Lake Effect Series

Lake Effect Series: I’m Healthy Now

Note from Hollie: Today is the day that I run the Lake Effect Half Marathon.  It is hard to believe this is the result of three months of fundraising and eating disorder awareness.  We did it though.  We raised over 2500 dollars and we raised even more awareness about eating disorders.  Thank you everyone for your support.  It’s not too late to donate or enter the giveaway.  I will be doing a final post sometime this week to recap the campaign as a whole, announce giveaway winners and provide a final closure.  It has truly been an incredible experience and I never would have dreamed we would have raised 2500 dollars together. 

The final story is the most emotional and the most graphic.  Thank you for sharing.


When Hollie asked me to share my eating disorder story, I jumped at the chance. Of course I’d help. After all, having a distorted relationship with my body and with food is all in the past. I’m healthy now. I’ve moved on. I’m recovered. Sometimes it’s hard to put yourself into the mindset of someone who has an eating disorder, even if that someone was just you at a younger age. Luckily, I happened to have kept an online diary during some of my darker years, and the entriesserve as a constant reminder of what that life was like, and how miserable it was. Some of the entries are truly heart breaking, and are hard to read, but I’ve included a few passages to paint a better picture of just how distorted your head can get when you’re suffering from an eating disorder.

Like so many others, my issues with food evolved over many, many years. At age 8, I determined that my thighs were too fat, and by age 10 I was trying out my first fad diet (Cabbage Soup). I’ll never forget going to McDonald’s with my friend’s family and passing on French fries. I felt triumphant; as if I belonged to a special society of people who were too good to put such trash in their bodies.

“I like going to bed with my stomach empty. Makes me feel…less like a failure”

During my adolescent years, I slowly started on the downward spiral towards food obsession. I went on numerous fad diets, counted calories and fat grams, skipped meals, went on fasts and eventually even tried to make myself throw up. At first I considered vomiting only as a last resort. Something I’d do in “emergency” situations where I had eaten something unplanned and “bad.” Most days I’d restrict my calories to practically nothing, only to binge on whatever I could find once I got home from school. Then, as I could feel my stomach churn at the presence of food, I’d rush to the bathroom in a panic, intent on removing as much of the offending substance as I could. But I hated puking. It was logistically difficult to manage while living with parents and it was just plain gross. There is nothing glamorous about vomit. I kept hoping that if I could just get a control on my diet, then I wouldn’t need to throw up anymore. If I could just get my weight low enough, then I wouldn’t need to diet at all. But the weight didn’t drop off like I wanted to, and instead, primarily due to my horrific eating habits, it increased.

“I want to see skin hanging off my bones. It’ll make me feel like my skin is more like a large sack and I can hide in it” 

My downward spiral continued into my first year of college. Surrounded by thin, beautiful, attractive classmates, I became painfully aware of everything that I was not. My body image plummeted, and I found myself increasingly turning to food to numb how I lonely and depressed I felt. I’d go to the dining hall and pack a to-go carton FULL of food. Starches were my favorites. Garlic bread, pizza, cookies, hot dogs, cakes, bagels. Not to mention drink containers filled with frozen yogurt and soft-serve ice cream. I’d sit in my dorm room alone and eat and eat and eat until my stomach literally couldn’t distend any further. Then I’d head to the bathroom where I’d wait until I knew I was alone and I’d vomit everything out. Over time I learned which foods came up the easiest, and which ones were difficult. I learned how to be quick and how to be quiet. I concealed my secret very well, but to my despair, my weight refused to drop, and instead, continued to increased.

“I feel like I’m falling apart. I’ve really come to detest what I’ve turned into. Physically, I’m really gross. I can’t even describe it. AHH! I can’t handle myself anymore! It’s like I’m teetering on the edge of this huge cliff. If I let myself go then I’ll plummet back into the world of extreme depression and unattractiveness. If I can manage to get myself on stable grounds then I’ll be okay but I’m just sort of handing there, my fingers grasping at the rim. But they’re losing their grip and I see it all just slipping away. My face.My hair.My ideal body.My grades.My friends.My future. I don’t know what to do. It’s like I’m too far gone. It’s too bad they can’t put me into solitary confinement for a month so that I can just slowly wither up and die. Or at least get thin.”

