At what age did you swap those beloved blueberry Eggo waffles for a cup of coffee — bitter and black — in the morning? When did you cut out dairy because your favorite influencer wore her lactose intolerance like a badge of honor? And how long after that did bread and burgers become enemies number one and two?
Were you in high school when you convinced yourself that exercise feels better on an empty stomach? Or was it earlier that you started punishing yourself for a day of eating with a trip to your creaky basement treadmill at 10p.m.? When did leaving the cafeteria with a half-eaten lunch start feeling better than academic validation? And just how many tears have you shed while gripping your thighs, wishing you could grab a pair of scissors and trim them down like hedges?
I was 15 when it all began. I vowed to eat as little as possible after my annual trip to the doctor’s office confirmed what I already knew: that I had gained weight since my last visit. My brain immediately registered my weight gain as a problem, and restriction seemed like the obvious solution. Soon enough, hunger became as natural as breathing. I can’t say I’ve taken a deep breath in years, though. Instead, I’ve grown acclimated to the feeling of suffocation that a food-obsessed life breeds.
I’ve spent half of my teenage years in self-inflicted purgatory. I celebrated my sweet 16 in the hospital, surrounded by malnourished strangers who exchanged restriction tips like hot gossip between weigh-ins and art therapy. I’d stuff my combat boots with trail mix during supervised snack time in the nurse’s office. I knew that my behavior was abnormal, but nothing scared me more than getting to the bottom of that Ziploc bag without a little help.
I refuse to spend another day being half-recovered. I’m done pretending that I don’t like potato chips because of the oily residue they leave on my fingers or that summer afternoons aren’t meant to be spent with an ice cream cone in hand. If not for myself, then for my future daughter. May she never know a road trip without a milkshake or a Thanksgiving without a stomachache. May her fears be so much greater than weighing more than her mother.
I have this unique dilemma that both eating and not eating feel like failures — the former to my eating disorder brain and the latter to my heavily-therapized one. And how am I supposed to fail when I’ve built my entire life around being a winner?
I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I have very few of them. I’ve been on this road to recovery for the past three years and I constantly feel discouraged. But if I have to choose one self-proclaimed form of failure, I’m going to choose the one that lets me live. And I mean really live. Because I’ve passed up on one too many late-night runs to Dairy Queen for my liking. So until I can focus on feeding my soul, I’m going to feed my body.
~ Claire Campbell `26