My dietitian, Rebecca Bitzer, asked me to write a guest blog for her. Here’s what I was able to hash out.
My name is Erin Droneburg. I am a 19-year-old college Junior and I feel that I can truthfully say I am recovered from anorexia. It took a long time to get to where I am now, and it was not anywhere close to an easy journey, but I made it. My success is greatly attributed to working with Rebecca Bitzer. She has helped me to deal with my food issues along with personal struggles. She is someone who I am able to talk with about anything and know that she will not judge me and give me her unbiased opinion. I feel completely comfortable around her; along with my other treatment team members, she is one of the first people I was able to trust in a long time.
These days, food is just another part of my day. I eat when I’m hungry. Sometimes I eat too much. Sometimes I don’t eat as healthy as I should. Sometimes I’m not very hungry all day long. But one thing is for sure; food does not rule me anymore.
One main thing that kept me going in college, probably the best resource I had, was the guide that Rebecca and I came up with. At first, my meal plan was a down-to-the-ounce guide of everything I was to eat in the day. Before I started college, it was very regimented but we were able to tailor it to things that would be available to me on campus.
As my recovery progressed and the completely planned out meals were too regimented, Rebecca and I came up with a meal plan of exchanges, so I know how many servings of each food group I need to eat each day. This way, I have the freedom that an adult should have, but the structure that I still needed help with.
Being at college is probably one of the hardest places for someone battling an eating disorder. A big thing for me was having my own food, my own place to prepare my food, and my own way of doing so. I didn’t want anything to contaminate my food with extra calories or fats. A college dining hall typically doesn’t cater to the non-fat, low-calorie diet of an anorexic. I would always go to get vegetables first, but then I would tremble in fear that they were cooked with butter or oil. They didn’t have my 40-calorie-per-slice bread or my yogurt-based imitation butter. My whole world of eating was turned upside down.
Even living with a roommate and eating almost everything in the room was difficult too. One of my favorite snacks when I was sick and recovering was a jar of sugar-free gherkins. I could eat a jar of those in one sitting and be full for hours. I couldn’t hide that weird habit from my roommate so I eventually gave it up. It was in a sense like being at inpatient treatment again. I couldn’t not eat; I wanted to get better, but I just wanted to take baby steps when I should have been taking leaps and bounds. At college, with my limited privacy and options for eating, I began to take those strides in recovery.
I was really worried about the dining hall because buffets typically scare me. When I was losing weight before treatment, I never had bingeing tendencies, but when I started eating again I felt like I couldn’t get enough of the foods that I hadn’t allowed myself to eat for years. I brought this up with Rebecca and she told me that I really have to be mindful when I am eating; to take time to see if my stomach is still hungry, or if my eyes are just making me feel that way. Having her reassurance that my feelings were normal helped me to stop stressing and just enjoy food.
Every aspect of my life has become more enjoyable now that I am able to not think twice about food. Notice I say “think twice.” In my mind, not thinking at all about food isn’t a good thing. Everyone should be able to enjoy the food that they are eating; it should be a multi-sensational experience. It’s pretty amazing that I can say that now, knowing how food only used to stress me out. I now enjoy food.
“There’s no such thing as a bad food” is one thing that Rebecca thought me that has been able to stick with me. As long as I eat everything in moderation, my body will be able to handle what I feed it, using it as fuel. This theory helps me be okay with eating things I used to not allow myself, like a hamburger, every once in a while. If it’s the Fourth of July, there’s no way that I can eat a salad; that’d be un-American!
Almost every aspect of a social life will involve food. That’s one of the main reasons that I cut myself off from living. I was terrified of having to choose food in front of people and have them see how I limited myself. It was humiliating that I just couldn’t be “normal”. Now that I can consider myself recovered, it’s so much easier to be a part of life, rather than letting it pass me by. I don’t fear going out in public so much that I stay in my house all day.
A couple months ago, I got a job at a wedding and banquet venue. In ways this job has helped me with my eating immensely. I have only a few options of food to choose from, and those depend on what has been eaten by the guests. Some nights I don’t get to eat something from every food group. Weddings=cake; that much is unavoidable. There’s one baker that just makes the most delicious, melt-in-your mouth cakes that you will ever try. Since I have had the honor of tasting those cakes, I no longer feel the compulsion to eat cake whenever someone else makes it. I know that a Karen Cake is a delicacy that I experience every now and then and I can be okay with eating it. Plus, being on my feet and working so hard at the weddings, I feel like I deserve some cake by the end of the night! Having that feeling about the cake helps me with not feeling the need to eat everything that looks good to me at the moment, which is especially hard in the dining hall.
When I am hanging out with friends, we will want to snack or make food to avoid eating in the dining hall. I don’t always have the choice of what to make so I have grown accustomed to being okay with what others like. In a way, being forced into uncomfortable situations has been one of the best things for me. It helps me to be able to be okay and relaxed in unplanned circumstances, whether there’s food involved or not. That skill is something very important to have in life. There is no way that one person can know what they are going to encounter every day and control everything they do. By fearing the unplanned, you will not be able to enjoy things in life as much as if you are able to go with the flow. I’m not saying that I am 100% fine with the unplanned. There needs to be a balance of wanting to control things and not needing to. I am still honing that skill, but it’s getting there.
Even though I’m okay with eating less-healthy things, I do care about what goes into my food though, because I want to fuel my body. As part of my recovery, I began working with a trainer. She has helped me to develop a whole new meaning of fitness. When I was sickest, I would use exercise as a form or purging. Now, I am so proud of the muscle that I’ve developed. I know that my weight is a lot higher than I look. (I weigh almost twice as much as I did at my lowest.) Becoming healthy has helped me to enjoy life to the fullest. On a recent family vacation I took a trapeze class. There would have been no way I could complete that when I was sick and all my muscles were atrophied. I used to get fatigued from the minutest of energy expenditure.
There are way too many aspects of life that I could go on talking about and how much more I enjoy them; I just know that recovery is the greatest thing that happened to me. Even if I could go back in time and somehow prevent myself from developing an eating disorder, I wouldn’t. It has brought so many wonderful people into my life, brought me so much joy and appreciation for life, and has given me a story to spread. I hope that my story can give hope to many people out there struggling with things of their own that recovery is possible.