I Had No Idea

I noticed you suddenly turning down french fries and opting for vegetables instead. I was so proud you were making the choice to establish healthier habits.

But I had no idea.

I saw you start exercising voluntarily for the first time in your life, and I couldn’t contain my excitement. I couldn’t wait for you to experience how awesome exercise makes your body feel.

But I had no idea.

I thought you would fall off the bandwagon after a few days, but I was impressed to see you still going strong a month later. I encouraged you to keep up all the hard work.

But I had no idea.

I started noticing small changes each week, and I made sure to tell you how great you were looking.

But I had no idea.

I saw your lunch one day and thought it looked a little small. But I figured you just weren’t hungry, so I didn’t say anything.

I had no idea.

I watched you turn down birthday cake for the first time ever and realized just how committed you were to eating healthy. I was so impressed.

But I had no idea.

After a few months, I noticed the weight just falling off. I thought you looked awesome, so I made sure to tell you. I wanted to be the one encouraging you every step of the way.

But I had no idea.

I wondered why you never ate dinner with the rest of us at events, but you always assured us you ate before you came. I thought it was odd, but I trusted that you weren’t hungry.

I had no idea.

I asked you to hang out, but you said you had to go for a run first. Two hours later, you had finished your run. I wondered why you ran for so long, but I assumed you just enjoyed it.

I had no idea.

I was standing beside you when multiple people told you how awesome you looked and asked what you had done to lose so much weight. I was so happy for you.

But I had no idea.

I was used to seeing your frame continue to decrease, but I thought it would stop soon. I thought you had reached your goal.

I had no idea.

I saw you pull out your lunchbox, filled with only an apple and yogurt. I thought you probably just ate most of it earlier for a snack, so I didn’t say anything.

I had no idea.

I noticed your frame growing smaller each week, but I assumed you knew what you were doing. I knew you would stop losing soon.

But I had no idea.

I heard people talking, but they didn’t even know you. They were just spreading rumors, and I refused to entertain the thoughts.

I had no idea.

I knew you spent hours each day working out, but I thought you had a reason. I thought maybe you were training for something or just used it as a time to relieve stress.

I had no idea.

I could tell you continued to grow smaller, but you still looked healthy, so I never questioned it.

I had no idea.

I knew you didn’t eat as much as you used to, but you were still eating, so I didn’t really think about it.

I had no idea.

………….You thought I was fine, because I never looked emaciated.

But you had no idea.

                                    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Reaching a low weight of 117 pounds at 5’7″, I had a problem, but I had no idea.

My journey started at 13 when I decided I needed to lose weight. It was true, I had weight I needed to lose. For health reasons, I needed to clean up my diet, exercise more, and drop a few pounds. But health wasn’t my motivation.

I wanted to be skinny.

Like any girl, I was consumed with the desire to have the “perfect body”. So, I decided to finally start listening to those who had been telling me to eat healthier and exercise. My mom had done Weight Watchers, so I asked her millions of questions, calculated how many points I needed each day, and learned the ropes of this whole dieting thing.

At first, I followed the plan perfectly, and started losing weight at a healthy rate. I made healthier choices, but I made sure to meet my calorie goals for each day, even giving myself a day each weekend to go over my calories for the day. Everything was going so smoothly….for a while.

But then it became an obsession. I was obsessed with the feeling I got getting on the scale and seeing the numbers drop. I was ecstatic every time I tried on clothes and discovered they were now too big. I remember looking in the mirror and being absurdly excited when I noticed I could see my spine.

And as the intelligent, 13 year old that I was, I discovered a way to move this process along even faster. I realized the longer I worked out and the less I ate each day, the faster I could see those numbers on the scale drop. So I ran and biked and swam and rowed and did every kind of cardio I could think of. I ate just enough to convince myself, and everyone else, that I was fine. And I weighed myself every day, sometimes twice a day.

I stressed over every calorie that I consumed. If it wasn’t the weekend, I refused to eat anything that wasn’t “healthy.” I was constantly consumed with calculating calories I had burned versus calories I had consumed.

On any given day, I would eat between 600-900 calories, and then burn at least that, if not more. Honestly, looking back, I’m not sure how I had enough energy to even get out of bed most days. But I never thought I had a problem.

I just saw myself as dedicated, intense, committed to this new journey. I was proud of myself for all of the things I had accomplished. The thought that I might have a problem never crossed my mind.

I have an aunt who has suffered for years from anorexia. I knew what it looked like….

But really, I just thought I knew what it looked like. I thought since I was still eating, however little food it was, I didn’t have a problem. I thought because my hair wasn’t falling out in clumps, I didn’t have a problem. I thought because I never looked emaciated, I didn’t have a problem. I thought because I didn’t have any of the symptoms or appearances of SEVERE anorexia, I didn’t have a problem.

But I had no idea.

And neither did anyone around me.

It was obvious I had lost a significant amount of weight, but I still looked healthy. No one knew how little I was eating or how vigorously I was exercising. No one saw any problems, because I didn’t show any of the “textbook” symptoms of disordered eating. No one had any idea….except my parents.

After I had lost a good portion of weight, both of my parents started suspecting something was up. They began asking how much I had eaten and “pestering” me about eating more. At the time, it drove me insane. I didn’t understand why they wanted me to gain weight. So I rolled my eyes and kept doing what I had been doing. Because I had no idea I had a problem.

Thankfully, having parents who cared and demanding sports I loved to play saved me before it got any worse. With the demands of cheerleading, swimming, and tennis, I couldn’t keep living off of so few calories. To be competitive, sports forced me to eat more. And it saved my life.

February 22-28, 2015 is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and their campaign is “I had no idea…” With two of their campaign focuses being “I had no idea my quest for health was making me sick.”, and “I had no idea that eating disorders are often overlooked or misdiagnosed.”

30 million people will be impacted by an eating disorder at some time in their life. You don’t have to be emaciated or frail or even thin to have an eating disorder. If your every thought is consumed by how many calories you’re eating or the number on a scale or the size of your clothes, you are at risk for an eating disorder. If you feel extreme guilt every time you eat “unhealthy foods”, or spend hours at the gym trying to work off that donut you ate, you are at risk for an eating disorder. If you have extreme body weight or shape dissatisfaction, you are at risk for an eating disorder. If you feel disgusted, depressed, or guilty after overeating, you are at risk for an eating disorder.

Having an unhealthy relationship with food affects every aspect of your life. Know the signs and symptoms so you don’t have to say, “I had no idea…”

And most importantly, don’t let food, weight, or clothing size control your life. You are worth so much more.

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