Editor's Note: The following story discusses weight loss and an eating disorder. Please read no further if this is triggering for you.
It was the beginning of my senior year of college and not only had I found myself morbidly obese but also madly in love with one of my friends. I was afraid the feelings weren't reciprocal because of my weight, so I decided for the very first time in my life that I would go on a diet. I was convinced that if I was a respectable weight, my friend would truly see the beauty that hid underneath for years.
So with all the determined willpower I could muster, I decided to choose one of the very popular fad diets at the time. I immediately became obsessed with not only the diet but my body image as well. In the subsequent months, I was able to stick religiously to my newfound regimen and lost a ton of weight very quickly. I felt fantastic, bought a new, shinier wardrobe, and got a ton of congratulatory pats on the back from my friends and family. There was only one thing left to conquer, which was my main goal all along: to win over my crush with a body that I finally deemed respectable and presentable.
And so here lies the beginning of one of life's most difficult lessons for me: IT DIDN'T WORK. Just like that makeover movie from the 1980s in which Patrick Dempsey's character goes from geek to chic and ultimately discovers that it's not enough to buy him love.
After the high of a massive weight loss and then the low of that stunning rejection, I was left with myself and my thoughts. The diet didn't accomplish what I wanted it to. It didn't matter that I wasn't obese anymore; I didn't get the girl, and that was all that mattered to me at the time. I was left with the food obsession I'd had my whole life and — to add fuel to the fire — a crippling, isolating body obsession to boot.
There was little I knew about bulimia, but the urban myth surrounding it described it as an act committed exclusively by the female gender.
In a bout of self-pity, I decided to go to the pizza parlor and order a slice for the first time in several months. I ingested the bread and almost immediately had a feeling I had never experienced before: I couldn't stand for it to be in my body. It wasn't a whole pizza. It was just one slice, but that's all it took for me to feel disgusted and mortified. I had the fear that I'd gain all the weight back from just eating this one slice. Yes, this was a real fear, as illogical as it may sound.
I went back to my apartment and purged for the first time ever. I thought at the time it would be an isolated incident, but I began a horrific cycle that I would endure for years to come.
During the first two years of my purging, I told absolutely no one about it — looking back, not even myself. There was little I knew about bulimia, but the urban myth surrounding it described it as an act committed exclusively by the female gender. So believing this social construct, I didn't even think I was deserving of diagnosing myself as an anomaly. I just simply DID NOT HAVE BULIMIA, despite the glaring evidence to the contrary. Belief systems are so unbelievably hard to look past sometimes.
I suffered in silence until I finally reached out to a therapist concerning my binging, purging, and now fasting. He told me I was a bulimic, and I responded that I couldn't be. But he went on to describe all of the symptoms, and despite the appendage between my legs, he had eloquently convinced me of my malady.
That was 13 years ago, and I'm forever grateful for that therapist who began this path of recovery in my life. It has by no means been easy for me, but I continue to seek and ask for help. I'll never be alone with this illness again as long as that happens. Whatever the future may bring for me, I know now it's not about the girl. It's not about the weight, and it's not about my gender. What needs to be nurtured first before anything else is my self-worth. Because the kindness I'm able to give to others I can freely give to myself. It's been proved time and time again, but this always takes work.
If you are struggling with food, you are not an anomaly by any means, no matter where you're from or who you are. Despite the terminal uniqueness I tend to fall into at times, I am reminded in the most humbling ways that I'm human and that no matter what I do or don't do, it's going to be OK. I just need to let it be that way.
If you or a loved one are in need of any help, the National Eating Disorders Association has several resources.