When I was 14 years old, I started starving myself. I had gained a bunch of weight as a result of hypothyroidism from treating Grave’s Disease. I write more about those early struggles with anorexia here.
What I didn’t know during those 4 or so years that I was anorexic was the life-long impact it would have on my body. And sadly, being thin isn’t one of them. It’s true that I was able to get amazingly thin from starving myself. However, that came with a huge price.
I regularly get comments about how I’m cold all the time or always wearing a jacket. Some of that comes from habit – always wearing long sleeves to cover my arms. However, as a result of being anorexic for 4 years, I am now anemic. When you’re anemic, you’re cold all the time. I swear it should be snowing inside of most stores and shopping malls – it’s so cold.
There is also a laundry list of foods that I can no longer eat without having severe stomach problems. Red meat, for example, causes some of the most excruciating stomach cramps I’ve ever had – almost as bad as labor. No lie. I pretty much eat the same foods all the time. Any new foods or going out to eat causes massive tummy issues. Even eating “healthy foods” kills my stomach if it’s something I’m not accustomed to.
When I was a teenager, I only cared about being perfect. I needed my body to be perfect, and I was willing to go to any length to get that. I wanted to see every bone in my body. The more I could see them, the better. Looking back, I wish someone had shown me how to diet and exercise in a healthy way. I wish someone had told me that I’d never be able to drink soda or eat a cheeseburger again without shitting my guts out. I wish I had been well enough to love who I was and not compare myself to the pictures of girls in magazines. Instead, I spent several years counting grapes and fries and reading the book Wasted. I spent several years slowly killing myself from the inside out.
I remember the day that I decided to quit starving myself. Actually, it wasn’t just a day, it was a specific moment. I had just finished getting dressed for school. It was close to the end of my senior year. I was 5’9″ and 117lbs. My lowest weight. My size 4s were too big on me, but I couldn’t find 2s that fit my long legs. I looked into the mirror in my bedroom, covered in Bible verses and inspirational quotes, covered in reminders of why I shouldn’t kill myself. The image staring back at me was unrecognizable. The hollow cheekbones and flat chest of girl that I didn’t know. In that moment, I was death. It took another 3 years before I was able to eat “normally.” It was a slow introduction of foods and calories. It was (and sometimes still is) a constant battle with my mind. And while I am no longer considered “anorexic,” and I pretty much eat normally, I still feel the negative effects of starvation over 10 years later.