How It Began
I couldn't sleep. It was in my stomach - or, rather, it was not in my stomach. I was hungry and it was keeping me awake, but I didn't dare eat a bite. It was 11:30 at night... way too late to eat, because if I did, I would fall asleep and wouldn't burn the calories. Thirty-five hundred excess calories means an extra pound of body weight, so an extra 500 calories a day can mean I get fatter. That would be the worst.
It started when I was a college freshman.
Prior to that year, I was a very good eater. I ran cross country and would always come home hungry from real exercise. My team had pasta feeds all the time, and they became events I looked forward to. I had fun and I never really thought anything of my weight, except for when I looked at my skinny teammates who ran faster than I did.
When I started college, I had a roommate who was also a cross country runner in high school. She joined the university team, and in high school, her team was the top in the state. I admired her talent and determination and wanted to learn her secrets.
She taught me a lot about nutrition. They were things I had never heard about before, like the best times to eat, how eating more slowly can be healthier, and about the science behind working out and dining. When we ate on campus, she was very selective about what she ate, and I would pay close attention to her habits. I even went out on runs with her and the team in an effort to be a better runner. She certainly didn't encourage anorexia; she merely taught me about working out efficiently, and about eating for better health.
However, I really took her advice to heart and took a good look at my own eating habits. Before college, I was known as "the vulture" or "the vacuum" in my family because I would eat anything other people didn't. I soon came to the realization that I was not a healthy eater at all, and I should change some things if I were to run faster and stronger.
I started cutting back on food and watching what I did eat. I would give others my desserts and went on more runs. As I ate less, I saw that I really didn't need to eat that much; I could run just as well, and could get through the day just fine. I was amazed.
Not only that, but I was losing weight pretty quickly, and it was pretty evident. Pants that I had to squeeze into could be slipped on without unbuttoning them. People were complimenting me and my body; I wasn't fat before, but my weight was near the top quarter of the healthy weight range for my height and build.
I started working out every day, running on treadmills until random people in the gym commented on my intensity. If I didn't get a chance to work out at my regular time (5:30 a.m.), I would be cranky or distracted until I could. If I ate something with more calories or fat than I liked, I would work out more. I wasn't happy unless I worked out enough. Sometimes I would go two or three times a day. I started living in my gym clothes. However, I wouldn't use weights or machines because I could build muscle, which would result in more weight. I was the definition of discipline.
I really limited my meals as well. I would find a few items in the morning, like an apple and a plain sandwich, and tell myself those were the only things I could eat that day. I would eat a half a sandwich so slowly and regretfully, knowing I'd have to burn those calories off later. My preportioned meals became smaller and smaller (I was able to go on a couple of bites of food a day), but the compliments increased. "You look really great!" friends would say. "What's your secret?"
I certainly took pride in my emerging six pack. I would look at my female peers and think about how much more they weighed than I did (how terrible to look at my friends that way!). I really noticed weight in others, and I would work out with the satisfaction that I was not fat. I wouldn't eat sweets my friends made, no matter how much they tried to tempt me. I wouldn't dare eat my friend's amazing banana bread. She kept goading me to eat some, and it wasn't until later that I understood why.
My bras got smaller. I was more tired. My period even disappeared, which is something that happens when you lose too much weight. I didn't know that until later, however, and remained puzzled in the meantime.
My grades were the worst of my college career because I couldn't focus; I'm sure my brain wasn't nearly as nourished as it should have been for academic success. Plus it was almost impossible to focus when I was so hungry.
Then I went home for winter break. My mom was so concerned with my weight that she would confront me about it constantly, sometimes yelling and involving others, demanding they agree that I was too skinny. I denied that I was anorexic over and over again, and was confused by her concern. She made an appointment for me to go to the doctor, and she even followed my car to the freeway to make sure I went.
In meeting with the doctor, I told him that I was very careful about losing weight, which I was. I told him that I looked up the healthy weight range for women my height and build and that I was still in the range. He said he was impressed with how smart I was about losing weight and sent me home. In looking back on that, I'm baffled that an eating disorder can be so elusive that it can escape a family doctor I've seen since infancy.
