I Didn't Know I Had An Eating Disorder
It was easy to know in high school when I was starving myself, using laxatives not as prescribed, and making myself throw up that I most likely had an eating disorder.
I didn’t know I had an eating disorder.
Well, more accurately, I didn’t know I still had an eating disorder.
It was easy to know in high school when I was starving myself, using laxatives not as prescribed, and making myself throw up that I most likely had an eating disorder. This was the way I saw them represented in after school specials, and documentaries in health class. Though when I started seeing a therapist at 16, I was never told I had an eating disorder. I was never offered eating disorder treatment.
As I changed, got older, and my relationship with food morphed, I never starved myself the way I did in high school, I stopped using laxatives, and I didn’t make myself throw *that* frequently. What did continue was rotation of restriction, binging, and excessive exercise.
Often the restriction was in the form of “staying abstinent” as they say in Overeaters Anonymous.** I’d have a meal plan where I cut out binge foods. My list of binge foods seemed grow with each failure to stay abstinent. I thought I was addicted to these foods and to quantity.
I didn’t know that I was still restricting. I didn’t know I was still semi-starving myself. I didn’t know that restriction was one of the biggest risk factors for an eating disorder. I didn’t know it was a risk factor for relapsing back into an eating disorder.
I didn’t know that my “food addiction” really was an eating disorder.
When I was making healthy food choices
When I only ate organic whole foods
When I eliminated gluten, dairy, and sugar
When I became so rigid about food that I imposed my beliefs on everyone around me
When I couldn’t eat anything, but so called “clean” food
I didn’t know that I was restricting.
I didn’t know that my eating disorder morphed into something new.
I didn’t realize all these types of restriction were feeding my eating disorder. I thought I did them all in the name of health.
I didn’t know that having had an eating disorder meant that I should avoid restriction of any type before I healed my relationship with food. I didn’t even know what healing my relationship with food would look like.
But then again, since I was never diagnosed as having an eating disorder, why would I even think about this?
I didn’t know I had an eating disorder. I had no idea that this new type of relationship I had with food was still an eating disorder. Orthorexia. I thought I was trying to recover.
I didn’t know that these types of restriction set up people up for developing binge eating disorder.
I didn’t know binging had nothing to with my morals or my value.
I didn’t know that weight loss was *not* the answer to binging.
I didn’t know restricting was not the answer to binging.
I didn’t know that adopting a healthy lifestyle was not the answer to binging.
I still have never been officially diagnosed with an eating disorder. It doesn’t mean I didn’t have one. Hearing Gloria Lucas of Nalgona Positivity Pride speak for the first time was when I felt like I could finally claim it as my experience. I realized I didn’t need to rely on the patriarchial medical model to validate my experience.
I saw thin, white women with eating disorders represented.
I did not see fat, white women with eating disorders.
I didn’t know I could be fat, stay fat, and have an eating disorder.
I saw straight women with eating disorders represented.
I did not see lesbian, gay, queer, genderqueer, non-binary, or trans people with eating disorders represented.
I didn’t know I could be queer and have an eating disorder.
I saw rich women with eating disorders represented.
I did not see people on food stamps with eating disorders.
I didn’t know I could be working class or poor and have an eating disorder.
It seems so ludicrous to write this now. So obvious.
But this is why representation matters so much.
Now. I. Know.
I had an eating disorder.
I constantly wonder how people will ever get help when they don’t know they have an eating disorder. I constantly wonder how we will ever move the dial on body and fat liberation when so many people cannot experience freedom while nourishing their bodies. I constantly wonder how sustainable recovery is from an eating disorder in a world where violence against bodies with non-dominant systemic identities occurs relentlessly.
So, I claim my experience with an eating disorder. At times, I fear the stigma that comes with this. At times, I think--is it that important? Couldn’t I just say disordered eating? At times, I wonder if my recovery will be judged. At times, I wonder if my recovery will be called into question, because of my size. At times, I wonder if I am damaging the fat acceptance movement by talking about my relationship to food? Because generally everyone assumes that *all* fat people must overeat or they wouldn’t be fat. This just simply isn’t true.
I always come back to sharing my truth. My experience.*
*My experience is limited to being white and having resources to seek a different kind of treatment even if I was using food stamps. Not too long ago, I would say I was recovered. After reading Maria Parades’ blog about the term, I’ve shifted to saying recovery as a way to honor that everyone doesn’t have the same access to being recovered. Treatment (clinical and systemic) is not created equal which means recovery can’t be either.
**OA was useful to me for many reasons, and was eventually detrimental in me trying to heal my relationship with food. I will always hold this duality.
Learn about Sarah's Eating Disorder Recovery Coaching here.