Of Monsters and Men

I heard recently that in order to understand a monster, you must become one yourself.
I realize now that I'm the perfect archetype of this.

After 90+ blog posts, I can't exactly remember how much I have talked about my first eating disorder, but I wanted to write this down as a reminder to myself that numbers don't determine happiness.

I wish I could start this story at a specific point in my life, but as I've mentioned before, my eating disorder didn't just appear one morning. Rather, I believe that it had been festering inside of me for years.

In sixth grade, a boy named Noah told me that I looked like Fionna the Ogre.
Middle school brought self-awareness and the desire to fit in.
By high school, I was done.

My 10th grade health class was where I first learned about "calorie deficits" from my teacher, Mr. Lambourne. This concept of eating less to lose weight quickly seemed like an answer to my prayers. I did as he said, and kept a food journal online that would track my weight, my calories and my feelings throughout the process.

The first week was hard, but manageable. I wrote every day, and although I saw no change in weight, I was optimistic about the future.By the end of the second week, I had lost 5 pounds and fell into the rabbit hole. From that moment on, the scale became my best friend in what I thought to be a battle against myself.
The rules of my diet were simple: (looking back, I realize now how restrictive I had become) measure everything out into serving sizes, only eat 1,500 calories a day, eat celery and ice between meals (no calories),apples/rice cakes/bananas for snacks, and I couldn't eat sugar. My mom had told me that my lifestyle wasn't sustainable, and I was determined to prove her wrong.

The longer I did this, the easier it became. It was life. In the beginning, my mom complimented me on my self-control and I took pride in my "strength".  My A1c and blood sugar levels dropped dramatically and  I used them as an excuse for my actions. I thought my doctors were impressed with me, but as I look back now, I realize that their eyes were filled with worry, rather than awe.

Within 3 months, I had lost close to 35 pounds. I remember going to a parade with some guy friends during this time to see my best friend perform a cheer routine. As we were walking back to one of their cars, they admitted to have been checking me out. I laughed it off, flattered. They told me that I never needed to go on a diet, but they liked my new body more. Comments like these perpetuated my ever-growing ego. (However, I feel the need to state that not all of my guy friends were like this. One of them, Zach, would always tell me that he was worried I wasn't eating enough. When I finally started to turn my life around, he stated one day, "Alyson, I am so glad to see you eating again!") It seemed to be that the more weight I lost, the more compliments I received. My hunger for food was satisfied by my cravings for attention.

My restrictive eating caused a lot of tension between my me and my mother. The most prominent memory of this is when my family went to Oahu that same summer as the parade. I made my parents buy specific food just for me...low calorie, of course. I had temper tantrums over snacks and meal plans (I cried over not being able to have sugar-free syrup at Denny's to go with my whole wheat waffles and egg whites...). Needless to say, I definitely took away from the happy mood of the trip.

My thoughts were continually shaped around calorie amounts, my current weight, and my current clothing size. My mom told me that I wasn't enjoying life, I told her that I hated her. I constantly criticized everyone's eating habits around me. I thought of myself as an example for others to follow, so that they too could partake of my "happiness". I would tell my story whenever, and wherever I could. I wanted to become a nutritionist and write to inspire girls to do as I did--starve themselves to death in order to feel beautiful; I was clueless.

Although I thought that losing weight would make me feel more confident, it caused my insecurities to become even more exaggerated. Dress shopping for dances was ridiculous. I was constantly defensive, on edge and easy to anger. I didn't care about any of that though, I was too focused on the image I saw in the mirror. I remember being in the shower one day and looking down to see my feet, without my stomach obstructing the view--I was so happy I cried.

The more I write about this, the more I realize that I'll never be able to adequately record my thoughts, feelings, or experiences during this time of my life or about eating disorders in general. I said earlier that in order to understand a monster, you have to become one yourself. Well, I became a monster and lived to tell the tale; I'm able to better understand and help those around me because of it.

I can proudly say that I've been in your shoes, I get it.

No comments