These days when we talk about children’s health, the conversation often turns to the obesity epidemic. Today’s blogger, who chooses to remain anonymous, reminds us of the other side of the coin: many young people, a startling number of them, are starving themselves. If ever there were a story that parents should read, it’s this one.

A decade: that is how long I have been battling my eating disorder. I would like to say that is a long time, but according to everything I have read and what my therapist has told me I will be dealing with it the rest of my life… which I hope is long.

You hear all these horror stories about rail thin girls dying in a pool of their vomit, but what about the girl in the cubicle next to you that seems to have it all together but who has been trying to be normal about food and her weight? I would argue that there are a lot more girls of the latter description. I know, because I am one of them.

My senior year in high school was going well. I was headed to college and more importantly my parents were off my back and I had more freedom than ever. With this new-found freedom came control. Yes, it was awesome to be in control of things, but it was also daunting. It took me years to realize that this sense of lack of control was what started my eating disorder. How on earth was I going to manage being in college and being on my own? In my mind I couldn’t control this, but I could easily control my weight by choosing what I ate, or more realistically what I didn’t eat.

I started out by restricting what I ate, telling myself I was just learning how to eat so I didn’t gain the dreaded “freshman 15.” This turned into severe restriction. I was eating an applesauce for breakfast, some cheese crackers for lunch, picking at whatever my mom made for dinner and having a cookie (to “treat” myself after dinner). All told I couldn’t have been consuming more than 700 calories a day.

Needless to say I lost weight. I didn’t have much to lose to begin with, but by the end of the school year I was well under 100 lbs. It took a family friend saying something to my mom for her to realize something was wrong. Her solution? Go to therapy and if you aren’t better at the end of the summer you won’t be going to college. It was a good solution, if I wanted to get better… I didn’t. But I went through the motions and started eating more.

The first time I binged and purged I had been out with my boyfriend. We had gone to dinner and then to a party where I had proceeded to get drunk. With inhibitions out the window I decided I wanted to get a ton of fast food. Fast forward to an hour later, somewhat sober and at home. I was annoyed that I had let myself eat so much after already eating dinner and drinking so I decided that I would stick my finger down my throat. Miraculously it worked – all the food came back up. I guess this is when you could say I transitioned from an anorexic to a bulimic.

Food and focusing on food became how I coped with anything and everything. It took over my life. Taking back control has been a journey and a slow one at that.  Although I am in a great place now and have been for some time, I know I will have my bad days and the perfectionist in me will have to let them go.

I tell my story partly for me, but mostly because I know there are lots of other girls and boys who have experiences similar to mine.  I want them to know it will be okay, but it will take time. The biggest pieces of advice I have are to take it a day at a time, remember you are only hurting yourself, nobody is perfect and asking for help is okay. It does take time and energy to figure out the reasons behind your eating disorder and what your triggers are… but when you do you will have a whole new lease on life. You have to take care of and love yourself, because in the end that is all you’ve got.

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