Anyone can battle an eating disorder. By looking at me today, you would never suspect that I have walked down this road. Never trust what somebody looks like. After all, I look healthy happy, hale and hearty and that is exactly how I feel in 2018.
My struggles with an eating disorder began in 1975. The story goes like this:
I was in my final year of high school at Lockeport Regional High School and got the notion in my head that I was fat. Let me make it crystal clear… I WAS NOT FAT. Anyway, I decided to lose five pounds, only five measly pounds. As an active 17 year-old, it only took a week or two.
The success I experienced was enough to open the door to the world of deception that is common with eating disorders. Five pounds led to 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 pounds and more. Sadly, I believed the lie that I was fat. The reflection in the mirror was not accurate, not at all. My mind provided a phony image, a fat one.
As you probably know, active teens can drop pounds in a hurry and I was no exception. I had reduced my food intake severely. Our old cat, DinDin, probably ate more than I did. Thoughts of food consumed every waking hour. Each day, I poured over cookbooks and baked like there was no tomorrow. Interestingly, I did not allow myself to eat any of these goodies.
Food even filled my dreams. Once I dreamed I ate a whole pan of my mother’s scrumpdillyicious date squares. (Mom died in 1998, but to this day, no one has been able to duplicate them.)
I got thinner and thinner, but never thin enough; a common characteristic of eating disorders. At student events where everyone else was pigging out on pizza, potato chips, chocolate bars, ice cream, pop and other goodies, I was eating a small orange or apple.
Mom and Dad knew I was losing a lot of weight, but were unaware of the little bit I was eating. Adults who knew me well expressed concern to my parents using words like skeleton, all bones, twiggy and Biafran.
Anorexia nervosa (AN) is defined by the persistent restriction of energy intake, intense fear of gaining weight and disturbance in self-perceived weight or shape. Individuals may control food and weight as a means of controlling areas of life that feel out of control, or as a way of expressing complex or concerning emotions.
As I became thinner, I lost so much body fat that my monthly period stopped completely. I had become a full blown anorexic joining the ranks of Karen Carpenter and Princess Diana. My family doctor asked if there was any chance I could be pregnant. I quickly told him no. This was 1975 and eating disorders were still a mystery. I knew nothing about eating disorders, but I believe my behavior read like a textbook case study.
Eventually, I missed the taste of food so deeply that I entered a new phase of my journey. I would chew up the foods I had given up, but spit them out. This seemed to offer the best of both worlds; I could enjoy the taste without gaining an ounce. Can you predict what happened next? Anorexia quickly morphed into bulimia. I swallowed the food and then forced myself to throw up.
Bulimia nervosa is defined by repeated episodes of binge eating followed by compensatory behaviours. People with bulimia nervosa often place an excessive emphasis on body shape or weight in their self-evaluation. This can lead to the person’s sense of self-esteem and self-worth being defined by the way they look.
My family doctor sent me to a gynecologist who prescribed the fertility drug, Clomid, to stimulate ovulation, along with a stern warning about increased chances of pregnancy.
As the school’s top student, I was chosen to travel to Winnipeg to participate in “An Interchange on Canadian Studies” that featured Mel Hurtig, a Canadian rebel, as the keynote speaker. Families of the Winnipeg students billeted visiting students. I struck the jackpot. I was placed with Judy Craik, a daughter of Manitoba engineer and politician, Donald Craik. Mrs. Craik noticed how slender I was and wanted to know my weight loss secret. I don’t know what answer I gave her, but I know it was a lie. Concealing an eating disorder leads to lots of lying.
In the fall of the same year, I went off to Teachers’ College. A new family doctor sent me to a different specialist who offered no explanation.
Between my first and second year, I met my Prince Charming who became my husband. We ate out on dates and I started to gain back my weight. Can you guess what happened? My period reappeared. Why? My body was no longer in starvation mode. A certain amount of body fat is required to support reproduction. That was the end of my anorexia and bulimia, but not the end of weight issues.
My body image remained distorted and continues to this day. I think I suffer from body dysmorphic disorder. I don’t see what other people see. However, I have no desire to return to my super skinny days. I enjoy my life just the way it is and my husband is an awesome cook.
I have crafted my story into an engaging, educational, entertaining, empowering presentation suitable for high school students, college students, and adults. Please get in touch if you would like me to speak to your group.