A couple of months into my sophomore year, I hit a breaking point. I couldn’t say exactly what changed, but something inside me snapped. I stopped eating.  I lost all focus on school or relationships and instead became entirely fixated on my weight. I weighed myself almost hourly, making sure that I didn’t magically gain a pound when I wasn’t looking. I hardly ate anything and what I did eat I immediately threw up. My hands couldn’t stop feelingmy hips, stomach, thighs, and collarbones, searching out for areas that felt thinner or bonier. I’d try on and retry on clothes to see if they fit any looser than the day before.

“I hate the way I can’t think about food normally. I hate how I can’t stand the way it feels inside me. I hate the way my mood is so dependent on those three digits the scale reads. I hate how throwing up doesn’t seem like a bad idea to me. But I couldn’t imagine living any other way. This way of thinking is too infused with my way of thinking. So throwing up food isn’t particularly good to a number of my body systems, but it gives me some sort of mental comfort, like some sort of accomplishment. Sick? Yes. But I can’t stop. If I did what would I do?”

By that spring, I had lost about 30lbs over the course of 3-4months. I was feeling good and in control. I just wanted to lose a little bit more.If I could just lose a little more, then I could give myself permission to be happy, because only then would I be worthy enough.But while my weight was still well within the normal range, the weight loss began to attract attention. My parents became suspicious and shortly thereafter figured out what was going on. I would like to say this was the point at which I finally got help, finally started getting better, but that was still a long ways off. Instead, I was forced to see a social worker and then a therapist. I know my parents were only doing what they thought was best, but I was not in the right mindset to receive help, and instead I resented them for it, and quit going shortly after only a couple of sessions.

“I have so much emotion stored up in me and I HATE having it come out. Crying is weak and therefore I am weak. I detest weak people. I want to be strong and resilient and independent and not need anybody but I’m nothing like that. But food helps me pretend. It gives me a focus. By constantly focusing on weight and good I can take my mind off everything else that I hate about myself. Because if my weight was perfect, then I’d have to find some other part of me that wasn’t and try to fix that too. Because there has to be a reason I’m so messed up. There has to be something wrong with me. But I can only fix one problem at a time because otherwise I’ll get so depressed and frustrated I’ll just give up and succumb to the sadness.”

Over the next year and half, I continued to struggle with my eating. I frequently found myself in debt after spending entire paychecks on food that would be gone in a night. I isolated myself from friends and avoided social situations, but I also became increasingly frustrated and angry with my situation. I hated that I had become so controlled by food, and gradually I tried to release myself from its grasp, which was of course easier said than done. I’d start off Monday promising myself I’d eat healthy and nutritious and in moderation, but by Friday I’d be consuming an extra-large pizza by myself. It seemed hopeless. I was hopeless.

“I’m sick of this. I’m sick of binging. I’m sick of throwing money in the toilet. I’m sick of wondering when I’ll get my next “fix”. What it will be, when and where I’ll do it. I’m like a drug addict.”

However, I did make tiny steps towards progress. With graduation looming, and threats from parents, I finally decided to commit to getting better. I bought myself a book on recovering from bulimia as well as a few books on intuitive eating. Despite appearances, I was still a somewhat rational person and knew that I needed some nutrition. So I started there. In between my massive binge/purge sessions I’d force myself to have an apple, or maybe some carrots, and let that sit in my stomach, repeating to myself over and over that while uncomfortable, the nutrients were necessary. Using the books as a reference, I relearned how to eat and how to recognize fullness. Once my eating had somewhat stabilized, the real work began. My eating disorder was an excuse for me to ignore some very painful emotions that I had hidden from myself. For years I had believed myself to be unworthy and incapable of so much. Identifying and confronting those beliefs as false has taken years.

