Food has consumed my thoughts in good and bad ways for several years.
I used to wake up every morning thinking about what I was going to eat at each meal and how many calories I would burn with my daily workout. I became isolated from my friends and spent countless hours in my college dorm room in order to avoid situations where I might have to eat something not on my "safe food" list. Food no longer just consumed my thoughts -- it controlled them.
How did this happen?
My troubles with food all started four years ago, when I was 17, just after I moved away and went to college. I visited home after two months, and someone told me I looked as though I had gained some weight. From there, everything went downhill.
I started running up to 7 miles a day, six days a week, and ate very, very little. By the time I went home for Christmas, I had dropped down to 103 pounds on my almost 5-foot-6-inch frame. Everyone made comments about my lower weight when I went home, but I took them lightly.
At the start of my second semester, a hall mate of mine decided to confront me about my problem. She convinced me to go talk to a counselor at school. After a few months of deep discussions and many tears, I returned home to confront my parents. I confessed to them that I was anorexic, and I was getting help. They said they had been afraid for me but didn't know how to approach the situation. They told me they would always be there for me.
I continued seeing my counselor at school and talking to my friends. Months passed, and then a few years. I had multiple turning points during my recovery -- setting goal weights, realizing the long-term effects this disease could have on my body, and even losing an online acquaintance to bulimia -- but nothing was strong enough to overcome that voice that haunted my thoughts about eating healthily.
But the latest turning point has had a greater effect on me. After studying in the Australian rainforest in the spring of 2006, I realized that I wanted to take part in saving it. I decided to run a marathon to raise money for a specific rainforest conservation organization. I had to re-learn how to eat in order to provide myself with the essential vitamins and nutrients, especially since I'm a vegetarian. Realizing that food is something the body needs to function and maintain itself, I can now say that eating has become much more enjoyable and comfortable.
Of course, I still have bad days. This recovery will not happen overnight. It is something that takes a lot of time, effort, and support. But I'm staying strong, staying motivated, and most of all, staying alive.
Published May 1, 2007.