My family was so worried for me but didn't know how to "fix" me. My heart aches now for all of the pain I put them through, and it hurts for all of the young girls (and boys) living this way right now. Even the memory is so unpleasant to me that I put off writing this (and put off thinking about this stage of my life) for a very long time. Still, the process has been cathartic to me and, it is my hope, may also be helpful to someone else reading this. My story does not end here.
Before I continue with my second post, I wanted to share some of my research. I went through a list from this website to review the definition and symptoms again and see how many related to me at that time. It states:
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that causes people to obsess about their weight and the food they eat. People with anorexia nervosa attempt to maintain a weight that's far below normal for their age and height. To prevent weight gain or to continue losing weight, people with anorexia nervosa may starve themselves or exercise excessively.
Anorexia (an-oh-REK-see-uh) nervosa isn't really about food. It's an unhealthy way to try to cope with emotional problems. When you have anorexia nervosa, you often equate thinness with self-worth.
Physical signs and symptoms of anorexia include:
(I added the asterisks to the ones that applied to me and added my comments next to the items)
*Extreme weight loss (I went from about 130 to around 90)
*Abnormal blood counts (Around age 21, I tried giving blood and was anemic. This was when I was also not eating meat)
Dizziness or fainting
A bluish discoloration of the fingers
*Hair that thins, breaks or falls out
*Soft, downy hair covering the body (This was very apparent and hard to hide)
*Absence of menstruation (Lost periods for over a year and then they were hit-or-miss)
*Intolerance of cold (AC in the summer was always too cold)
Irregular heart rhythms
Low blood pressure
Swelling of arms or legs
Emotional and behavioral characteristics associated with anorexia include:
*Refusal to eat (I did not eat breakfast or snack, so I normally ate only two meals a day. I tried counting calories and aimed for 1000 calories or under, and very few fat grams a day)
*Denial of hunger (I actually lost the ability to feel hungry after awhile)
*Flat mood, or lack of emotion
*Preoccupation with food (I dreamed about food and often wrote what I ate in my diary)
Reduced interest in sex
Possible use of herbal products or diet aids
If you're concerned that a loved one may have anorexia, watch for these possible red flags:
*Making excuses for not eating
*Eating only a few certain "safe" foods, usually those low in fat and calories (This is how I began shunning meat. I was a vegetarian for years and loved how "in control" it felt to not eat meat. I also ate only fat-free dairy. I loved anything fat-free since it felt "safer." Rice cakes and olestra fat-free chips were a big splurge for me. I could eat the whole package of each in a sitting.)
Adopting rigid meal or eating rituals, such as cutting food into tiny pieces or spitting food out after chewing
Cooking elaborate meals for others but refusing to eat
*Repeated weighing of themselves
*Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws
Complaining about being fat
*Not wanting to eat in public (I would purposefully avoid eating out with friends because I didn't know what was "safe" on the menu. I lost many friends that way.)
I overcame each of these terrible symptoms. Running is now my release, my joy, a great source of my happiness. And I have learned to overcome my unhealthy food habits.
Tune in for the second part of my story where I share my recovery.