“I’m slipping. I can feel my thoughts changing. I’ve been trying to stay so positive and so on top of things but it’s getting too overwhelming. I don’t know if I’m doing things right. It’s like standing on a point and being told by a million different people that in order to reach your goal you should go this way or that way or no this way over here. So you pick one, hoping it will lead you in the right direction, but now you’re feeling even farther away than you started and you being to think you chose the wrong path so you start to doubt everything you’re doing and try to backtrack or maybe hop on another path. But how far do you try out one path before you give up? How long do you go without your goal in sight before you try a different strategy?”

My recovery from an eating disorder, like my descent into it, was a gradual process. I still have days when my demons rear their ugly heads, attempting to lure me back into the darkness. Luckily, I’m stronger now than I once was, and I know how to face them. I still occasionally worry about weight, but I try not to let those worries consume me and my former obsession with food has even evolved into a loveof all things cooking and baking. I guess that a silver lining?

A big thank you to Hollie for letting me share my story with you all. Hopefully you gained a better perspective of what it’s like to be in the mind of someone with an eating disorder. If you have, or are currently suffering from, an eating disorder or eating disordered thoughts, my heart goes out to you. You are worth so much more.

Lake Effect Series

Lake Effect Series: Dear Diary

Note from Hollie: This was sent to me by Sophie.  Thank you Sophie for sending me this and it’s a truly inspirational story. 

There is still time to donate.  Yesterday we reached 2231 dollars, every single dollar donated will be put to good use.  Thank you.  Thank you everyone for donating and sharing these stories.  I truly cannot believe that that the race is 2 days away.  I’m actually traveling to NY as you are reading this!  Finally don’t forget you can enter the giveaway by sharing any of the stories, giveaway link, fundraising link or anything involved.  Just let me know you did! 


As many of you already know, I battled disordered eating, from puberty until my hospitalization in 2005. My official diagnosis was Anorexia – purging type. I would restrict calories and purge the calories I did consume with excessive exercise and/or vomiting. The disease evolved in the 15 years I battled it – making a transition in my early 20’s to full-on binge eating disorder then, back to anorexia again in my mid 20’s. There are so many reasons a person succumbs to such a disease. There’s much research and plenty of theories – none of which I feel like engaging you in with this blog entry. Mental illness is a very difficult topic because there are just too many factors – here are mine:

I was the oldest of two children born to 17 year old high school students. My parents married, got jobs in the local car factory, and did the best they could to support their young family. My mother was born into (and had in a sense escaped, when she became pregnant with me) a heavily toxic family as the oldest of 6 children. Sexual and physical abuse as well as alcoholism, were part of her daily existence as a child. My father was the 2nd oldest of 5 children born to a hard working family with a very emotionally unavailable mother. They raised their children the only way they knew how. My mother knew absolute instability, neglect, and abandonment – and my father knew how to disassociate. This was the perfect storm.

I was the oldest of 2 children and spent my entire childhood trying to keep my emotionally unstable mother happy so she didn’t fly off in a rage and abuse my brother – because when she did, I was powerless. In order to do this I had to keep my brother on his best behaviour and my father happy so he was always in a good mood. Even at the age of 6 I understood that my safety and the safety of my little brother, was in my hands entirely. As you can imagine, this didn’t work. My brother still suffered from my mother’s rage, my father still left, and I was still scrambling to pick up the pieces.

No one ever gave me this role but it was not a conscious decision that I would be the keeper to this household. I just fell into this place because of my basic survival instincts as a little girl. I learned that if I was one step ahead of everyone else, I would be safe. So, my quest for perfection began when I was 6, when my brother’s abuse began.  I was doing dishes, laundry, vacuuming, dusting, and making beds from the age of 6 to 8. By 9 I was left to take care of my brother while my parents worked, and I was in charge of cooking. I started babysitting other people’s children at that age for extra cash as well because it angered my mother when I asked for money for things for school – like pencils, erasers, new shoes. I learned that being perfect was absolutely critical to my safety.

