My Eating Disorder: The Why, How and End of It All

Ever since I can remember, I had long, skinny limbs and branch-thin arms. I was the girl doctors told was underweight, even though I ate like a full-grown man. I’d thrive with pride when I ate whole boxes of pizza and basked in people’s gawks of surprise. How could all of that fit into me? I ate huge portions of whatever I pleased. And yet, I somehow maintained such a lithe figure that people would comment on it. Girls in my high school gaped while they cooed over my “perfect” body and the abs that were somehow permanently etched into my stomach from my gymnastics days. I was skinny, and I was loved.

After high school, I took a gap year in France. I spent my days basking in wine, croissants, bountiful pastries, and baguettes galore. You could say I ate a great deal. I’d walk the cobblestone streets amazed at the genetic perfection of the French, the girls with their blue eyes, their finely-edged cheekbones, their innate fashion sense, and their careless beauty. I also noticed how incognito I felthow I walked through crowds and never felt a surreptitious male gaze as I did back home. I didn’t notice how much it fulfilled me to have men stare at me until they stopped.

To be quite honest, I’d never been the most beautiful girl in the room. At least, not naturally. I was like my mother and sister. We had curly hair that mopped into a nest if it went unattended and a facial structure that was merely pretty with the potential to be more if you put in a slight effort. When I did, however, care for my hair and wear some heels, you could say I turned heads. Many, even. France was when all of that stopped. A part of me believes that my friends back home were perhaps too open with their reverence and their daily “you’re so hot” and other such lovely commentary. On the other hand, the French were decidedly less flirty and less prone to leering than Colombians.

Some might think it’s stupid to seek approval from others or to base your self-esteem and the way you see yourself on male or female stares directed your way. However,  that was how I was used to equating beauty.

Beauty didn’t exist simply when you looked approvingly in the mirror; it existed when others were drawn to you. These doubts, as well as my conviction and envy, that French women were so naturally beautiful set the stage for what was to happen next. One night, as I lay in bed in a fetal position, I felt the skin of my lower left hip pooling slightly against the skin coating my upper left rib. Of course, when you’re bent at the waist, the skin will cease to stretch across your bones and naturally fold into each other. That’s the thing. This feeling was not natural for me. I went to sleep with my hand cupping the soft “m” of skin that spooled out of my hips.

The next day, I began searching the Internet for detox recipes. I got my mother and sister to agree to a cleanse, spouting how we needed to purify our bodies of toxins and give our digestive system a rest so that our energy could be designated to other bodily functions. I also signed up for the gym for the first time in my life as an 18-year-old. And despite how much I suddenly wanted to lose weight, I went to the gym every blue moon. France was just the soft initial steps at the beginning of a mind-numbing race.

The momentum of college thrust me into a downward spiral. During my first semester at college, I was reminded of Gatsby and the notion of feeling lonely in a sea full of people. The stress that came with unending homework and midterms became too much for my easily stressed self. And in the midst of all this, I was worried about losing weight.

I forced myself to go to the gym, and in the winter, I downloaded Freeletics so I could do countless Burpees and Situps in the stuffy confines of my dorm, as if the space wasn’t already stale enough. Otherwise, I spent most of my days eating yogurt and a banana for breakfast and a salad for lunch and dinner. I avoided carbs like the plague, fearful of a slice of bread, and I abstained from any grains, brown rice included. The thought of a spoonful of honey in a cup of coffee repelled me, as did the thought of any processed foods and unnatural sugars.

On the rare days that I had some bread or some rice, it would consume all of my thoughts. It was as if I was aware that I was doing something wrong, but my body wouldn’t listen.

As soon those grains or sugars were piled inside my stomach, I’d replay it all in my mind and lie awake at night berating myself for having caved. Sometimes, I’d cry. All those feelings of regret would be paired with my hands pinching the slight skin under my upper arms, pooling the bottom of my thighs into full fists. And those extra layers of skin, no matter how small, would only prove that I had made a mistake.

Following these days, I’d promise myself to “be good.” This meant losing all of the weight that I had gained when I had eaten “bad” food the day before and eaten more than I should have. This meant perhaps only lemon water until 12 pm and then a salad before 6 pm. I aimed to detoxify and cleanse, to shed whatever I’d unwillingly gained.