The Turning Point and Where I Am Today
Humans have a natural weight, however, and soon enough, with the support of my mother, I started gaining weight again to come back around to that weight. I couldn't stop eating and I never felt satisfied until I ate for hours straight. (I admit, that was a lot of fun.) I gained a lot of fat at first, which is what is expected when you come back from eating hardly anything, and also I was definitely eating a lot more than 2,000 or 2,500 calories a day.
Three years later, I am perfectly happy with my body, having turned that fat back to muscle. I run a few miles every other day, skipping a day if I feel like it every once in a while. I exercise more often by playing tennis and other sports with friends. I take multivitamins to try to get necessary nutrients... in addition to eating with friends and family often.
My knowledge about healthy weight and eating never went away, though, but now I've found a good balance between eating right and splurging every now and then. I'm not afraid of gaining weight anymore.
My experience was strange and still confounds me today. I lost about 30 pounds in two months, but I didn't intend to lose weight initally. It was never my intention; it just happened as a result, so I was confused when people would say I was anorexic because I thought anorexics were only into losing weight. Technically I was, though I never thought I was fat, but because I didn't understand the state of mind, I didn't understand my own condition and didn't think I needed to worry about it. I'm only regretful that it caused pain to people who care about me.
Today, I am so grateful for the people who did speak up. I know it can be intimidating to bring it up, especially when people with eating disorders often dismiss it or even close those people out, but I appreciate my mom so much more because her determination showed me how much she cares.
It was interesting that friends never said anything but compliments about my weight loss; it shows me how society has influenced many women, and men, for that matter. I understand that it can be difficult to speak up, and that sometimes it may lead to the person with the eating disorder closing that person out, but when they are able to recover, hopefully they will understand that their loved one cares. It especially bothers me when I see someone going through the same things I did, and personally I feel it is important to say something so that even if it doesn't click with them initially, it at least plants a seed so maybe they will consider my words and experiences.
Also: there can be a fine line between looking and being healthy, and having an eating disorder. There are some women who are my height who can weigh as much as I did at my lowest weight and be healthy. However, for me, I did not lose weight the right way, and even though I didn't look like a skeleton, I was not healthy. I think that is something to keep in mind if you notice a loved one acting strangely, taking eating healthy and working out to an extreme.
- Anorexia Nervosa: What is Anorexia Nervosa?
An article on Anorexia; what is it; how to spot the signs of a sufferer. What Anorexia will do to the body.
- Healthy Weight Calculator for a Healthy Weight Range www.HealthAtoZ.com
Use this Healthy Weight Calculator to find your healthy weight range. This general guide for adults is not accurate if you are very muscular, fit or pregnant.
- Eating Disorder Information Directory
Information on eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, EDNOS, binge eating), from signs and symptoms, to treatment, to eating disorders in popular culture.
glassvisage (author) from Northern California on October 14, 2012:
Hi Katy - honestly, all I did was gain the weight back. I didn't have to take any medication or do anything like that, thankfully. Best of luck to you and I'm glad to hear you're recovering!
Katy on October 14, 2012:
hi i am currently recovering from anorexic and was wondering were you able to get your period back?
glassvisage (author) from Northern California on August 13, 2012:
Anytime Lindsey :)
SweetiePie, thanks for sharing. Your experience does sound familiar. It's so great to find that weight that is just right for you and your lifestyle. I know I could weigh a little less, but I like where I am because I have time right now to do things I want to do rather than work out all the time.
SweetiePie from Southern California, USA on August 12, 2012:
Your college experience sounds similar to mine in a few ways. I was not on track, but I walked everywhere in college, and I started losing weight because of that and eating less. I lost about thirty pounds over a year, and by my sophmore year I realized I was anorexic. I was proud of myself for only eating two bananas and a salad at lunch, even though I had burned off more calories than that during the day. Later my sophmore year I ended up indulging in snacks out of a machine just so I could study, but I would have been better off just eating dinner. After my sophmore year my weight started going back up, but honestly it was not until after college that I was eating hardy and well balanced meals again.
