on internally was far more destructive than weight loss. Thoughts and fears about my body, weight, and food truly possessed me, and the voice inside me tormented me if I ever attempted to fight back. I was still receiving straight A’s in school, competing on the soccer field at a high level, and engaged in my social life. But, I was struggling deeply, without even realizing the depths of it.
Eating disorders are very common among high achieving individuals: those who strive for perfection in every facet of life. It makes sense that so many career driven and successful people struggle with this issue. Not only do these individuals have to be detail oriented, motivated, and committed to their lives, careers, school, or sports, but it provides a sense of control at their fingertips if that is something they are in search of deep down. It is evident now that I felt I needed to grab control of something in my life. I wasn’t able to control my class schedule, teacher selection, soccer practice routine, or my playing time. So, subconsciously, it was food I turned to in college. And, though, it wasn’t obvious initially, it was agonizing in my mind.
I appeared strong and energetic.
I felt weak and sluggish.
I appeared healthy and toned.
I felt faint and tired.
I appeared engaged and spry.
I felt distracted and broken down.
Eating disorders aren’t indicative of just one’s body type, weight, or appearance. The fierce self-control involved, the obsessive thoughts, and compulsive behaviors can define an eating disorder, as well.