If I could hold out until 2 pm to have lunch, that was a real feat. The thing is, with all of these thoughts about what I should or shouldn’t eat, food began to colonize my mind. There was no moment I didn’t think about it. Despite my attempts at limiting my caloric intake, I was ravenously drawn to food. I would spend my time looking at restaurant menus for potential outings, sometimes for hours. I’d go to sleep thinking about my breakfast and I would wake up thinking about it as well.

I’d eat as soon as I woke up, even though my body wasn’t even hungry at all. I didn’t quite understand people who woke up without an appetite. As soon as I had breakfast, I’d start thinking about lunch. I’d look up the dining hall menu and count the hours. And as soon as I had lunch, I would start thinking about dinner. I always dreamed of having a meal right after lunch, but I never did. That’s how obsessed with food I was—so obsessed that I’d urge the clock to move faster so I could have an excuse to have another meal. As soon as 6 pm came along, I would celebrate internally.

It seems ironic that people with an eating disorder, who spend most of their life abstaining from food and limiting themselves, are unnaturally obsessed with food. At least that was the case for me.

I was limiting myself when my body wanted, and needed, more. And it was through this abstinence, through this unhealthy control and limitation, that I craved more. It was to the point where I would come across pasta or banana bread in a day when I was emotionally drained, and I would cave. And since I hadn’t had pasta or bread in God knew how long, I’d have it all until I was uncomfortably full.

This led to a stream of binging based on the idea that I would not be able to eat these things ever again. I would eat despite being full. And then I would eat some more. I would argue that I had already gone down the dead end that day, so it only made sense to take advantage of that downward spiral and eat everything that I’d secretly craved but had been too “strong” to do so before. When I’d list everything I ate, it seemed unending because it was. And despite my stomach piling up like rocks under so much food, I kept on eating as if I was never going to be able to eat those things again. And in some way, that was true—until I had a weak day after fasting, and it happened all over again.

It was an unending cycle. It was as if some foreign soul had control of my body, and all I could do was watch passively as it dictated my every single move. I was fluctuating in extremes: eating nothing and then overeating. One day, however, after binging on a great quantity of food, I felt so heavy and so full that I went to the bathroom and threw up all of the contents of my stomach. I told myself that I threw up because I felt sick, but a part of me was glad that I wouldn’t see all those calories reflected in my body.

This occurred about three times. I told myself I wasn’t bulimic and that I just felt sick. I wasn’t even aware that I had technically been anorexic for the past two years. But you don’t have to be a walking twig to be anorexic or bulimic.

It’s what goes on inside your head that makes it so. I knew, however, that something was wrong. But despite being aware of this and attempting to fix it, nothing seemed to work.

It’s funny how our society views these things as easy to solve. Like, hey! Just stop worrying and start eating more. Simple as that! No. It’s not that simple. There’s something about psychological disorders and addiction (I believe part of my eating disorder was composed of a convoluted addiction with food) that is so hard to understand for people unaffected by it.

It’s not something you can turn on and off.  Your thoughts can be compelling things, and sometimes, they can control you instead of the other way around. And these thoughts are active agents that you can either swipe away or nourish. But when you have these mental disorders, the thoughts seem to run a monopoly on your mind. You are constantly accosted by negative thoughts, constantly thinking about food and nothing else and about what you ate and how much. Each thought consumes you and brings about a new wave of emotions, most of them harmful and laden with self-hatred, remorse, and desperation.

The intangible aspect of your thoughts and emotions makes grasping them and molding them so much more difficult. My disorder birthed from many different things: from loneliness, from a bad self-image, from stress, and from aspirations of beauty forged by our society and my experiences. It was rooted in so many factors and backdrops that, in the end, my eating habits were a symptom of a disease and not the disease itself.

I believe that my unhealthy relationship with food was a symptom of emotions and beliefs that were rooted in things far from food. I would binge when I felt unproductive and restless. My obsession with being skinny birthed from my childhood where I associated thinness with appreciation. It birthed from all of the Instagram posts of models with perfect bodies that seemed so content and adored. 

For me, being skinny correlated with being admired and, ultimately, loved.

My mindset had always been “once I look like this, then I will be happy.” That meant that I wasn’t truly happy until that occurred. When I was finally fit enough or skinny enough that I approved, I would begin to relax around food. In the end, however, I’d relapse into old habits. A year and a half ago, though, marked the turn that would eventually heal me for good.

