This assignment comes from Costin’s chapter called It’s Not About The Food, which explains that there are underlying issues surrounding your eating disorder; things beyond wanting to lose weight are at play.
Write about when you developed your eating disorder, or when you first started dieting.
Well, looking back I can see when I began to diet. It was after two of my closest friends pushed me out of their life for no logical reason. That was back in high school, 11th grade, and I really did not have many friends other than them. They went to a separate high school, so it wasn’t like I had to run into them all the time. I guess my insecurities really came up then, because I couldn’t understand why they would want me out of their life. I wanted to make myself desirable to others around me: I wanted guys to find me attractive, and I wanted girls to find me worthy of friendship. So, I began to do something anyone would if they wanted a change: dieting. I lost weight healthfully at first, but then things got out of control. The spiral downward was pretty gradual, so it is really difficult to pinpoint a time when I developed an eating disorder. I think it may have been dormant in my body for a while and it crept in bit by bit.
What else was going on in your life either before or around that time?
Those things I mentioned above were pretty much all that was going on in my life at that time. Before, however, I can see I was always pretty insecure. My closest friends were all thinner than I was, and the boys liked them more than me. I craved attention and to be attractive, but it seemed that I could do nothing to help it. I couldn’t change my hair color, I couldn’t change that I had braces, I couldn’t change that I had a scar on my face. What I could change, however, was my weight. That was one thing that I could work on to work up to the beauty that my friends had.
What are some things that you felt/feel that dieting or your eating disorder or even having an eating disorder gave/gives you?
Dieting and my eating disorder gave me control. Weight was something that I could focus all my attention on. it was something that people could be envious of me for. I got compliments saying how great I looked and the success was measurable. My hard, hard work was able to be gauged by the number on the scale and the size of my clothes. When things really got out of hand and I dropped into the double-digits, I secretly relished in my sick success. When I’d try on clothes and see that the smallest sizes were too big, I would dread seeing the sadness on my mother’s face, but I would remember how well I was doing at dieting. I guess it didn’t cross my mind that I was the size of a pre-pubescent girl.
What problems or feelings did/does your eating disorder help you deal with or distract you from?
I was distracted from my pain of losing friends. I couldn’t afford to place my attention elsewhere or my diet would fail. I couldn’t lose control. I had become the girl who lost weight and looked great; I couldn’t lose that identity. I didn’t realize that even though I was becoming that person, I was not Erin anymore. Now, though, I get to use my eating disorder to distract myself from stressful situations. When things are hard to deal with, I know that I can stick to my safe foods and feel great about controlling my eating when everything else is so unpredictable. If I am having a bad day for self-esteem, I can eat “safely” and not have the stress and guilt over eating something unhealthy.
How well does the eating disorder work to help you deal with or cope with underlying issues?
It doesn’t. To this day, I still dread seeing the girl who was the mastermind behind my downward spiral. I saw her not too long ago and broke down in tears, sobbing, and had to leave the store where I was. I thought that I was doing a great job of dealing with my stressors, but I was actually making things worse.
Even if the eating disorder behaviors “work,” what price do you have to pay?
I lost my social life because of my eating disorder. I had to isolate because what if I was in a situation around food? I obviously would not be able to not eat, that would attract unwanted attention. But I also couldn’t eat because there would only be food that I didn’t allow myself and I’d want to eat everything. Then the remorse and guilt would be monumental. I would have to be in the gym for hours the next day to make up for it, and even that wouldn’t cut it. Another big thing I had to suffer through is watching my family suffer over not knowing what to do or how to help me. It was terrible and I hated myself for how I treated them; even though I didn’t want to watch them suffer, I couldn’t stop my irrational behaviors.
What are you afraid will happen if you stop your eating disorder behaviors?
I feel that I will get fat. I am worried that I will no longer have that part of my identity. I am worried that I will no longer have something to succeed at. I am worried that if I give up my control on food, I will give up my control on every other aspect of my life. I am worried that people will stop caring about me. I just do not want to give up on anything.