What happens when food becomes the enemy? When you battle with fending off hunger? When hours of not eating becomes a mark of satisfaction? Well, shit happens: painful, uncomfortable, saddening and regretful shit.
Last year, I was a runner at Notre Dame. I couldn’t have been more proud or felt luckier to be a part of something so incredible. It was a badge of honor that I wore with pride each and every day. But it wasn’t long before I noticed I looked different than my teammates, my best friends. This difference in appearance soon became an obsession, and I longed to become an even more chiseled, perfect and lean version of each one of them.
I became determined to lose any extra fat living on my body. The way I saw food began to change, in fact it altered dramatically. I would wake up in the morning and down a couple of coffees to fend off the morning hunger before heading straight to class. When I did feel hungry, I felt satisfied that I wasn’t eating. It became a sick and twisted game that I was never going to win.
Breakfast was a protein bar, lunch was two protein bars and dinner was small. My workouts were becoming harder and I was becoming hungrier—but I ignored it. I liked the way my body was changing. I slowly but surely began to forget what was important: my performance.
It wasn’t long until my lifting coach began to notice my weight dropping and my limbs becoming skinner. I felt weak, inefficient. My running was suffering, and before I knew it, I had accrued a stress fracture in my femur. My body was crumbling from a sickness I couldn’t control.
When they found the fracture in my leg, I immediately assumed it was the running that had caused the issue, which was a definite possibility. But I never believed that my own starvation and lack of strength could have attributed to the injury. So, I continued working out and cross training like a mad-woman, watching the scale and counting calories. I was shrinking, and I felt as if I couldn’t stop the process. I had control of this aspect of my life and there was something soothing about knowing I had the power.
I avoided outings, lunches, dinners and other events that entailed eating. I knew my strict eating plan, and I assumed I had to stick to it. My body was continuing to suffer and friends and family began to comment on my weight. Instead of using their concerned comments as warnings, I used them as fuel. To me, it meant progress.
I would go up to 22 hours without eating. Those were the days that I began to worry about myself, and yet, I felt as if I couldn’t stop. Why was I doing this? But seeing the way I looked always led me to continue. An irrational fear of gaining weight consumed my thoughts.
I was studying at the library when I knew my life was changing. My injury wasn’t healing, my stomach was growling, my hands were cold and clammy and my head was swooshing. I stood up from the table I was sitting at, and I felt a shiver crawl down my spine. My knees locked, my vision blurred, the room became still and I lost control of my surroundings. I began to feel myself slowly fall.
It’s been a while, but I’ve taken large steps in the right direction. I sought help when I needed it, and I turned to my family for love and support. My struggles are weakening and my control is strengthening. I still have my occasional food-battles and nothing is ever easy, but I’ve seen the worst and my demons are exposed; each day I continue to heal.
I’ve found that loving myself is the most important part of being happy. No one is perfect–we all have flaws. The time that we’re given on earth is limited; to waste that time worrying about food is something I must demolish. I only have one body, and I choose to love it. Life is always begging to challenge you—eventually, you have to decide you’re going to win.