Heather's story Anorexia/Bulimia UCSB, California

I guess you can say that I was a typical girl in high school. Sure, I'd tried ridiculous diets such as eating only fat-free foods and drinking Slim Fast shakes. Still, even then, I don't think I ever saw myself as fat. It was more of a "social" thing I had in common with my girlfriends. This pattern remained the same the first year I was at college. I would think about my weight every now and then, but it was never really a major concern to me. I remember over hearing a girl in the cafeteria telling her friend that she couldn't eat dinner that night cause she'd already had a huge salad. My roommate and I just looked at each other and laughed. Little did I know that a year later, I'd be battling that same obsession with food.

My eating disorder started when my boyfriend left me for another girl. Although I use this day as the starting point of my problem, it wasn't until months later that I'd be able to recognize that I was anorexic. Looking back now, the strangest thing to me is that I wasn't even trying to lose weight. I was just so sick to my stomach that I couldn't eat. The numbers on the scale just kept dropping. Although I hadn't been trying to lose weight, I couldn't say that it didn't feel good being thin. I guess you could say the real problem started when my body snapped. It had gone so long without sufficient food that it's way of keeping me alive was by making me binge. On this day, I went through a whole box of cookies, had some s'mores, and every other "bad" food that I could get my hands on. I remember feeling so disgusting at the end of that day and I vowed to myself that I would never let that happen again. It was around this time that my roommates started commenting on how anorexic I looked. I didn't care though. In my eyes, they were just jealous that I was losing weight and they weren't. The sick thing is that I truly didn't believe that I had a problem. I wasn't anorexic because I didn't look like one of those 70 pound girls you'd see on talk shows. And I wasn't bulimic because I never stuck my finger down my throat.

Even though I did not think I had an eating disorder, my behaviors certainly showed otherwise. At the peak of my eating disorder, I could be found organizing my food shelf, even reading menus. It was amusing to merely reading about all of the "bad" foods that I wasn't eating. I didn't even like to shave my legs-the extra hair on them gave my skeleton body extra warmth. And eating had become a ritual. Each meal was planned out the day in advance. I preferred to eat alone in my bed, and I'd get really upset if someone came in or the phone would ring. This would interrupt my ritual. I even had a favorite bowl for my soup. It was one of those tiny Tupperware bowls that made my meal seem bigger. And my food would be chopped into tiny bite sized pieces so that the meal would last longer. Eating was no longer associated with pleasure-only guilt.

At this point, my days were pretty much all or nothing. On days where I'd eaten exactly what I'd planned to, I felt great. The other days however were filled with pure misery. If I'd eaten one thing more than I'd planned to, I'd blown it so there was no reason why I shouldn't eat everything that day. I specifically remember hopping from place to place on these days. At times, I'd consume thousands of calories at once and wouldn't stop even though my belly was aching. And if I'd bought something "bad" like a quart of ice cream, it would have to be finished entirely that same day. This way, it wouldn't be around to ruin the following day. Every night after this happened, I'd go to bed telling myself that this was never going to happen again. The days following a binge were pure hell. I dreaded getting out of bed because I knew what I had ahead of me - 4-8 hours of exercise. I'd even exercise on days that I was sick or injured. And if I exercised any less than planned, I'd have to start the whole routine over the following day. I'd even schedule my class around exercise. After each activity, I'd think "that takes care of that thing I'd ate". I'd even go home and mark it off in my journal that listed what I ate each day. Everything had to be crossed off or I didn't feel satisfied. It seems like the skinnier I got, the fatter I felt.

It was around this time that I started realizing that I had a problem. Food and exercise were consuming my every thought. I was losing friends too because I didn't want to be around others because I knew they'd criticize me. Besides, I didn't want them to take away my sense of control the way my boyfriend had. I think the turning point for me was my final, and most extreme binge. It was at this point that I realized that I was truly not happy. The next day, I went and got help. I will not lie. The battle was long and hard. What angers me is the fact that I received many compliments from guys when I was anorexic. It was like they were supporting my problem. Couldn't they realize that I was sick?!? I was in the same body I had when I was a fourth grader. While I am certainly not glad that I spent a year of my life in this psychological trap, I must say that it has helped shape the person that I am today. Not only am I stronger physically, but mentally too. These days, I could go run five miles because I want to, not because I have too.