I was always an active kid. I was a tom-boy, constantly following in my older brother’s footsteps. I would ride my bike around town, skateboard at the park, play ice hockey with the boys, and snowboard off jumps my brother made with his friends.
So when I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, all of that was taken away from me. I could no longer uphold this energetic life. My disorder took a toll on my body, making my heart just too weak to be as active as I once was. My Mom also wouldn’t allow me to bike or roller-blade as she would worry I would pass out or that my heart would stop.
One day, I remember going for a hike with my grandparents and although everything was fine at the time, the next week I wound up in the hospital with a heart rate so low they didn’t think I’d make it through the night. My Mom told me later that she regretted ever letting me go on that hike. She feared I would die.
I think this is where my desire to be strong and healthy began, yet it would take another eight years for it to finally kick in. During my recovery journey, there was this constant back and forth desire to both be strong and capable, yet also to be frail and weak.
I simultaneously loved being fragile and athletic. I liked being fragile because people could literally see it. They could see my bones and how small I was and I liked knowing people noticed me for that. But I also liked the feeling of being able to do things that required strength.
I liked being able to push myself beyond my limits. I just couldn’t decide which limit to push, my frailty or my strength.
For some reason, I just couldn’t make myself let go of the need to be weak. The eating disorder would convince me that being weak was what I wanted, even though the kind of attention I was getting for it, was definitely not the attention I truly wanted. I wanted to be noticed for something other than my disorder.
My recovery went on for years in this kind of limbo mode where I was stuck between these two extremes. I went to a treatment center, relapsed, picked myself back up, went off to college, relapsed, came home and finally found a light at the end of what had seemed like a never-ending tunnel.
While at home, feeling sorry for myself, I came across a blog that ultimately saved my downward spiral and it compelled me to finally make a change. The most inspirational thing about the blog was that the girl writing it was so honest. She told things as they were, and she didn’t apologize for the way she felt. Her posts were freeing and inspired me to choose strength over frailty.
I started reading other recovery blogs and discovered many girls were turning to weight lifting (or some kind of weight training) in order to change their thoughts about both their body and food. So I followed their lead, and started lifting weights in my room at home. I stopped all my obsessive cardio routines and focused solely on growing my muscles.
Within a couple of weeks I was eating again. I was happier. And I was seeing changes in my body that I was okay with. For the first time ever, I was happy to see my weight go up instead of down. This was a major step in my recovery because I finally felt free. I was so empowered and continued to progress.
Today, three years later, I am still going strong, lifting weights and eating to fuel my body. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. I had a lot of ups and downs along the way, and continue to struggle even now, but the difference is that I can push past the difficulties and maintain my progress. There are days I don’t really feel like eating, but I am able to tell myself the reasons why I need to eat, and I get through it. I am able to remind myself why I am here and why I want to be healthy.
By recovering from my eating disorder, I found myself again. I re-discovered the girl who was athletic, strong, healthy, and happy. I no longer have to worry (or have my Mom worry) that my heart is going to give out, because I am able to nourish my body with amazing food, and this is the first step towards becoming stronger. I now eat to get strong and enjoy it. I understand that food is fuel and in order to do the things I want to do, I need to fuel my body.
Tayla Anne, USA