Eventually when my dad left and my mother had nothing to be angry with me for, she started picking on my appearance. I was entering puberty and I was gaining weight, which became her focus. I would be so pretty if only I lost weight. I would be a better baseball player if only I lost weight. I would be a better… you get the point. So did I. The message was loud and clear.

My relationship with my mother would continue to be based purely on my productivity and accomplishments as I grew – and I tried to love her anyway. What I did not do however, was try to love myself. My identity was built and by hitting rock bottom with my eating disorder I was finally given permission to look at why and how that identity was killing me, slowly. I recovered in 2005 and went on to work tirelessly on rebuilding my self-worth and giving myself permission to find ME. I am now a successful entrepreneur with two businesses that allow me to embrace my two biggest passions: childcare, and fitness. I am a mother to an incredible little boy who is an absolute JOY to love, and I am a competitive bodybuilder. In spite of the rocky start and the rock bottom plummet, I am here, happy, enjoying discovering all of who I am and what the Universe has in store for me. This is the reason I decided it was time to share my experience.

Over the years I have kept a journal. Recently I came across the journal I kept while I was at the peak of my illness. While I understand the depth of my experience I was now reading these journal entries from a healthy mind, and I was absolutely floored with what I read. I want to share some of my entries with you. They are from the mind of a girl in her mid-20’s who has only the buds of consciousness that her lack of self-worth is controlling her drive to…kill herself for perfection.

Entry #1

Sometimes, like tonight, I want to stop. I picture myself as a bystander, watching this pathetic 26 year old ram her hand down her throat to remove the filth she swallowed. I see the superficial things like the mucus dripping from her nose and the strained blood vessels around her eyes, and the fear of failing to succeed at getting it all out – all of what? Food? Shame? Regret? Maybe all of the above. I see the filth all over her hand, the raw skin on her knuckles from her teeth as she pushes harder into her mouth – more frantic as time passes to get it all out. Regret kicks in, turns to shame and self pity. I see all this in my mind. What do I do with this image? Nothing usefull – clearly. I suppose I store it in my reserve pile of shame. Chances are, I won’t require it, there’s enough to go around. I want to stop, a little. I want to keep doing it more than I want to stop. I want to be skinny more than I want to stop. I see the health risks but I see them as “far away” and for those to will do this forever. I don’t see myself doing this forever. But I think I will.

Entry #2

I can’t tell him that I purge up to 6x a day, that I purge even vegetables. That I feel so unbearably alone. That I feel like no one would give a crap if I disappeared. That I take handfuls of laxatives, that I compare myself to every single person I see. That I hate myself. I hate my body, my face, my laugh, my voice, my thoughts, my dreams, I hate everything. I beg God to take me almost daily. I pray my suffering will end because I can’t end my struggle alone. I don’t have the strength to go on. How do I say that? So I don’t. I keep it all inside where I hope it will dissolve but I know it never will. One day I hope to look back on these entries in shock. Completely shocked by my words. But for now, they are mine, and all I have. My head hurts, I have to sleep. I’m too hungry to stay awake.

Entry #3

6lbs down. I swear to you that was the most beautiful thing I could ever see. I want to lose 8lbs more before I see the doctor at the hospital. How sad that I feel I need to be a better anorexic to deserve treatment, much less a diagnosis. I want to be a better, more successful anorexic. It’s insane but I can’t help it.

Entry #4

I had my assessment today with the Regional Treatment Center. After all the questionnaires and my interview with the head psychiatrist I’m told “You’re very ill and we recommend hospitalization”. Apparently I’m in a category of individuals who suffer from cardiac arrest and it’s a matter of time until I have a heart attack. You know, I honestly thought I was going to hear  “you’re not too far gone, we’ll set you up with a self-help plan”. Instead she repeated all the statements I made that stood out to her and explained how they reflect the views of a seriously ill person.  All I could think as she was saying all this was “but i’m STILL FAT! I still have fat on my stomach and thighs – can’t you see that?”

