Recovery isn’t a light switch, but my future is bright

A student writes about her recovery from an eating disorder.

Lexie Kroll, a sophomore oboe performance major, writes about recovering from an eating disorder for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. | HANNAH PITTEL / REFINE MAGAZINE

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an irregular relationship with food.

I’m not talking about disliking a certain food group or having a few days where I felt bad about my appearance.

From 4-years-old I was pinching my stomach and wishing the fat would go away, and at 7-years-old I was asking my mom why I couldn’t buy one of the diet programs I saw on TV commercials.

My relationship was food was toxic to my life. In early high school, I convinced myself that I was morbidly obese. By my senior year, I restricted my calories and felt fatigued all the time. But I began to see a nutritionist and worked against my disorder by implementing a proper meal plan and exercise routine. I remember feeling confident and beautiful at my senior prom — something I did not think was possible.

But despite my progress, nothing could have prepared me for what it was like living with an eating disorder in college. In college, I constantly scrutinized my body and compared myself to others. I felt out of place.

Was I too fat to go to parties?

Would people point and laugh at me when I walked to class?

Could a crush even bare to look at me?

I feared no one would want to associate with me if I wasn’t pretty enough. And while I expected college to expose me to new people and experiences, I was blindsided to the amount of anxiety I harbored as a result.

Nothing could have prepared me for how much I began to hate myself and how much better everyone else seemed.

At first what I thought I was doing to combat my self-destructive thoughts was normal. Everyone gets busy and skips a meal every now and then or goes hard at the gym, right? But these things shouldn’t consume a person’s every thought.

I didn’t want to tell anyone.

I convinced myself that my roommates couldn’t stand living with me as it was and that if my family knew the truth, they’d be embarrassed. They had “that kid,” the problem child. The one that needs help.

I felt personal embarrassment, too.

Shouldn’t people be able to get through this on their own? How was it possible that I struggled to provide myself with a basic need humans use to stay alive — food?

I began apologizing for everything I did, wearing baggy clothing and avoiding outings with food. I spent more and more time alone, obsessed over small physical details of my body and made excuses to work instead of socializing.

By December of my freshman year of college, I wrote notes about what I needed to change on my body. I analyzed food logs, measured and weighed myself, pinched various bits of skin and cried. My evenings consisted of empty stomach workouts that I increased in length if I ate an extra snack that the day. I used my busy schedule as an excuse to not eat. I couldn’t see it, but I was slowly killing myself.

One night, exhausted and deprived of food and sleep, I passed out in the shower.

Telling the people in my life about my struggles, admitting that I needed help, and trying out medication were some of the hardest things and most helpful things I’ve ever done. I’ve learned that it’s okay to say that you love parts of yourself and be happy about the life that you’re leading. I wasn’t weak, I was sick.

Oddly enough, cooking and eating in a healthy way has helped me learn to love as well. I enjoy trying new and healthy recipes, meal planning, meal prepping and sharing my love of cooking with the people around me.

I would be lying if I said that I didn’t still struggle with my eating disorder. I still have days where I feel like I’m back at square one and that I’ll never get better.

But recovery isn’t like a light switch. You don’t flip it on and off, and you don’t decide when you want to be 100 percent healed. But the changes I’ve made have allowed me to lead a much healthier and happier life.

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