I went on vacation with my boyfriend, and I told myself that I would eat whatever I wanted without remorse. This wasn’t as easy as it sounds. In the back of my mind, I would ponder calories and think about how something would make me gain weight. But I pushed those thoughts aside and realized something. When my boyfriend would serve me huge dishes, I would get full and not be able to eat the rest.

This was a new concept for me: having a plate in front of me and not having the mental urge to eat it all. After that, I began to switch my gym workouts from cardio to weight-based. That’s when I realized that my muscles needed nutrients to grow and that by working out in that way, I could stay in shape and eat more. That’s when I started seeing food as something that my body needed if I wanted to look the way that I did.

Of course, it shouldn’t be about the way you look. But, that was what it had been for me. I began to eat more and widen the variety of my meals. If I wanted pasta or a pastry, I would have it. I didn’t limit my options. And by not limiting myself, I stopped having cravings. Surprisingly, when I gave myself free rein to eat whatever I wanted, I began to eat less. And therein lies the key to it all: listening to your body. But in order to listen to your body with no ulterior motives, you need to be open with yourself and remove any limitations. Limiting ourselves creates an internal friction that seeks to combust eventually.

I have now gone a year where I feel like I have officially healed. I eat what I want whenever I want. I don’t think about food except for when I’m eating it.

My mind is free from thoughts of my weight or of previous meals, and I have time to focus and worry about other things. Sometimes, of course, I’m reminded of how it felt, like when my dad jokingly says I’m going to get chubby if I keep eating the way I do, or when someone makes a light-hearted comment about me gaining weight. These things stick with you.

What I’ve learned, though, is that when you accept yourself and listen to yourself, you can reach some real internal peace. But, before you do that, you need to know that you are beautiful and loved despite being 50 pounds lighter or heavier. It isn’t impossible to get out of this constant self-inflicted turmoil. However, when you truly accept yourself and give yourself time, you can grow out of whatever it is that is tying you down.



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I am a Colombian American writer passionate about art, photography, and traveling. I love sharing my experiences and stories that touch us all in some way.

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My Eating Disorder: The Why, How and End of It All

Ever since I can remember, I had long, skinny limbs and branch-thin arms. I was the girl doctors told was underweight, even though I ate like a full-grown man. I’d thrive with pride when I ate whole boxes of pizza and basked in people’s gawks of surprise. How could all of that fit into me? I ate huge portions of whatever I pleased. And yet, I somehow maintained such a lithe figure that people would comment on it. Girls in my high school gaped while they cooed over my “perfect” body and the abs that were somehow permanently etched into my stomach from my gymnastics days. I was skinny, and I was loved.

After high school, I took a gap year in France. I spent my days basking in wine, croissants, bountiful pastries, and baguettes galore. You could say I ate a great deal. I’d walk the cobblestone streets amazed at the genetic perfection of the French, the girls with their blue eyes, their finely-edged cheekbones, their innate fashion sense, and their careless beauty. I also noticed how incognito I felthow I walked through crowds and never felt a surreptitious male gaze as I did back home. I didn’t notice how much it fulfilled me to have men stare at me until they stopped.

To be quite honest, I’d never been the most beautiful girl in the room. At least, not naturally. I was like my mother and sister. We had curly hair that mopped into a nest if it went unattended and a facial structure that was merely pretty with the potential to be more if you put in a slight effort. When I did, however, care for my hair and wear some heels, you could say I turned heads. Many, even. France was when all of that stopped. A part of me believes that my friends back home were perhaps too open with their reverence and their daily “you’re so hot” and other such lovely commentary. On the other hand, the French were decidedly less flirty and less prone to leering than Colombians.

Some might think it’s stupid to seek approval from others or to base your self-esteem and the way you see yourself on male or female stares directed your way. However,  that was how I was used to equating beauty.

Beauty didn’t exist simply when you looked approvingly in the mirror; it existed when others were drawn to you. These doubts, as well as my conviction and envy, that French women were so naturally beautiful set the stage for what was to happen next. One night, as I lay in bed in a fetal position, I felt the skin of my lower left hip pooling slightly against the skin coating my upper left rib. Of course, when you’re bent at the waist, the skin will cease to stretch across your bones and naturally fold into each other. That’s the thing. This feeling was not natural for me. I went to sleep with my hand cupping the soft “m” of skin that spooled out of my hips.