Lastly, if something does happen to me in my quest for thin, I hope my family forgives my selfishness. I’m afraid this may hurt me. Maybe not kill me, but i’m aware that it isn’t good. I know it’s selfish and vain but I can’t live without my ED. I don’t know how to undo 27 years of filth and shame.

Entry #5

The thing about anorexia that continues to shake me is that an otherwise intelligent educated woman can be convinced (by herself of all people) that she is hideous and unlovable. I can honestly say that I hate myself. No amount of weight loss can change that. I don’t like myself enough to feed myself. I feel unworthy of the food I put in my mouth, and once it’s in my stomach for any length of time I get a sudden fear that I don’t deserve what I just ate, and I purge it. Lately, even water. That’s a fucking sickness for you.

Entry #6

When things started to get tough in my life I just started to focus on destroying myself. I run twice a day, sprints in the morning, and a steady-state run in the evening – all on less than 600 calories a day. Every time I run, I pray to collapse. I realize the only way I could stop is if I died and I could only die if it happened to me. I couldn’t end my own life any other way. I desperately want it to end.


As you can see this girl needed help in the biggest way and while she saw it – she didn’t want to acknowledge it. She was so far gone that she didn’t feel worthy of the help. The story ended happily but so many do not. There are hundreds of men and women on waiting lists to get into recovery centers like I did – some die on that waiting list. Death from starvation is one thing, but death from starvation of self-love is entirely another. No one should suffer from that, much less die from it.

If you take nothing else from this story, I want you to remember that there is absolutely nothing you cannot do with self-love.  As you can see from my story, I was not granted self-love – I had to build it – and I had to hit rock bottom to even understand the work that needed to be done in order to attain it. I work on it even now, daily – and I will never stop because that is my birthright – as it is yours <3.


Lake Effect Series: You can’t “not eat” and train for a marathon.

Note from Hollie: Thank you for sharing as always.  It’s such a reminder that even those who appear healthy often times are not.  Appearance does not tell the whole story.  
Only a few more days to donate.  We are 40 dollars from 2200 and I truly believe we will reach that goal.  Please feel free to share any or all of the stories and enter yourself in the giveaway.  A single donation or share is all you have to do! 
I was always bigger. Not necessarily overweight – but everyone in my family is German and 6+ feet. I’m not quite as tall, but still have the same bone structure. I was very active in high school, but I still had that ‘nagging’ feeling that I just wanted to look like everyone else.

When I went away to college, I realized I could reinvent myself. I’ll diet! I’ll workout even more! What started off as good intentions turned into skipping class to spend hours at the gym and adopting a strange, extremely strict food regiment.

It didn’t take me long to start realizing that I was headed down a slippery slope. But, all the girls on my hall were so IMPRESSED with my dedication and discipline! “Oh, how I wish I could be like you!” “Oh, you’re so diligent, that’s awesome!” How can you possibly start breaking a bad habit when everyone applauds you for it?

I’d strategically eat one piece of wheat bread with a scoop of trail mix on top of it and consider that most of my daily food. Healthy fats, good carbs, protein…who cares that its only a total of 200 calories? It’s well-balanced!

My behavior continued all through college…each year brought new challenges. Engineering classes were hard, I joined a sorority…every new challenge drove my perfectionism harder and harder. I figured that once I graduated college, it would all go away. I figured that “adults” don’t deal with these kinds of problems! I’d just wake up and be normal.

Well, I graduated. And I got a good job. And the behavior didn’t stop. I’d spend all day at work just chugging water hoping I didn’t pass out. Our company did a free health screening…and mine came back bizarre.

My blood work was all over the place. I was lacking tons of nutrients, had wild levels of certain horomones, had stress on my kidneys. Not to mention my hair was falling out by the lock, and I developed awful insomnia. I finally realized – “adulthood” wasn’t going to solve my problems.

