As a mental health advocate, I love sharing my story; I think being open about your struggles is such a powerful tool and it could save lives. So today I share with you my recovery from disordered eating.
First off, what is disordered eating and how does it differ from a full blown eating disorder? The main difference between an eating disorder and disordered eating is the severity and the frequency of symptoms. Here are some of the symptoms described on psychologytoday.com:
Symptoms of disordered eating may include behavior commonly associated with eating disorders, such as food restriction, binge eating, purging (via self-induced vomiting or excessive exercise, and use of diet pills and/ or laxatives). However, disordered eating might also include:
- Self-worth or self-esteem based highly or even exclusively on body shape and weight
- A disturbance in the way one experiences their body i.e. a person who falls in a healthy weight range but continues to feel that they are overweight
- Excessive or rigid exercise routine
- Obsessive calorie counting
- Anxiety about certain foods or food groups
- A rigid approach to eating, such as only eating certain foods, inflexible meal times, refusal to eat in restaurants or outside of one’s own home
I started exhibiting symptoms of disordered eating my senior year of high school. It was my self-destructive way of dealing with depression and anxiety. I would restrict all day and every day, avoiding as many meals as possible. I would swallow my dinner quickly because it was the only meal I ate with my family and I did not want them to suspect anything. The hardest part about disordered eating is being able to talk about it. As a black woman struggling with disordered eating, people don’t really want to hear about it. Some people refused to take the time to understand what I was going through.
This made it easier to hide my disordered eating from all of loved ones. It wasn’t until I had a major break down at school, crying my eyes out, mumbling through my tears, “I just don’t want to be here anymore,” that I sought help. In my head, I thought I could just starve myself until I disappeared but in reality I was just killing myself and hurting those who loved me.
I made a choice; I chose recovery. That meant talking about it, seeking out a therapist, a psychiatrist, a nutritionist, and being open with my family and friends. That meant making the decision every day to eat, to fuel my body, to take care of my soul. There is no such thing as “not sick enough.” You can get help now before it turns into something severe. Early prevention is possible. Recovery is possible. I do see being “recovered” as my new reality. I still have a lot of work to do and as of now recovery will remain my friend. But one day I will be able to say that disordered eating is in the past and that is where it will stay.
-By Ayanna Bates: Author, writer, blogger, motivational speaker from NY