The next day, I began searching the Internet for detox recipes. I got my mother and sister to agree to a cleanse, spouting how we needed to purify our bodies of toxins and give our digestive system a rest so that our energy could be designated to other bodily functions. I also signed up for the gym for the first time in my life as an 18-year-old. And despite how much I suddenly wanted to lose weight, I went to the gym every blue moon. France was just the soft initial steps at the beginning of a mind-numbing race.

The momentum of college thrust me into a downward spiral. During my first semester at college, I was reminded of Gatsby and the notion of feeling lonely in a sea full of people. The stress that came with unending homework and midterms became too much for my easily stressed self. And in the midst of all this, I was worried about losing weight.

I forced myself to go to the gym, and in the winter, I downloaded Freeletics so I could do countless Burpees and Situps in the stuffy confines of my dorm, as if the space wasn’t already stale enough. Otherwise, I spent most of my days eating yogurt and a banana for breakfast and a salad for lunch and dinner. I avoided carbs like the plague, fearful of a slice of bread, and I abstained from any grains, brown rice included. The thought of a spoonful of honey in a cup of coffee repelled me, as did the thought of any processed foods and unnatural sugars.

On the rare days that I had some bread or some rice, it would consume all of my thoughts. It was as if I was aware that I was doing something wrong, but my body wouldn’t listen.

As soon those grains or sugars were piled inside my stomach, I’d replay it all in my mind and lie awake at night berating myself for having caved. Sometimes, I’d cry. All those feelings of regret would be paired with my hands pinching the slight skin under my upper arms, pooling the bottom of my thighs into full fists. And those extra layers of skin, no matter how small, would only prove that I had made a mistake.

Following these days, I’d promise myself to “be good.” This meant losing all of the weight that I had gained when I had eaten “bad” food the day before and eaten more than I should have. This meant perhaps only lemon water until 12 pm and then a salad before 6 pm. I aimed to detoxify and cleanse, to shed whatever I’d unwillingly gained.

If I could hold out until 2 pm to have lunch, that was a real feat. The thing is, with all of these thoughts about what I should or shouldn’t eat, food began to colonize my mind. There was no moment I didn’t think about it. Despite my attempts at limiting my caloric intake, I was ravenously drawn to food. I would spend my time looking at restaurant menus for potential outings, sometimes for hours. I’d go to sleep thinking about my breakfast and I would wake up thinking about it as well.

I’d eat as soon as I woke up, even though my body wasn’t even hungry at all. I didn’t quite understand people who woke up without an appetite. As soon as I had breakfast, I’d start thinking about lunch. I’d look up the dining hall menu and count the hours. And as soon as I had lunch, I would start thinking about dinner. I always dreamed of having a meal right after lunch, but I never did. That’s how obsessed with food I was—so obsessed that I’d urge the clock to move faster so I could have an excuse to have another meal. As soon as 6 pm came along, I would celebrate internally.

It seems ironic that people with an eating disorder, who spend most of their life abstaining from food and limiting themselves, are unnaturally obsessed with food. At least that was the case for me.

I was limiting myself when my body wanted, and needed, more. And it was through this abstinence, through this unhealthy control and limitation, that I craved more. It was to the point where I would come across pasta or banana bread in a day when I was emotionally drained, and I would cave. And since I hadn’t had pasta or bread in God knew how long, I’d have it all until I was uncomfortably full.

This led to a stream of binging based on the idea that I would not be able to eat these things ever again. I would eat despite being full. And then I would eat some more. I would argue that I had already gone down the dead end that day, so it only made sense to take advantage of that downward spiral and eat everything that I’d secretly craved but had been too “strong” to do so before. When I’d list everything I ate, it seemed unending because it was. And despite my stomach piling up like rocks under so much food, I kept on eating as if I was never going to be able to eat those things again. And in some way, that was true—until I had a weak day after fasting, and it happened all over again.