My main vice in my times of disordered eating was over-exercising. I’d run for hours and hours just to watch the calories on the machine count up. I’d skip meeting friends because I had to burn more calories. Would get up and run in the middle of the night because I had to burn more calories. Would go to the gym with the flu because I had to burn more calories. I decided to apply for a cognative-behavior therapy study taking place at a local university. I was accepted, and entered into a therapy person.

As my therapy went on, I realized that I really liked to run, when I wasn’t using it as self punishment. My therapist helped me channel my ‘perfectionism’ a little bit into my running. Okay, great, I can stay on a treadmill for hours…but can I run a fast 5k? A 10k? How about a marathon?

Here’s the catch: You can’t “not eat” and train for a marathon. I think this was my saving grace.Towards the end of 2012 I became focused on completing the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2013, and I did. Properly fueled and all.

In 2013 I ended up running over 15 half marathons, the marathon, and a half trail ultra…plus a sprinkling of local 5 and 10ks. And get this, I WON some. I finally started realizing that being proud of my body’s physical strength and power is a lot more impressive than my jean size.

I’m gearing up for the marathon in Pittsburgh again, and have already started setting my sights on a BQ sometime in the future. Who knew running could save a life?

I’ve come a long way, but still seek therapy help and suffer relapses. Recovery isn’t a mark in the sand, its a constant forward-and-backward and up-and-down. Kind of like running a marathon.

Question for you:  What nonphysical aspect of yourself are you most proud of? 

Lake Effect Series

Lake Effect Series: Your Heart Will Stop

Note from Hollie: I cannot thank each people for submitting a story and sharing. Each story has been powerful and so inspirational. It is motivating me to run hard on Sunday. Run hard for Ophelia’s Place. Run hard for all of the supporters, sharers and everyone.  So thank you. 

It’s not too late to donate and please consider it.  Donating or sharing will also enter you in the giveaway that multiple companies have participated in.  I know Ophelia’s Place will put the donations to good use.

Submitted by Karla
First off, I’d like to thank Hollie for shining a spotlight on a topic so important and near and dear to my heart. Even though about 1% of American women are affected by anorexia, there is still a lot of stigma about it and other eating disorders. That’s why I’m happy to share my experience with anyone and everyone who will listen, because:

1. There’s absolutely no shame in seeking help when you need it,
2. My story is proof that there is life after anorexia, and
3. If even one person’s affected enough to assist a friend or consider treatment as a result, being open and honest about my past struggles is well worth it!

Eleven years ago, my weight was such a struggle (I reached nearly 180 pounds), that I figured all my problems, social, physical and otherwise, would be solved if I lost weight. So at 15, I started on a healthy kick, swapping grilled chicken for my beloved fried chicken fingers and visiting the gym each day after school for 30 minutes on the elliptical. As I—and my peers, boys included (finally!)—noticed results, I began cutting portions even more and adding minutes to my sweat schedule. Forty pounds lost by 6 months became 86 one year later, and I barely recognized the skeletal 94-pound girl I saw in the mirror.

My parents were at their wits’ end. We had consulted my family doctor, dietitians, psychologists and more to try to find a solution, yet nothing seemed to stop my downward spiral. At one point, I was eating about 800 calories and exercising two hours each day. I knew I was too thin and, since I was without any energy, felt myself pulling away socially from the new friends I had gained as a result of my newfound confidence. But something inside me wanted to keep losing. I needed to prove to the kids who used to taunt me as “big tit Karla” that I was in control and was not the chubby girl they believed me to be.

Eventually, my normally non-emotional dad sat me down and said, “Look. We’re worried that your heart is going to stop because you’re so thin. If you lose one more pound, we’re putting you in an inpatient treatment facility.”

I was officially scared straight, and after a few stops and starts, and years of visits with my psychologist (because, despite what I once believed, therapy is not just for “crazy people”), I got my body back on track. It took longer to get my brain on the same wavelength and move beyond the thoughts of inferiority, but within the last year or two, I finally feel like I’m becoming confident with myself, my body and what it can do for me.

