I’ve suffered from an eating disorder since I was 14 years old. My eating disorder doesn’t take a vacation even when I do.
Having lived with an eating disorder longer than I’ve lived without one, it controls my entire life. It doesn’t take a vacation.
I didn’t grow up in a family that ate a lot of fast food. My mom cooked healthy meals. We were incredibly active. Camping, fishing, sports, everything. But, I was always overweight. My entire life I was overweight. I didn’t want to be overweight anymore. So, I stopped eating. That was the summer after my 8th grade year. I have suffered from anorexia or bulimia since.
Now, years later, it affects every decision I make and every single day of my life.
I currently suffer from bulimia and body dysmorphic disorder. I work to control my eating disorder everyday. There was a Lifetime film in the 90’s called “A Secret Between Friends.” Cliffsnotes version is that a high school girl moves to a new town with her sister and mom following her parents divorce. She meets a popular, beautiful girl and together they bond over bulimia. The popular, beautiful friend dies of a heart attack from the disease and the other girl ends up (eventually) recovering after bringing her body to the brink of death.
At the end of the film she and her sister are baking brownies and her sister asks if she’s better now. Her response is one that has resonated with me for 25 years.
“Yes. Definitely better. It’s still a struggle. Everyday I wake up and I ask myself. Lexi, are you going to love yourself or are you going to hate yourself?”
I live that everyday. Every single day of my life, I wake up and how I see myself in the mirror or how my clothes fit or how my mind is set, determines my day. My eating disorder controls my entire life. So, little things like a 48-hour juice cleanse that help reset my brain are a sacrifice I make to not purge. You take wins where you can get them.
That becomes exceptionally true when we travel.
I exercise, set goals and plan my cleanse before the trip and when we return I immediately begin again.
I begin preparing my brain and my body for a trip as soon as one ends. When I get home, it’s all about getting my mind back on track and focused on getting my mind and body where I need it to be for our next trip. I usually start a trip and end a trip with a 48-hour cleanse. I don’t do this because it’s a miracle weight loss secret. I do it because it helps my brain. If my brain can be tricked into thinking I’m skinnier, I’m more likely to have a good day or be back to having good days sooner.
The trip itself is jam packed with thoughts. I make choices on food and exercise and anything I consume, every decision I make will affect the rest of the day and quite possibly the rest of the trip.
The amount of humidity in the air affects my day. As does what I ate for dinner the night before, what I eat for breakfast that morning and how far I run before we start our day.
The first few days of our trip are usually good. I’m feeling at least okay with my body; I make mindful choices about food. But, by the end of a trip, I have usually splurged a couple times, the humidity is getting to me and my mind starts to falter. I start to see myself in the mirror, bigger than I am, I become more uncomfortable and start making poor decisions.
We vacation too much to eat like we’re on vacation so I try to make balanced choices but one bad choice and one bad look in a mirror can set my mind off for the entire rest of the trip. It’s a slippery, calculated slope.
My family never grew up centered around food. We vacationed and camped and did a lot but food was always an afterthought. I don’t do anything in my life for food. Food is just there. But yet, here I am, completely controlled by food everyday of my life.
I often find myself looking around while we are in the parks, on a beach, at the pool, in an elevator. I wonder what it’s like to go to dinner and not worry about how it will affect you the next day or a week from now. Just order whatever you want without fear of getting full or fear of feeling horrible about yourself for the day. Without fear of how one meal could affect your entire life for a week.
It sounds dramatic. It’s not. One night of pizza, one night of delicious, unhealthy food that I eat unhibited could send my entire brain into a tailspin.
I see girls, women walking around who aren’t worried about the cookie they just ate or how the humidity in the middle of the day will make their thighs chafe and send their mind into a tornado of negativity.
Most people know what it’s like to not love their bodies but have no idea what it’s like to be completely controlled by your mind and how it views your body that day. I envy you. I have never been thin without extreme restriction. I have never eaten what I wanted without fear of consequence. I have never looked at my body and thought, all that hard work really paid off. But, I will continue to put in the hard work. So much hard work. Because, it not only makes me happy but it helps me live.
Constant vigilance. That’s how I live my life. Constant vigilince to get the upper hand in my daily battle. I have no hope that I will win the war but I firmly believe I can win a few battles here and there.
That’s how I vacation. That’s how I live every day. Hoping that someday, I will like my body… even a little bit.
So, when I see people eating whatever they want, living however they want, not worrying on vacation, I envy them.
I share my story because I want people to know they are not alone. We all struggle. That’s life. Don’t compare your struggle to others. I’ll always push myself and push my body. I love doing it. I’ll never understand the people that don’t. Why would you not want to be the best you, you can be? Why would you not push yourself to be better? To look better? To work harder? I will never understand that.
My body will never be what I want. It never has been, despite all my efforts. But I’ll never stop working on it, despite the damage I’ve done to it.
My eating disorder controls my life even when we go on vacation and it’s a hard to vacation with me because I have to be constantly mindful of my choices around every turn. It’s exhausting. Not just for me but for the people around me. I try to keep it inside and fight the battles internally but there is never a day I don’t wish I could eat and live freely without fear of my mind and body… just for a day.
If you or someone you know suffers from an eating disorder, you are not alone and help is out there. Reach out to The National Eating Disorder Helpline for more information.