Thursday, May 23, 2013

Feel Good Friday: a confession I've wanted to get off of my chest for awhile

If you love alliteration as much as I do then you might appreciate this new series I want to start.
Feel Good Fridays.
Dedicated to health & wellness, beauty inside and out.
I thought for the first ever Feel Good post that I would share something with you that I've wanted to talk about for a long time.
I've written posts before but they always ended up saved in my drafts, too terrifying to publish publicly.
It's strange and honestly very frightening to lay it all out on the table but sometimes it's the best way to really heal.
Plus this is like my diary so if you're not in for a heavier post then turn back now.

For the past (almost) 10 years I've dealt with an eating disorder.

Webster's Dictionary defines it as:
"any of several psychological disorders (as anorexia nervosa or bulimia) characterized by serious disturbances of eating behavior"

That was my attempt at lightening the mood. We are all aware that every good speech starts with a dictionary definition.
I won't go into detail but I can assure you that pretty much any mental image you're conjuring in your head right now I've likely experienced.

This may (or may not) come as a shock to some people, but my close friends and family are well aware that I've had this problem for a long time.
It ebbs and flows - both my weight and my state of mine - but I've found that the times that it gets out of control are when I'm under a lot of stress.

It started the summer between the end of high school and the beginning of University.
I can't pinpoint when it stopped being a healthy lifestyle and moved into more dangerous territory but I can remember going for a long run one day because I felt guilty about eating several cookies.

Then I had a hard time adjusting to being at a new school where I didn't know anyone and most of my friends had gone away for University so I was suddenly alone in my own city too.

In between classes I started going to the gym because it meant I didn't have to sit alone in the cafeteria. I had been eating healthier during that summer and then I was cutting out high calorie foods and then I was trying not to eat more than I had burned off that day.
It became a fixation and it took my mind off of missing my friends and the challenges of university.

I won't post my weights but by Christmas I had dropped somewhere between 10 and 15 pounds and on a 5'3 body that is a lot.
I can remember my mom rubbing my back one day then confessing how worried she was because my spine was so prominent.
(To be fair even when I'm rocking some extra weight my spine still sticks out. I lovingly refer to it as my stego-spine because it might as well be stegosaurus plates).
She also made me get on a scale in front of her to prove I weighed what I said I did.

But then I started to make friends and my friends came home and I was going out more and eating again.
And I gained all of the weight back that I had lost, as well as an additional 10-15 lbs.
My metabolism had essentially shut down, convinced it needed to save every calorie I put into my body. Which only meant that I felt very uncomfortable in my new body and which led to other complications.

Things sort of stayed stagnant, I'd have good days and bad days, until eventually, about a year later, I was back down to my regular weight.

I started going to a support group a few years later when I confessed everything to John.
He was so supportive. He listened, never once judged me, and started researching it and keeping notebook. He looked up every way to support me and it's something I've never forgotten.
I went to a once weekly group at Sheena's Place for a few months but eventually stopped going. I found a lot of the stories to be inspirational but many also made me feel only like I was a failed anorexic.
So to stop myself from falling back down that rabbit hole I decided to focus on myself and try just leading a normal life.

And it worked!

Until my final year of university.
That summer (our first anniversary) John woked on a dig in Jordan (the middle east, not Jordan Ontario) and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. At one point I went 4 days without eating.
I dropped a bit of weight but not nearly as much as the first time and I was able to gain what I had lost back thanks to a romantic reunion and an insane amount of delicious food in Europe.

I went a full year without harming my body but old habits have a tendency to die hard. Things didn't change and, again, I'd have good days and bad days.
I'd have days where I felt good and days where I hated what I saw in the mirror.
I'd have days when I laughed and days when I cried.
Days when I enjoyed myself and days when I cringed thinking about how much I had eaten.
But even though I wasn't healthy, I believed I had things under control.
Until the latest relapse last summer.
Again, more stressors. Graduation. Trying to find a job. Planning a wedding.
I started my training for the sporting life 10 k earlier than usual and kept it up.
That turned into almost daily runs, none shorter than 45 minutes.
I was going for 10 mile runs and eating almost exclusively vegetables.
By July I had dropped to the weight I had been at my worst. And then I lost a few more pounds.
My best friend invited me to grab a coffee then tearfully confessed how worried she was about me.
My mom continually asked was I okay? Was I eating? Had I fallen into my old habits? Even my dad asked and he notoriously avoids those kinds of situations.
Another friend who I had confessed to years ago called to offer support because he had seen pictures from my bachelorette and was worried.
John begged me not to lose any more weight.
Even my boss at the time told me I was not allowed to lose any more.
The sad truth is that while the scale confirmed I was in fact losing weight, I didn't see it in the mirror.
Looking back now I see it.

Once I realized how concerned everyone was, I started cutting back on my running and started eating more. And I gained the weight back, to the point where I no longer fit into my bridesmaid dress for my best friend's wedding! I had to have it let out in the hips and even then it was still tight but I was too embarassed to ask for them to let it out more.
I could tell you that right now I'm not starving myself and that I'm perfectly healthy and cured but that wouldn't be true.
The nasty thoughts and sick mentality aren't something you can just turn off, especially when they've been a part of your life for a decade.
I know I have a tendency to overdo physical activity. 'Anorexia athletica' I've seen it refered to. Add it to the other titles I identify with.
I still binge eat sometimes and sometimes eat only tomatoes.
I have good days and bad days and I suspect I always will but I've said it many times before - I'm sick of being unhappy when I look at myself.
Why? Our value is not determined by a pant size or a number on a scale.
I don't want to deal with stress anymore by counting calories instead.
So here is my promise to myself.
I will be happy with who I am because I have people who love me, really love me, and it doesn't seem right that they have no problem loving me regardless of my weight when I don't.
Today 'I'm going to eat better' stops being code for 'I'm going to severely cut calories'.
Today 'I need to go to the gym more' stops meaning 'I need to burn at least 500 calories every trip'.
Today 'I'm fine' stops meaning 'I'm struggling'.
So often I want to jump on the "eating disorders are just people being selfish and self-absorbed and wanting attention" train because I know so many people suffering from illnesses that they don't inflict upon themselves. And let's be serious here, I feel stupid admitting that I struggle with something that I do essentially inflict upon myself.
But mental health issues are like that image of an iceburg that I hate.
So much of it is below the surface.
I wish I could shut off the voice that screams in my head when I overindulge and I wish my heart didn't sink when the scale says something higher than what I wanted to see.
I wish I didn't automatically turn to dieting and over exercising when I get stressed.
It's my coping mechanism and even though I'm well aware that it's a bad strategy, it's strangely comforting at times.
Which is sick, I know.
All I ask is that you don't judge me, and just read this as a long overdue confession that I needed to make in order to start healing my mind and my body.
I know I'll never look like this (Chicken Tuna, my instagram creep crush) :

mainly because as much as I may over do it, I'm wayyyyy too lazy to commit to the kind of gym time and diet that this body requires.
But I do want to get strong instead of skinny.
I want to be healthy - body, mind, and spirit.
And honestly I think that's the first step in this new, right direction.


  1. Jamie, what an incredible post. I'm in awe. I'm glad to hear that you have gotten things under control and that you have such a supportive partner in life. Wishing you the very best, glad to hear you are doing well.

  2. AnonymousMay 24, 2013

    I am sure it took a lot of courage to write (publish) this and applaud you for doing it. This is something so many people struggle with, and hide. I'm so glad you have such wonderful, loving, supportive people in your life. Lots of love to you xo.
    [Jennie R.]