One of the best things that’s come out of my eating disorder was a passion for health—in moderation. I went to school for magazine journalism and kinesiology so I could write and help educate about the importance and power of making wellness-promoting decisions while not letting that mindset take over your world. Today, I’m honored to be able to help FITNESS magazine spotlight real women who have done just that in the “I Did It!” section and aim to inspire my group fitness class students to strengthen their bodies in each of our sessions so they’re able to live long, vital lives rather than looking smokin’ in their bathing suits this summer. Because there are way more important things in life than being completely cellulite-free!

Thank you again!

Lake Effect Series

Lake Effect Series: An Innocent Diet

Note from Hollie: This story is near and dear to my heart.  As a collegiate runner and distance runner I’ve heard MANY females talk about losing their period is natural in training.  It’s not.  I can 100% say I have never lost my period and it is not normal if you have.  If you have lost your period, please go see your doctor. 

With only a few more days to go we have surpassed the goal of reaching 2000 dollars for Ophelia’s Place.  We only have 95 dollars to reach the new goal of 2200.  Please continue to donate as Ophelia’s Place will always put it to good use! Please feel free to share any or all of the stories.  The amount of awareness is incredible.  Finally do not forget to enter the giveaway!  


Submitted by K

As several other writers have mentioned, it is so hard to know where to begin. I could tell you about waking up every morning in elementary school to the sound of my beautiful mother weighing herself. Or, I could begin in 4th grade when I first began hating my body because I weighed as much as a family friend who was several years older (and several inches shorter) than I was. I could talk about 6thgrade when I began telling my parents I did not like to eat breakfast and then “forgetting” my lunch at home daily. I could tell you about the weight I lost, and was incredibly proud of, as I was weighed daily in my 8th grade personal fitness class. I could tell you about the dangerous game this created in my head, as I realized watching these numbers fall gave me a feeling of control over the otherwise chaotic life I was living.

I could begin my freshman year of college, when after a few years of appreciating my body and running competitively in high school, I gained the infamous “freshman fifteen.” Thankfully, during high school, my disordered eating lay dormant for the most part! I was running track and cross country, playing travel soccer, and fueling myself properly. I was training hard and reaping the rewards. But with the transition to college came a decrease in my training, an increase in dining hall desserts, and a truly unintentional reversion to my old “game.”

I was disgusted with the weight that I gained, constantly uncomfortable in my body, and frustrated I could let myself eat so much, so I decided to do something about it. I do not believe I set out with the intention of creating an eating disorder. I did not even label what I experienced as an “eating disorder” until I ultimately sought a nutritionist and therapist my junior year of college. It began as an earnest attempt to run more, eat less, and lose some of the “freshman 15” I had gained.  It started as an innocent diet to lose the 15 pounds I had gained.

I began training again, reading nutrition labels, calculating calories in my head or on paper, and ensuring that no meals I consumed had more than what I deemed to be the “acceptable” amount of calories. I have ALWAYS been a numbers oriented person. I love math, which is why I majored in accounting! This aptitude for numbers, however, turned into a very real and constant obsession. If I did not know how many calories were in something, I could not eat it. I did not want to introduce any kind of uncertainty into my new game. I loved knowing exactly how many calories I was eating, and estimating how many I was burning. I never took into account Basal Metabolic Rate, so my efforts to operate at a caloric deficiency resulted in a much greater deficiency than I even expected (because your body needs a considerable amount of calories just to operate in a day without exercise!)

I was losing weight, and I was thrilled. I loved knowing exactly what I could eat and when. I loved having so many rules to dispel any uncertainty from my diet. I was fitting into my old clothes again, and not just from college, but safety pinning the shorts I once wore in high school when I was much smaller and hadn’t truly matured into my adult body. I never once thought that maybe, at 5’8”, I didn’t need to fit into these size 0 pants.

