Sunday, January 11, 2015

It's not always what you think...

M. Gazzara

    My eating disorder story comes from the perspective of an athlete. I am also a male. Although my anorexia was minor and short lived, lasting only 6 months, I learned a lot from the experience. I learned how anorexia can spiral deeper until it consumes one’s life. Luckily for me, I was able to catch it before it got very bad. I also struggled with bouts of binge eating in the time following the anorexia. I’d like to help others who are unknowingly beginning an eating disorder, have been struggling for a while, who are recovering, and who are thinking about starting one.
    As a long distance runner in my freshman year of college, I had the drive to become the best on my team. During a week off from running in November, I decided to cut out junk food, a seemingly harmless and healthy decision. From that came some weight loss. With the weight loss came the idea that I could be faster, so I began to cut out more food groups (like meat, cheese, etc.) Calories became my focus, and despite running an average of 10 miles a day, I strived to eat no more than 2000 calories. This calorie intake may seem high, but compared to my training and what I used to eat, it was very low. As my food intake dropped, my weight went from an already lean 135 pounds (at 5’5) to just around 115. i went from healthy and lean to alarmingly skinny in a short time period.
    When I was later recovered, I was able to look back and notice signs of an eating disorder I was missing at the time. First were common signs of dieting and caloric restriction, such as feeling cold, having no energy, and no sex drive. I had no motivations, desires, and tried my best to avoid being social. I can remember not wanting to stand up if I was seated in a car and the car ride was over. Eventually, even worse signs began. I became very depressed. I would begin looking at pictures of food online, I would read menus online, I would smell food in the house that I couldn’t let myself eat. I would eat the core of apples, and the shells of peanuts, since they were empty calories but bulk to fill me up.
    The weight loss was misleading at first, because unfortunately, I ran faster in the first month. My performance then greatly suffered due to the energy drop, and I didn’t run well again until I recovered. Luckily for me, I was able to stop the disorder before it got really bad. My immediate family and doctor were able to help me realize the problem early on.
    Binge eating is common to those who restrict for a long time. Since the body craves food, there can be endless cycles of restriction and binges, which often lead to negative emotions and more desires to restrict (which isn’t good! The reason people binge is because the body needs the calories). In my case, when I was recovered, I binge ate often, especially the summer after I started eating normally again. It’s common to want to binge, and once the restriction stops, the binging will stop as well. The body craves nutrients and energy it was missing during the period of deprivation.
    Now, more than four years later, I have a healthy relationship with food. I eat enough to fuel my body, and show my body that food is coming every day. There are many positives that come from overcoming an eating disorder. Physically, you feel good and energetic, you feel warm more often, you have a sex drive, a clear mind, and a motivational outlook on life. Mentally, you can allow yourself to enjoy food that gives you life and fuels your body. You can go eat with friends and family without depriving yourself of the joys everyone else is enjoying. It’s amazing how when you give your body what it needs, everything else seems to be more enjoyable.

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