Actually my weight has gone up and down several times since college, but a few years ago I finally got down to a weight I am happy with by walking and eating more healthy. I feel we just get a lot of mixed messages about how we should look, and sometimes even kind advice can hurt others. People need to be careful when they tell a friend she looks too big, because sometimes those comments might not have such a great impact. Friends should help each other be healthy, and be supportive.
glassvisage (author) from Northern California on August 12, 2012:
Lindsey, I would feel that way too, and I still do to an extent, but you have to eat and maintain a healthy weight or your body is going to take control and you're going to eat a lot more to bring you back to a healthy weight. It's good to watch what you eat, but you need to make sure you eat a certain number of calories to stay healthy. Check up on the link to the Healthy Weight calculator to see if you're losing weight right.
Lindsey on August 12, 2012:
I have become very insecure about my body weight in the past couple of weeks. I'm not overweight by any means for me height and age but I'm getting this overwhelming feeling of wanting to me smaller. I feel more guilty about each thing I eat during the day even if it's just a couple of grapes. I've lost about 10 pounds within a week and I know it's unhealthy but it's hard to stop when every bite I take I feel like I'm gaining pounds and pounds
araa25 on November 26, 2011:
evn i was anorexic 3 yrs back. n wen i read ur experience, it seemed dat it was my story, my experience. evn when i was anorexic , i started scaring from food. my mind wudnt allow me 2 swallow d food.n wen i tried 2 ate sumthn , i suddenly spit dat food in d fear of gaining some weight.i thought abt exercise, calories,burning calories al d tym .bt thanx 2 my friends n my mothr who really helped in recovering from it.
cloey on November 08, 2011:
i too was anorexic when i was 12 i would drink 2 cans of pop and a few spoon fulls of dinner when i got home from school. i was 4 stone in year 8 and by the start of year 9 o was 3 and a half stone. then a new boy moved into our road he was 17 and i was 14 we fell in love and i fell pregnant. with bein anorexic and pregnant it was tough as i hated the thought of puttin on weight. my mom noticed my eating habits when i was 3 months pregnant and i was weighed at the doctors. i was given theropists and dietritions and counclling also i was given supliament pills to feed the baby. my little girl madison was born at 7 months very early weighing just 3 pounds 4 ounces but she was the most beautiful thing i'd ever saw in my life and that made me want to get better i ate for her as she couldn't and she was in an incubator for nearly 3 months. im now 22 with madison nearly 7 and just gave birth to twins callum and ellie-may doctors are worried about a relapse but im trying to keep myself a healthy weight. having twins was heard because i was gaining allot more weight but now i see that it will all drop off soon and i have 3 beautiful children to show for it. i hope my story helps people out there who are suffering or recovering from this life threatening disease
glassvisage (author) from Northern California on October 02, 2011:
Thank yo Mary and Vaen!
Mary on October 02, 2011:
Thank you for showing how elusive and quickly this condition can come to people, and it doesn't even matter the age. Isn't it sad how most people still see skinny as a 'healthy' look? Thank goodness your family didn't encourage u to stay skinny.
I was thinking abt making a film on anorexia for my final year, your experience certainly broadened my view. Wish u the best Glassvisage!
Vaen on January 24, 2011:
WOW!! thank you for sharing this.. the experience you had is so similar with mine. thank you. i know now that im not alone in this. :D
glassvisage (author) from Northern California on December 28, 2010:
Thank you all, and thank you Nora for your comment. I hope this is helpful for anyone who is struggling or knows someone who is struggling with EDs.
nora.elizabeth on December 27, 2010:
Thank you so much for your story! I actually just started using this site to inform people about ED's. I am in recovery from one and was hoping to help people with my story :) So happy to hear you are doing well!
