The Biggest Lesson I Learned from My Eating Disorder

When I was 13 I got it in my head that I wanted to lose weight.

So in 7th grade, I started swapping out my lunches for SlimFast. What a name. What a promise. This weight loss tactic may have even worked, but I started to get really hungry, so I would go home and eat enough calories worth of Hostess snacks to make up for my week’s worth of missed lunches.

Throughout my teenage years, I tried drinking only juice for a week, eating only raw foods, and taking diet pills. I went vegetarian. I ate for my optimal blood pH (this is not a thing, don’t try it).

By some miracle, I stuck to the Master Cleanse (drinking lemon water with maple syrup) for a whole two weeks. It was under the guise of “detoxing” but really I was thrilled to drop 10 lbs so quickly…which I promptly gained back as soon as I started eating actual food again.

Spiraling Down

As I got older, I continued putting on weight. Each time I restricted my food, I would successively eat more to fill the hole I created. I filled it not just with food, but a growing pile of disappointment, frustration, and anger for not having the willpower to stick to insane diets, and for not losing weight.

Eventually, I stopped the weird diets and just started eating less. I started tracking my food. The internet told me to eat 1200 calories, so I did that. Just like every other diet, a few days passed and I got ravenously hungry. So I ate an entire box of pasta in one sitting. Then I felt awful, so I forced myself to run for as long as I could to burn off the calories.

I continued to keep up this pattern. Running made me hungrier, and when I would go on those long runs, my appetite would kick up. So I ate more food, and I felt worse. I started taking laxatives to purge my body of the food. Eventually, I was full-on binge eating, and laxatives turned into forcing myself to throw up.

Still, I continued gaining weight.

It wasn’t until I started throwing up that I realized I had a problem, because I knew forcing yourself to throw up after you overate had a name: bulimia nervosa. But I didn’t see until much later that the entire pattern of restriction and overeating I kept up for years was disordered.

All I wanted was to lose weight, and I failed over and over again.

Magazines were no help. Books were no help. The internet was no help. From the time I started trying to lose weight to my heaviest, I had gained nearly 50 lbs. I cried over the way my body looked, and the way my clothes fit. I cried over how I searched for years and never found the answer. I cannot tell you how miserable this made me.

The Road to Recovery

Finally, I found a helpful piece of advice online: start lifting weights. This gave me a new, positive area to focus on — getting stronger, rather than getting thinner, but more importantly, it opened the first door to finding the help I needed.

I joined an online community to begin tracking my lifting progress, and soon after noticed that they offered weight loss coaching. I was dead broke, but absolutely desperate for this.

I made a few sacrifices to sign up for group exercise and nutrition coaching and within two months, I had lost my first 8 lbs. Not just stupid water weight that I would have lost if I had been doing a juice fast. Eight pounds of FAT.

My coach also gave me articles on nutrition and fitness to read every week, so that I was not only losing weight, I was learning the science of why it was FINALLY working.

But the science is not the point. The point is that when I hit rock bottom—when I had no other options—I simply hired an expert to tell me how to do it. I spent 13 years drowning deeper in a pool of misery trying to figure out this problem myself when the answer was so obvious: just ask for help.

Although it should have been a much earlier step, after I began working with a coach I also began seeing a CBT therapist, who played an integral part in my recovery. Much like with my coach, hiring a mental health professional wasn't an obvious solution until long after the fact.

Whatever you may be struggling with, you are not the only one with that problem. There are people out there who want to help you, and all you need to do is ask. Before you move on from this blog, take a minute to ask yourself, what is your biggest problem right now? And who can you ask for help?

Please note, if you are struggling with disordered eating patterns, you should contact a doctor or a mental health professional who specializes in treating them. Nutritionists and nutrition coaches are NOT equipped to treat or even diagnose eating disorders (although in some cases they may have a hand in treatment along with the appropriate professionals).

If you think you may have a problem, take a brief survey here:
Or contact the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: