Bodies & Beauty: My Eating Disorder, Part One
Editor’s Note: This is Part One to Addi Black’s story. It aligns her life events with the slow internal process of slipping into an eating disorder & ends with her breaking point. Come back tomorrow to read her process of recovering & the grace-filled truth she’s found along the way. You can read her blog at La Belle Vie and follow her on Twitter at @addi2987. – Lauren
Ever since I was a young girl, I spent hours dressing up in ball gowns and dancing to the soundtracks of my favorite Disney movies, imagining I was the most beautiful belle at the ball. I picked flowers from our yard and created beautiful arrangements that I would display throughout the house. I discovered my artistic skills at an early age and drew pictures of what I found most beautiful; usually women out of bridal magazines or medieval princesses. I was fascinated with the beauty of women and dreamed that one day I would grow up to look like one of the beautiful princesses I drew on pages.
What I didn’t know then was that down the road my fascination with beauty would get me into trouble.
Puberty was when everything changed. Suddenly my body and skin were rapidly changing and not in the way I wanted. My skin started breaking out, and my thighs and hips started growing so fast that I grew out of my new favorite pants in a matter of months. My body became a focus and a problem. I didn’t know how to handle the sudden weight I developed after years of eating whatever I wanted, never having to care before.
I hated going on long car trips because I would have to look down at my ‘big’ legs for hours. People would make comments about my skin trying to give helpful suggestions, but every time it chipped away a bit more of the small amount of confidence I had left. I ate junk food with my friends all the time and resorted to never feeling really beautiful.
Then, one night I snapped.
I was seventeen and desperately trying to find an outfit to go out in, but I didn’t feel good in anything I put on. I broke down. I told my mom and my sister that from that day forward I was going to lose weight. Initially, it was a very healthy decision. I cut out white flour and sugar and cut down my portions, but not too drastically. I remember a friend telling me to be careful not to go too crazy because that’s how some people become anorexic. I laughed at the idea of ever sacrificing my love of food. I told her not to worry about it and that I loved food too much to ever starve myself from it.
However, as I lost weight I realized that leaving myself a tad bit hungry helped speed up the process. I thought that I was only shrinking my stomach so that it wouldn’t be hungry as much. Eventually, I started cutting out one meal a day and was even happier with the results. I felt happy and healthy and finally, beautiful. I no longer wanted to hide in pictures. My eating habits hadn’t yet become an obsession. They were more of a lifestyle change and I had never felt healthier.
What I didn’t realize that the seed for the sickness that would later consume my life had already been planted.
The next summer my family was preparing to move to California. I was going to stay behind and get an apartment with a friend and transfer into a local university. I ended up having a painful knee surgery just before my family moved which added to the already big changes that were rocking my world. I was still limping with a crutch when my family moved. Living on my own, I suddenly had the freedom to eat however I wanted with no one noticing.
While many people would eat more without feeling judgment, I did the opposite.
In the year and a half I lived there, I never cooked a meal other than the one we made when my parents visited. I thought I had learned some sort of trick after noticing that the hungrier I allowed myself to get, the more “satisfying” the results. I had never felt more disciplined and confident. I started to get in the mindset that I simply had to eat differently than everyone else. That was the only way I could be skinny. People didn’t need to understand. All I cared about was getting my body to the “perfect” size.
Before I knew it, I was in a downward spiral of seeing how little I could eat and how much I could exercise in 24 hours on top of full-time school and work. I was exhausted every day. I had nothing to look forward to. Even the things that should have made me happy seemed gray. I felt deprived and trapped. People started asking if I was okay. They said I looked too skinny. I responded defensively and aggravated.
I blew my sister off when she’d tell me certain people were asking her if I was okay. I told her that if they were really concerned they’d tell me to my face. My sister was the first one who brought to my attention the fact that I might actually have a problem. I remember finally admitting to her and my roommate and best friend at the time that I might have a problem, but then doing nothing about it. I was scared to death of gaining weight and hating my body again.
Fat was my enemy. Control was my friend.
I grew terrified of holidays and parties. My girlfriends and I would have tea parties with a complete spread of snacks and decadent treats and every time I would lose control. I would sit there for as long as I could without touching more than carrot sticks or fruit, and then I’d taste a piece of chocolate and it would all be over. Before I knew it I would be on a rampant binge session that didn’t end till the long tea party was over. Every time I would feel so full and uncomfortable I wanted to burst. Every time I loathed myself more than the last. Hadn’t I learned my lesson already? It was all or nothing.
Fortunately, I never purged myself. There were many moments when I wished I could. I tried a couple times but gave up quickly. I hated the idea of it, and I think I knew deep down that if I was successful once, I wouldn’t be able to stop.
My breaking point happened after my family visited for a few days. I hardly ever got to see them, especially my sisters. But even when they were there, I refused to give up my time at the gym. I had a routine that I couldn’t break. I would feel awful about my day and myself if I did. I left family gatherings to go to my cold and lonely gym and work out by myself. When I came back, I would snap at my sisters out of sheer hunger and exhaustion. I was always grumpy.
After my family left, I got a phone call from my sister who didn’t realize she dialed me and I could overhear her talking to our friend. I was about to hang up when I heard that they were actually talking about me. My sister was explaining her frustrations with me and how obsessed I had become with working out and how little time I spent with them because of it. She was angry and aggravated.
I was incredibly hurt.
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Part Two will be posted tomorrow.
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