I Didn’t Know I Had an Eating Disorder

Not Every Eating Disorder Is Easy To See

By Brittany Jackson

When I was younger, the word anorexia brought to mind the concept of not eating anything at all and adolescent girls in hospitals. Bulimia meant purging, making yourself physically sick.

They seemed to have black or white definitions. They described a very specific (and seemingly obvious) type of person.  In my mind, I had never met what I thought was the proper criterion of a person with an eating disorder.  I certainly didn’t believe I was a victim to any disease.

I was just a girl who was conscious of her health and I thought that was a good thing—something to be proud of, even. Sure, I woke up at 4:30 am to get my first workout of the day in before heading off to class where I would spend the entire morning thinking about my lunch and the afternoon dreading the second workout I would do when I got home.  I went to bed at 8 pm, partially from the exhaustion of waking up so early and also to fight off the intense hunger that would inevitably come if I stayed awake for too long. I weighed myself at least five times a day—sometimes up to ten—but I told myself it was just to measure my progress, and there was no harm in that.

It Seems Obvious Now. It Wasn’t.

Looking back, now I see that I avoided any gatherings that involved food and made up creative ways to refuse certain foods. But at the time, I figured that I ate out once a week, which made me feel like I was still “treating” myself. (Even if I wouldn’t eat anywhere without extensive nutrition information available on their website and spent hours worrying about whether it was fully accurate or not. But isn’t that what being healthy means?!)

It didn’t really seem like a problem at the time. It seemed like what everyone was doing.

Yeah, I didn’t have a period for almost two years, but I thought it was normal if your were active. I figured I would just deal with it later. Even when my BMI reached the criteria for anorexia, I didn’t think I looked unhealthy so it wasn’t a red flag. I cried when I ate 50 calories over what I normally allowed myself, but that wasn’t an everyday occurrence, so I didn’t think it wasn’t a big deal.

From Anorexia To Bulimia

Two years after this dive into what I thought was normal health-consciousness, I began struggling with binge eating.

I felt compelled to eat everything in my house on Friday nights. And to spend a great part of Saturday working it off with exercise. I began gaining back the weight I had lost and became depressed. Finally, I realized I had a problem.

I struggled with an eating disorder for over two years and didn’t even know it.

Recognizing My Illness

Eating disorders—nearly all illnesses, really—come in so many different forms.  Their victims don’t all act or look the same. They each have a different story, a different way of coping. Moreover, they each have a different way of showing their symptoms around food and exercise.

There’s this idea that everyone with an eating disorder looks alarmingly frail or passes out frequently. We think we’ll see it when it’s our close ones, but too often we don’t. When it’s your friends, your classmates, and your family members—people who seem relatively healthy both in body and mind – it’s too easy not to see it. I didn’t. My friends and family didn’t.

Recognizing my illness was the first step I made in my healing journey.

I owed it to myself to realize I had a problem. It was the only way for me to move on. It was the only way for me to live my life the way it should have been lived all along.

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