-Sabia Ox' on November 14, 2010:
Thank You For Your Story (:
Research Analyst on April 06, 2010:
what an amazing story and I know it will help many people
Beth Morey from Montana on April 01, 2010:
Thanks for sharing from another anorexia survivor.
glassvisage (author) from Northern California on March 13, 2010:
Jane, thank you for your comment. Your son is lucky to have a mother who is concerned and aware and willing to help with therapy; best of luck to you both!
JaneSnurtl on March 11, 2010:
Thank you so much for sharing your story. My son is struggling with bulimia, it's amazing how many boys struggle with eating disorders. We tend to associate eating disorders mainly with girls. My son is in therapy now and hopefully is on the road to recovery. Thank you for your personal story and here's to your continued success.
Marie on December 17, 2009:
your very lucky that you did not die. most do not make it that long before their body eats their organs away, and heart fails. I hope this article helps save a life, that would be a sad way to go, and no telling where you may end. The healthy way is the best way to achieve any goal.
glassvisage (author) from Northern California on December 11, 2009:
Thank you, Daniella :)
DaniellaWood from England on December 05, 2009:
Thank you for this story, glassvisage - I read every word carefully and think it's great that you're helping others with problems they may have :)
glassvisage (author) from Northern California on September 23, 2009:
Thank you Storytellers and Michelle! I think that's part of the reason why I'm in education... So I can help them avoid the mistakes I made!
michelle.dragon99 on September 20, 2009:
Thanks for sharing...great and informative hub:)
Barbara from Stepping past clutter on September 19, 2009:
Finally someone gets it, lol. You can be too thin! I went a bit further along the path than you. For me and I think for many with eating disorders, the issue was control. My food intake was the only thing I could control and so I controlled myself to near oblivion. It was a form of slow and passive suicide. Pretty serious stuff. Now that you are working with middle schoolers, you are in a great position to be compassionate and share your experience! You are a great role model!
glassvisage (author) from Northern California on September 16, 2009:
Thank you all! Of course, my mom is to thank!
Vrbmft, might I make a bad pun on what you said... "quite THIN on that kind of support"? :P
Vernon Bradley from Yucaipa, California on September 16, 2009:
Thank you for sharing your story. I am struck by your Mom's support, perhaps a little nagging as such, but obviously you experienced it as support and it got you back on track to being alive. I think many folks are quite thin on that kind of support and that is what makes them literally diappear or blow up so huge that we can't miss them.
Thanks again for sharing.
newlyborn from UK on May 24, 2009:
Your story has a happy ending and that is the main thing!People with eating disorders tend to live in denial and don't see the severity of their problems and that's usually somebody close to them who starts challenging their behaviour...so you are lucky that you have such a good mum!
Michelle on December 20, 2008:
Thanks for sharing!Your story will help others in this situation!keep up the good work!
Kathryn Skaggs from Southern California on June 30, 2008:
I am sure that by you telling your own very personal story, that others who struggle with anorexia will be able to relate to your experience and draw hope.
As well, those who have loved ones that are having a difficult time accepting that they have a problem - will also be encouraged to keep talking and caring.
I am so happy for you, that you have a loving mother - who supports you. I very much appreciate your very personal willingness to share your thoughts on this subject.
William F Torpey from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on June 28, 2008:
Losing weight and gaining weight can be very perplexing. Like most people, I've done both -- but mostly gaining. I've tried to lose weight on a few occasions and always found it too easy; however, while losing weight I always find myself wondering if I'm really in control or I've gone too far. I think it's important to decide what a resonable weight would be and to stay within that weight range. I'm a poor example, but I know it's important also to attain at least a moderate amount of exercise at all times. You've obviously handled your situation very well, glassvisage. Congratulations.
MasonsMom from U.S.A. on June 28, 2008:
Your story will help many others--thanks for sharing your journey!
RainbowRecognizer from Midwest on June 28, 2008:
Thank you for sharing your story. This situation is all too common and it helps to hear the value of your journey and those speaking up for you. Very insightful and encouraging!