In honor of Eating Disorder Awareness week I would like to share my own story. My struggle with eating disorders is not pretty but it has some pretty endings.
My battle against food began when I was a dancer at the age of 15. The competitive nature of the sport fueled my desire to be the best, the most-poised, the one with the most personality, and eventually the skinniest. I began to obsess about what I was putting into my body because I assumed it would make the outside look strong and desirable. I was in control of my body, the numbers on the scale were going down and I was winning competitions. In my mind, I was succeeding.
Unfortunately, I was wrong. The more I trained, the worse I looked. I was weak all the time and it was difficult for me to focus through a few hours of rehearsal. I didn’t take notice of these obvious signs. Then I began to lose competitions. This was awful on my self-esteem. Everything I had worked for up to this point was no longer effective.
When I was forced to seek help I did not want to face reality. I was stubborn and thought I knew best. I did not want to see the cardiologist for my slow heartbeat nor wear the heart monitor required; I did not want to go to the family practice physician for my checkups; and I absolutely did not want to talk with the psychologist about anything!
Looking back, I should have been more passive and talked with the psychologist, actually listened to the words of the cardiologist when he said my heartbeat was irregular, and thought twice when the family practice physician wouldn’t let me look at the scale. It may have quickened my recovery period and resolved some of my long-standing issues with food and body image. But like I said, I was stubborn.
My healing process began with pageantry, quite literally. This is where I owe my mother props for thinking outside of the box. She convinced me to try something new, like participating in a pageant. I don’t know why but I gave in. I listened to the informational meeting and it actually sounded interesting to me. I tried on pretty dresses and took notes from the interview coach when he told me I needed to gain weight to look good in a dress. I began weight lifting with a personal trainer and logging everything I ate. It was an eye opening experience for me. Slowly but surely I began to heal both physically and emotionally.
Participating in pageants helped me build self-confidence and taught me how to respectfully interact with adults. I became more knowledgeable about current events as they had the potential to be brought up during an interview and I formed opinions of my own while learning how to state them without offending too many people.
In addition, I began to take more interest in school events and the friends I neglected for years. I had fun during my last year of high school and began to seek out future goals. I applied to The University of Texas at Austin, was accepted and did the craziest thing of all… auditioned for the Pom Squad.
I spent my first year of college cheering on the Texas Longhorns as they went on to win the College Football National Championship. Though cheering wasn’t really my “thing” I had a great experience that year and it has remained unmatched. My friend group expanded as I enjoyed fun college events with my sorority sisters in Alpha Chi Omega. Through it all, I focused on my chosen career path, nutrition.
During the years of my eating disorder, I spent a lot of time focused on food and nutrition but I was totally misguided. This, however, sparked my interest and I then sought knowledge on the science of nutrition and the potential it has to transform lives in positive ways.
Eventually, I travelled to Nome, Alaska for a nutrition internship. I learned more about who I wanted to be and what I ultimately wanted to do with my life. I enrolled in the College of Public Health at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and focused on nutrition as it relates to health promotion before returning to Alaska.
I met my husband in Nome and we created a home and family set up for adventure. Our lives are full of fun and God has blessed us in many ways.
It may sound wrong to say that an eating disorder has been the best thing that has ever happened to me but it has definitely shaped me in numerous ways. Though the struggle was rough and ugly, there are many positives I have experienced because of the tough times. The journey has been a harrowing trek but I look forward to the road ahead and hiking down the path with self-confidence and a smile and helping others do the same.