I’m going to preface this with a very large #triggerwarning! In no way do I want to trigger anyone, and I have tried to stick to the facts and avoid anything too graphic or indulgent of my eating disorder. However, if you want to read this but are worried you may be triggered, skip down to the bottom section!!! That’s where I focus on the now, the importance of fitness in my life, and how much I’ve grown!
I do not like being vulnerable. I doubt many people do. So, it’s honestly taken me weeks to work myself up to writing this. Basically, I just had to tell myself that there was no longer an option. This is something I have to do. So, I promise you it’s going to be rough, it’s not always going to be perfectly explained, and it’s going to be hard for me to be completely candid. But here goes nothing. Here’s your first glimpse into my story.
I figured that a Transformation Tuesday would be a good day to launch my first blog post. Hopefully it can give you guys some insight into my past, and into why fitness has recently become such a big factor in my life today.
To start, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been self-conscious about my body. I think grade three is the first real memory I have where someone made fun of my weight and called me fat. From that point on there were an infinite number of similar encounters. Growing up, I was a bit overweight, as some kids are. It’s the way the body grows and adapts in order to regulate itself. However, as a young kid, pre-teen and even teenager I refused to believe this. I didn’t understand that if I trusted my body, and let it do its thing, then everything would have turned out okay.
After years of being uncomfortable in my body, self-conscious, and teased about my weight, I decided I’d had enough. I had been an avid figure skater throughout my life, and the summer after grade 7 I decided to get even more involved in it, upping the number of weeks I attended skating camp that year. I also was excited to get back into soccer, which I played every summer, to have another form of activity. Maybe I’d finally start to lose some weight. Like everyone knows, 12 year old me realized that I also had to eat less in order to lose weight. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to do this in a healthy way, so naturally I decided skipping meals was the best approach. I’d never been a huge breakfast eater anyways, so that wasn’t too hard to avoid, and sometimes when I got home from skating camp, lunch was just as easy to leave out of my daily routine. That summer, despite starting at a point where I was over-weight, I lost a lot of weight – I’m not going to indulge you with the numbers, but I can tell you it is not healthy for ANY body to lose that much weight in such a short period of time, no matter how heavy they are at the start.
When I got back to school in the fall, I was showered with compliments.
“You look so good! How did you do it?”
I LOVED the compliments. I was finally not the fat, ugly girl. I was on my way to being somebody.
However, it was far too easy to get addicted to the weight loss. I never wanted to stop. So what started out as a desire to just lose a bit of weight, became a full-fledged eating disorder in just a couple of months. When my mom finally caught on to what I was doing, she took me to my doctor. After explaining the behaviours I had been exhibiting accompanied with the fact that I’d now reached a state of “underweight,” I was formally diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa.
I don’t want to get into every nook and cranny of my eating disorder in this post, because honestly, that’s more novel worthy than blog worthy. But, I’ll try to give you a brief picture of the timeline of events in my life since that fateful day of my diagnosis.
First off, I was referred to an outpatient program by my family doctor, where I met with a therapist, a dietician and a team of other “professionals.” I started attending weekly appointments there, them trying to help me increase my food intake and gain back the weight I had lost. I was there for about three months, with no positive outcomes, only negative ones. This led to them referring me to a more intensive day treatment program at North York General Hospital. For those of you who don’t know, day treatment is where you go into the hospital every morning, have all your meals monitored and given to you there, attend therapy groups, do schooling, and meet with a dietician, therapist, doctor, etc. Then after dinner, you return home to sleep.
I was promptly accepted into the program in January, which meant I’d be leaving school for a while and my new routine would be to sit in a hot taxi every morning for an hour and a half to get to a hospital where I would be forced to do the one thing I didn’t want to do: eat.