It was an unending cycle. It was as if some foreign soul had control of my body, and all I could do was watch passively as it dictated my every single move. I was fluctuating in extremes: eating nothing and then overeating. One day, however, after binging on a great quantity of food, I felt so heavy and so full that I went to the bathroom and threw up all of the contents of my stomach. I told myself that I threw up because I felt sick, but a part of me was glad that I wouldn’t see all those calories reflected in my body.

This occurred about three times. I told myself I wasn’t bulimic and that I just felt sick. I wasn’t even aware that I had technically been anorexic for the past two years. But you don’t have to be a walking twig to be anorexic or bulimic.

It’s what goes on inside your head that makes it so. I knew, however, that something was wrong. But despite being aware of this and attempting to fix it, nothing seemed to work.

It’s funny how our society views these things as easy to solve. Like, hey! Just stop worrying and start eating more. Simple as that! No. It’s not that simple. There’s something about psychological disorders and addiction (I believe part of my eating disorder was composed of a convoluted addiction with food) that is so hard to understand for people unaffected by it.

It’s not something you can turn on and off.  Your thoughts can be compelling things, and sometimes, they can control you instead of the other way around. And these thoughts are active agents that you can either swipe away or nourish. But when you have these mental disorders, the thoughts seem to run a monopoly on your mind. You are constantly accosted by negative thoughts, constantly thinking about food and nothing else and about what you ate and how much. Each thought consumes you and brings about a new wave of emotions, most of them harmful and laden with self-hatred, remorse, and desperation.

The intangible aspect of your thoughts and emotions makes grasping them and molding them so much more difficult. My disorder birthed from many different things: from loneliness, from a bad self-image, from stress, and from aspirations of beauty forged by our society and my experiences. It was rooted in so many factors and backdrops that, in the end, my eating habits were a symptom of a disease and not the disease itself.

I believe that my unhealthy relationship with food was a symptom of emotions and beliefs that were rooted in things far from food. I would binge when I felt unproductive and restless. My obsession with being skinny birthed from my childhood where I associated thinness with appreciation. It birthed from all of the Instagram posts of models with perfect bodies that seemed so content and adored. 

For me, being skinny correlated with being admired and, ultimately, loved.

My mindset had always been “once I look like this, then I will be happy.” That meant that I wasn’t truly happy until that occurred. When I was finally fit enough or skinny enough that I approved, I would begin to relax around food. In the end, however, I’d relapse into old habits. A year and a half ago, though, marked the turn that would eventually heal me for good.

I went on vacation with my boyfriend, and I told myself that I would eat whatever I wanted without remorse. This wasn’t as easy as it sounds. In the back of my mind, I would ponder calories and think about how something would make me gain weight. But I pushed those thoughts aside and realized something. When my boyfriend would serve me huge dishes, I would get full and not be able to eat the rest.

This was a new concept for me: having a plate in front of me and not having the mental urge to eat it all. After that, I began to switch my gym workouts from cardio to weight-based. That’s when I realized that my muscles needed nutrients to grow and that by working out in that way, I could stay in shape and eat more. That’s when I started seeing food as something that my body needed if I wanted to look the way that I did.

Of course, it shouldn’t be about the way you look. But, that was what it had been for me. I began to eat more and widen the variety of my meals. If I wanted pasta or a pastry, I would have it. I didn’t limit my options. And by not limiting myself, I stopped having cravings. Surprisingly, when I gave myself free rein to eat whatever I wanted, I began to eat less. And therein lies the key to it all: listening to your body. But in order to listen to your body with no ulterior motives, you need to be open with yourself and remove any limitations. Limiting ourselves creates an internal friction that seeks to combust eventually.

I have now gone a year where I feel like I have officially healed. I eat what I want whenever I want. I don’t think about food except for when I’m eating it.

My mind is free from thoughts of my weight or of previous meals, and I have time to focus and worry about other things. Sometimes, of course, I’m reminded of how it felt, like when my dad jokingly says I’m going to get chubby if I keep eating the way I do, or when someone makes a light-hearted comment about me gaining weight. These things stick with you.

What I’ve learned, though, is that when you accept yourself and listen to yourself, you can reach some real internal peace. But, before you do that, you need to know that you are beautiful and loved despite being 50 pounds lighter or heavier. It isn’t impossible to get out of this constant self-inflicted turmoil. However, when you truly accept yourself and give yourself time, you can grow out of whatever it is that is tying you down.



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