It was five o’ clock in the morning and I had already completed a good chunk of my routine. I had done my sit ups, my pushups, and my squats. I just needed to do a little more. I did a hundred of each yesterday so that meant I had to do more of each today. I soon hit my quota, got myself dressed, ate breakfast, practiced some piano, and waited for my ride to fifth grade.
This is my first memory of when the eating disorder began.
Dotted between the cycles of this exercise addiction were intense food and calorie restriction. In junior high, I would avoid walking the hallways with friends so I could instead focus on calculating my caloric intake.
All throughout junior high and the beginning of high school I was known as the “health nut.” In fact, my friends would try tricking me into eating my restricted foods. When I started eating things that actually tasted good, I felt like I lost my identity as the “health nut,” I wasn’t unique anymore, I was just average.
Then I began pendulum swinging to the other side: binge-eating. It started my senior year of high school and carried me into my first year of college.
I would completely let go when I ate. I ate anything and everything. Granola bars were easy and the most convenient. I would eat my dinner that I took to-go from the dining hall in front of the TV, then I would binge on anything I had on hand.
The next morning I would heave my bloated belly to the gym, but there was no way I could compensate for the amount of calories I ate the night before.
And the cycle continued.
There I am – a first year college student, isolated and stuck in the cycle of obsession, torture, and bingeing. I was unable to focus on school, I would binge to numb the pain, and torture myself to increase the pain. I was obsessed with eating, I was obsessed with being skinny fit, I was obsessed with what everyone else was doing, wearing, eating, exercising. I wanted to be anyone but me.
It was about this time that I was feeling quite chunky. I felt thick, I had never felt so thick before. I only liked wearing yoga pants since they had stretch to them. My stomach was constantly in a state of discontentment that the thought of wearing constricting jeans disgusted me.
My grandparents were headed to my college to visit me, they hadn’t seen the university yet and wanted to see what my new life was like. I remember it was a Thursday night, the day before they were to arrive and I had binged bad time. I knew there was no way I was going to feel right all weekend. And I really wanted to eat good food because when grandparents are involved – usually good food follows. I knew I had ruined my weekend by bingeing on Thursday night. I would feel grossly uncomfortable as my body attempted to metabolize the excess food. I needed a solution, a quick solution.
My roommates were all tucked in their rooms, I had my own room, it was cramped, but it gave me the privacy to binge in secret. I tiptoed out of my room, slipped into the bathroom, and stood there over the toilet. Now, how do I do this? Do I stick my fingers down my throat? So I proceeded to kneel there and throw up anything that was willing to come out.
I felt so much better afterwards. I felt relieved, my stomach felt thin. And I got my first high.
This was a pivotal moment for me and it remains a pivotal moment for most women who attempt to throw up food.
Some women think it’s the most disgusting thing ever and will never do it again. Others, like myself, become immediately addicted.
My mind felt fuzzy, I felt less anxious, I felt all my anxieties and fears drowned with my bile and binge food in that toilet.
I had found my solution. This was the answer all along. I went to bed content, satisfied that I could eat more that weekend.
And I kept doing it. I started experimenting with what foods came up easier, what foods I should eat first, and how much water I should drink. It was a fun game.
I started creating a list of mental rules around what foods I could and could not binge on, how to binge on them, and how to throw up.
What’s incredibly ironic is that I never thought this was considered an eating disorder. Yes, how much more oblivious can I get? This was still a game to me, it was the solution to my binge-eating problem.
Then January 23, 2013 happened.
I was desperate for a fix. I needed the good stuff, I didn’t want to scrounge around that day for some lame binge food, I wanted the adrenaline high with quality, already prepared stuff straight from the grocery store.
So I skipped my morning classes and rented a car. I needed transportation, biking wasn’t going to cut it today.
I rented the car, and in anticipation zoomed over to the grocery store, I found a nice quiet parking space, hidden but not creepy and went inside to find my drug. You see, when I know I’m going to purge, and I have the time to purge, I have access to any food I crave in the whole grocery store, nothing is off limits. I was going to be reckless. I was going to get my high.
I proceeded to gather my favorite binge foods, I had certain rules governing how I binged and purged, so I made sure I had all the necessary materials for a successful binge-purge session. I headed to the car, giddy with excitement. I’m a “good-girl” rebel.
I started bingeing and bingeing until my stomach was incredibly extended. I had my sweatpants on, purposefully to increase my bingeing capacity. But it was too much, it was time to purge. I formulated a little toilet using a Tupperware I had and the grocery bags and proceeded to throw up until I was skinny again and I saw the first food I ate in that bag. There’s no way I’m leaving anything in my body, especially with the unhealthy, forbidden foods I was eating.
I couldn’t find that first food, I made sure I ate something noticeable first, so I could see that I got rid of everything. So I went digging, yes, that was a habit I had gotten into. I needed to make sure nothing was left in my body, so I scooped around in my bile and purged food to find it. There it is. Okay, nothing is left.
I want to do it again.
So I did. And again. And again. That day, I had about four full binge/purge episodes, it was quite the expensive day.
I had to teach my cycle class that early evening. My mind was so foggy, I couldn’t think clearly, let alone stand up without feeling weak and wobbly. But I downed some electrolytes and taught my class, coming very close to fainting in the middle.
I knew I had homework to get done, I proceeded to contact my peers to see what I missed that day. I had a “Family Emergency,” that’s why I couldn’t attend class.
The lies I told my family, others, and myself.
I grabbed a pack of gum. I wanted to eat so badly. While I had little food in my system, my stomach was overly bloated and writhing with pain. My mouth wanted to chew on something. So I sat in the library, attempting to read a sentence in my Biochemistry book. I couldn’t focus, so I binged on the gum. I just kept chewing piece after piece after piece, all in one sitting. My stomach ached for relief.
I biked back to my apartment. It was late. I was embarrassed to see my roommates, since I binged on their food and got caught and confronted multiple times.
I walked in and this part is fuzzy. I remember crying, I remember a phone call, I remember packing, and I remember a quiet drive home.
The next morning, I woke up in my parents’ home, in my hometown, the reality of the situation was real.
Before I could convince myself otherwise, I grabbed the phone and dialed the number I vowed I never would.
Hi, it’s Megan Smith. I’m not sure if you remember me, but it’s gotten really bad. I quit school last night, my parents picked me up, and I need to get better, will you take me back?
Of course, Megan. Can you start tomorrow?