But I was running the best I ever had! I was PRing road races and training for triathlons. I was winning my age group in races and working myself to the bone on my own. I was doing track workouts in the pouring rain and running late at night if I couldn’t get it in at another time. I was late for class and meetings so I could get in a few more miles (and I am NEVER late. It is one of my biggest pet peeves). I was choosing exercise over people because I didn’t want to slow down if they weren’t my pace. I was obsessed, and I was slipping down a dangerous slope all by myself, without the presence of mind to realize what I was doing to my body. I lost my period, but told myself that couldn’t have had anything to do with my diet or exercise. “A lot of runners lose their period, right? It’s just natural…” Wrong. These thoughts were taking over my time, my life, and my mind. It was all I could think about, and all I could do. I found myself in the depths of a full blown eating disorder, without realizing what was happening.

My junior year of college, the effects started catching up with me. My grades were slipping and I was isolating myself more than ever. I was no more satisfied with myself than when the restriction began—in fact, I hated myself more. As a very extroverted person, it was the depression and isolation that finally clued me in to what I was doing to myself—this was no way to live. I was constantly preoccupied, thought about food 24/7, and finally realized there might be something wrong with the way I was living. I made the decision to call a nutritionist at my college, honestly believing she was not going to see anything wrong with my choices, but hoping that she could help me dispel some of the obsession I was experiencing about food. Little did I know, meeting with her for the next two years would absolutely change my life.

Calling what I was experiencing an “eating disorder” was one of the hardest things to verbalize. But finally accepting what I was doing to my body allowed me to begin to fight back. I have learned so much through the recovery process, and while it has been THE hardest experience of my life, I have learned more from this process than I ever expected. If I could have learned these things through any other process, absolutely I would have chosen that…but I am so thankful for what I am learning from my life’s path and I would love to share some of these lessons with you all.

– I have learned to appreciate my body for what it does, not have it looks like. Thank your legs for carrying you throughout your day! Your body is powerful, and it keeps you alive. It enables us to experience so much. Now, I would rather run marathons and hike mountains than have misconceived “power” over my hunger and needs. I am thankful for my body and I hope you are too!

– I have learned that the physical body does not always show evidence of the mental struggle. I wish it was like a light switch, that once your body is healthy, your mind follows suit, but the darkest days of my eating disorder were when I was regaining weight in therapy and fighting the intense mental desire to return to restriction. A healthy body does not always ensure a healthy mind, and we cannot assume that since someone’s physical body does not show the evidence, that they are not experiencing deep hurt and inner turmoil. Eating disorders affect people in all shapes and sizes and in all stages of the recovery process.

– I have learned that I am not alone. The shame is incredibly intense, and I felt crazy and as if no one would understand, but that is absolutely not the case. This series of posts alone shows how pervasive eating disorders are in our society, and that we are not alone. Even if people have not experienced an eating disorder, in my experience, my friends still tried to understand. It was incredibly intimidating, but once I spoke up, I was astonished at the support I received and at the amount of people who had experienced an eating disorder or knew someone who had.

– I have learned how important it can be to ask. Speak up if you are concerned for a friend. Ask out of the compassion and love in your heart. If they are not suffering, hopefully they will know that you care about them enough to ask. If they are suffering, your words may enable them to speak up, receive support, and fight back against something that can truly take their life.

– I have learned that nothing is a waste if you learn from it. Like I said before, if I could have learned these lessons any other way….sign me up! But instead, it took an eating disorder and a difficult, continuing recovery process to teach me to love and value myself, and for that, these dark years of my life have meaning.

For so long, I avoided talking about my experience with anyone because I was so ashamed. I was ashamed that I had so much trouble doing something that should be so easy and intuitive; ashamed that I refused myself food when others around the world starved for no fault of their own; ashamed I despised and abused my perfectly functional body when others’ bodies are attacking themselves with disease and illness. I was ashamed I struggled with something I couldn’t even understand. But today, in sharing my story, standing on my recovery, and realizing all of the incredible lessons I am learning through my experience, I can continue to dispel the shame. If I can answer one question, encourage one person, change one perspective, or initiate one conversation, my experience is worth it. Thank YOU for helping me make meaning!