I went through the same motions daily, gaining back the weight I needed to, and finally being discharged back into outpatient checkups in June. Luckily, I was even able to graduate with my grade 8 class back at my school. However, my mind set had not changed at all while I was in day treatment. I was still resorting to liquid meal replacements rather than eating out, taking my food with me places, and my ultimate goal was to lose all the weight I’d gained back and hopefully more.
That summer, I reached one of my lowest points, both mentally and physically. Most people, might think, well wasn’t high school a motivation for you to stay at a healthy weight? Well no, no it was not. I was going to a high school where I barely knew anyone, and the people I did know, I didn’t know them well. It wasn’t exactly something I was looking forward to. So naturally, I was able to reach my goal. I lost all the weight I’d gained, and more. I was barely eating. I went days putting nothing in my body, not even water… And the odd day I did eat something, it was normally my staple 35-calorie yogurt. (Definitley sustainable for a body right??? WRONG!!!!!!) As you may be able to suspect, my body had deteriorated immensely. When September came around I suffered from malnutrition, a low heart rate, low blood pressure, and was tired all the time. I walked into highschool on the first day, and had my outpatient checkup the day after. It was then, that I was promptly admitted into inpatient care at the hospital. I was in shock. I was FINE. What were they doing to me?
After a week of being on bed rest hooked up to a heart monitor and being forced to put liquid meal supplements into my body (if I didn’t I would have been tube fed), I was stable enough to be discharged. I was back the next week though. It was then that I was transferred to a long term inpatient eating disorder treatment program. This was more than just a pediatrics ward, but a place where meals were structured, therapy was given and discharge was not just based on weight, but also on mental improvements. I gained the weight I needed to and was transitioned back into a day program where my mom and I then took part in intensive family group therapy as the next stage in my recovery. After a while of stability, I asked to stop doing outpatient at the hospital, since the commute to and from was ridiculously long. I ended up being discharged and was out of treatment for a while. Things were going okay, except, I was still eating only comfortable and structured meals, and hated sitting still for any length of time. About a year later, I realized that I wasn’t doing so well anymore and my weight had begun to decline significantly again. I asked to go back to the original outpatient program I was in when I was 12. At 15, you’d think they’d realize a lot had changed since they’d last worked with me, but they refused to treat me. They said that with my history of noncompliance, they would be unable to help me. (I could write a whole other post about how WRONG this is, and I probably will, so I’ll leave that for now). Thankfully, the psychiatrist who had newly begun to work with that team agreed to continue seeing me and ultimately referred me to a residential treatment program in the US (I’m Canadian for those who don’t know). After a lengthy application, I was accepted into the program, uprooted from my highschool friends and sent off to Utah. I spent 7 months in a place miles and miles from home, without my family or my friends, being forced to face challenges every day and fight my eating disorder; even when all I wanted was to be sick and let my ED win. My mindset made a huge shift in residential treatment, and I thank that place to this day for saving my life. I left Utah weight restored, and mind on the way to living in a happy state of recovery.
*From here on there are only happy things*
That was 3 and a half years ago… Fast-forward to now. Some days are still hard. Some days I still think about the possibility of returning to my old habits, but I know how much life I lost in the depths of my eating disorder, and I don’t want to lose any more of it.
A history of suffering with an eating disorder made it hard for me to get into going to the gym at first. I was worried that I would over-do it, that I would revert to old habits, that I wouldn’t know how to balance. However, becoming an avid gym goer has been something that has impacted me very positively. Yes, I still struggle with learning how to eat enough to manage my body, and with knowing when it’s time to take a rest; but I have found something that makes me happy. Going to the gym helps me relieve stress, calms me down, and helps me appreciate all the things that my body can do on days even on days where my body image is low. It’s helped me learn to balance the things in my life: friends, social life, work, etc. and it’s helped me find a sense of passion in life again.
Looking at this transformation picture makes me proud of how far I’ve come. Even when that little voice tells me I should look like I used to, and it’s hard to remember why I don’t go back, fitness helps me remember that life is honestly an adventure and being strong is really f*cking cool.