Ready. Set. Go. My entire life has seemed like a race. A race to finish my homework and go outside to play. A race to get from one class to the next before the bell rang. A race to get to soccer practice despite the rush hour traffic. A race to see how quickly I could run an errand. A race on the soccer field to track down a ball. You get the point, and to this day, I feel like I am still racing, but now, with kids in tow. It, obviously, is my competitive nature, but it never stops, even outside of the lines.
The exhilaration I felt during the time I was losing weight was incredible. It seemed as though everywhere I went, someone would say, “Wow. I can tell you have lost a little weight. You look great!” So, not only did I feel more fit than ever, but I also basked from the validation of others recognizing my new way of life was, in fact, effective. What woman does not like to hear how great she looks? And, let me ask this. Who out there says, “Wow. I can tell you gained weight. You look great!” The only people who feel comfortable saying this are either immediate family members or professionals within an eating disorder treatment center.
With two weeks of winter vacation left before second semester of my sophomore year was to begin, my parents made that life-changing proposal. I was to gain ten pounds in that short fourteen day period to earn myself my dream Louis Vuitton bag. As materialistic as it may sound, I have found success in life from extrinsic motivation (see The “Carrot and Stick” blog), and that time was no different. Dangle a carrot, and I will fight, grind, hurt, and tackle any obstacle to reach it.
With one goal in mind, I was determined to take on what has been the most challenging obstacle of my entire life; to conquer and overcome anorexia. After having suffered for eight months leading up to that moment, I was able to recognize how much pain I felt inside, how depressed I had become, and how ill I appeared. For the most honest, truthful individual, my life had turned into a comedy of lies. I lied to my parents, my family, my roommate, my therapist, my best friends, my coaches, my teammates, and most importantly, to myself. I did not mean to lie, or hurt those around me, I just had been overtaken by this horrible disorder.
I, myself, had come to a point where I no longer liked who I had become during that time. I wanted to change, I wanted to eat, and I wanted to gain weight…but, I did not. I couldn’t bear to see that number go up on the scale, even though I knew it was to make me healthy again. In a society that focuses on weight loss, 21-day fixes, and diet fads, I felt foolish attempting the opposite. I was terrified that I would lose control, and as I started gaining weight, the number on the scale would uncontrollably sky rocket up. The Louis Vuitton bag and the thought of not being allowed to return to school were motivating enough to counter that voice, at times.
After months of food deprivation, basically having starved myself, with intense, excessive exercise, my body no longer recognized hunger pains, and the littlest amount of food filled me up. When I began my journey of eating again, I raced to try to eat as much as possible and as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, I hit two major barriers. First, I became full in seconds, so if I attempted taking in more calories, I, literally, became sick to my stomach. And, second, I had only eaten bland, minimal foods for months. So, anything containing fats, oils, or other ingredients, also, made me feel extremely sick and uncomfortable. My parents, psychiatrist, and I decided to reroute my plan of gaining weight by sticking to the foods my body was comfortable eating, but adding more quantities of those foods. For example, if I ate a banana, I would eat two bananas, or if I ate a low fat muffin, I would eat two of them. This strategy helped ease my way into adding calories to my diet.
Pizza, ice cream, French fries, and chips were still a far reach in my process of recovery. Psychologically, I wasn’t able to handle the consumption of these greasy, fattening, oily foods, and physically, my body was unable to digest them comfortably. Therefore, in my two weeks of food indulgence and attempt to gain ten pounds, I ate muffins, breads, bagels, bananas, and cereals. And, a lot of them. My body was clearly deprived of carbohydrates, and they were the easiest to take in. I was on a mission, and if I needed to eat a million muffins to gain weight, I would.
On day 12, I felt so sick and overstuffed. My parents weighed me upstairs on their scale, and I had gained eight pounds. They were so beyond thrilled and proud of me, and they appreciated my efforts and strength to overcome such a traumatic part of recovery. We went to the mall that morning. Though I finished under my ultimate goal, they explained if I regress at any point, my handbag would be returned.
And, that was the start of my recovery from anorexia. I moved back up to school two days later to face several more road blocks.