Energy Used to Change Your Body Could Be Used to Change the World
Updated: Apr 12, 2020
Written by Darcy:
I was standing in my kitchen staring at the calculator app. I added together every item of food I had eaten that day. I took a deep breath and clicked the equals sign. Tears streamed down my face as I felt the control I wanted slip out from under me. I had eaten almost three times my daily allowance. I was crying not because of how empty my stomach felt, or because my urine test showed Ketones in my body which meant my organs are beginning to be eaten away, or because I lost track of the amount of blood tests I had received in 48 hours. I was crying because the amount of calories I had eaten meant I was fat. It meant I was losing control and my body was going to blow up like a balloon.
It was my junior year of high school and I had just come back home from the emergency room where I was forced to be given fluids through a needle in my arm because my body was so dehydrated. I knew I had an eating disorder but I also knew that I had lost a lot of weight and had never received so many compliments on my appearance.
Ever since I can remember I have been the biggest of all my friends. They could share clothes that were multiple sizes below my own. They wore bikinis at the beach and tiny shorts that showed off thigh gaps. I felt left out. My doctor since I was around 9 or 10 had told me that I could “lose a few pounds” and that I should eat less sweets and join a sports team. But here’s the thing. I hate sports. I hate running. I hate sweating. I hate wearing uniforms. I hate competition. And I love cake. And cookies. And brownies. And ice cream. But my doctor never asked me about that. She continued to insist that my body mass index says I am overweight and I need to “lose a few pounds”.
BMI is bullshit. Absolute bullshit. According to BMI the only 2 factors that are an indicator of someone’s health is weight and height. That means if your family tends to be on the bigger side, BMI will tell you to “lose a few pounds”. It means that pro-athletes with lots of muscle tone are “morbidly obese”. It means that even though it was created to measure the average BMI of a population and never to measure individuals, it said that I was overweight. Therefore my 10 year old self wore a swim t-shirt and skirt to the pool, and I was afraid to wear shorts and skirts to school in fear of people seeing my “giant” legs.
When I finally began losing weight, I had never felt more proud. My doctor praised me every time I was weighed, my mother was so happy that I was “finally caring about my health”, and my relatives were shocked to see how skinny I was in a dress. The mom of the kids I babysat squeezed my waist and said “you’re so skinny!”. I felt like a success story. How could I stop and let everyone down? My friends asked me how I was doing it. How was I doing it?! Well. I wasn’t eating. What my friends and family did not know was that I had a log on my phone of everything I ate and how many calories it was. The amount I allowed myself to eat each day was not even enough to sustain a child for part of a day. But finally I was a “healthy” BMI so I must be ok.
I struggled in silence for many months. I skipped meals and constantly lied to my friends and family. I lied to my therapist, who I was already seeing for anxiety, about how little I was eating and much mental pain I was in. It wasn’t until I saw my pediatrician and she saw my rapidly dropping weight and dangerously low vitals that people began to notice my disorder.
My parents made an appointment for me at an eating disorder clinic. They thought I was going to need outpatient care. That I could talk to a psychologist a couple times a week and I would be ok. What they didn't know was that my vitals showed my heart was beating so much faster when I stood up that my body could not function properly. They didn't know my blood getting drawn would cause me to not be able to sit up, in fear I would black out. They didn't know my organs were beginning to be eaten by own body because my body could not burn calories from my fat anymore.
The woman at the clinic told them I needed residential treatment. To live in a hospital 24/7 until I was eating again. I refused. I could not lose that kind of control. I couldn’t not see my friends for weeks and be stuck in treatment. I begged and pleaded with the doctors at the clinic until I was allowed to only go to the hospital from 8am-3pm and I could eat dinner and sleep at home. They said if my vitals didn’t improve I would be forced into the hospital.
Recovery is a long-ass process. At first I would eat the bare minimum at treatment and at home. I measured my food precisely to make sure I was not eating a single calorie more than my meal plan. I would do sit ups in my room until my abs hurt. I would run around my circular street until I couldn’t catch my breath and the world was spinning around me. “I am so glad you are running!” my mom would say, unaware it was part of my disorder. Let me remind you again: I HATE SPORTS AND EXERCISING. I FIND ZERO ENJOYMENT FROM IT. Eventually I learned to stop looking at labels. That if a dessert was “too many” calories but it tasted like heaven it was F*CKING WORTH IT!
Now my life couldn't be more different. I have realized that the control I thought I had was never there to begin with. I am in more control now that my brain is being nourished and I can choose what I eat instead of my eating disorder choosing for me. After I was able to eat a healthy amount of food again I was allowed to become vegan, a lifelong goal of mine. Every time I eat I know that I am helping animals, the environment, the world, and myself. My parents and I have all learned that regardless of way society makes weight-loss seem, if you hate running, don’t run. Weight loss is not sustainable and the amount of energy used to change your body can be used to change the world.
My dietician suggested I listen to the podcast Food Psych which has helped me learn that people can be healthy at every size and shape. The stigma around weight gain is far more damaging than gaining weight itself. I am learning to love my body the way it was always meant to be. It is a process, but everyday I am closer and closer to accepting myself as I am. There are still days where I am afraid to wear certain clothing items. I still avoid some places because they make me anxious. I haven’t worn a bathing suit or gone to the beach in 3 years. Sometimes I wake up and hate looking at myself in the mirror. But I am getting there. My mirror at home is covered in affirmations. I got rid out all my clothing that doesn’t fit anymore. I’ve learned that it’s ok to eat what my body craves. I eat ice cream out of the carton and I have zero clue how many calories it is, and it tastes SO F*CKING GOOD. “Do you know what is healthier than kale? A heathy relationship with food.”