Jessica Walker – Doing More than Surviving

Contributor: Jessica Walker, Eating Disorder Hope valued community member

Jessica Walker photoI read somewhere that you can survive without food for three weeks.

That’s almost a lie. I know from experience that you can survive for months on nothing but iceberg lettuce, lowfat yogurts, and endless reruns of The Food Network.

But that’s all you’ll be doing: surviving. The existence you’ll be reduced to will be marked by routine and obsession. By scars and self-hatred.

At 18 years old, I had gained a high school diploma and full-tuition scholarship to a university. Along with way, I had also gained an eating disorder.

MyFitnessPal Taunted Me

Eating disorders start slowly, and then happen all at once. To calm my anxiety about being away at college, I started spending 20 minutes on the elliptical. By Christmas, compliments about my slight weight loss gave me a high even the endorphins couldn’t. If losing 5lbs earned this much praise, then losing 10…15…20 would be even better.

“Mom, I’m going to be fat!” I screamed into the phone one night late into spring semester. I had five projects to finish, three essays to write, and every treadmill at the gym had been taken. MyFitnessPal taunted me, the red letters telling me I had gone a few hundred calories over my goal.

“You’re not–”

“Fat,” I said. “I’ll fail all my classes. I won’t be perfect. No one will love me.”

“I’ll lo–”

I hung up.

Fat Became a Feeling

yellow-715540_640Fat became a feeling, food a drug. I’d dream about the gooey creations of Cupcake Wars while munching hard-boiled egg whites scattered around a plate of lettuce. I’d increase the elliptical’s resistance as my heart skipped beats.

Summer vacation, my family dragged me to doctor after doctor: thyroid problems, viruses… anything to explain the drastic weight loss. I barely slept, my hands and feet were icicles, and I hardly recognized the dull ache in my stomach as hunger anymore.

One doctor asked if I had an eating disorder. Eating disorder? I was just happy when my calorie counter was under the goal. When I went to the gym. When my thighs no longer stuck together.

However, his comment stuck. Come July, I knew I was destroying my body but was clueless as to how to stop the voice. The one that told me I wasn’t good enough, that pushed me to become less.

Lifting My Spirits

Breakfast slowly became more than a 90-calorie yogurt, but I cried the first time I ate chocolate chip waffles. I called myself a pig for polishing off a veggie cup with salsa. I measured out ice cream, convinced I was simply staying within the serving size.

Reading others’ stories lifted my spirits. Although I hadn’t directly told anyone outside of my family about my illness, I decided to use my college capstone project to raise eating disorder awareness.

I didn’t have high expectations for my blog (Fuel For Freedom) about eating disorders. Then a reader commented. One comment became ten. Each post, each comment gave me back my voice, the one that my self-hatred had once consumed.

The trick to recovery is to keep trying. I found true friends who listened and showed me that making mistakes was okay. I purged my social media of fitspiration. I tried one “fear” food a week: starting with bread and working up to gelato. Each step was worth it, even setbacks when I didn’t manage to eat a chocolate bar or had an anxiety attack during a rest day from the gym.

Recovery Is Life-Changing

flower-397975_640Eating disorders are life-changing. They damage both the mind and body. However, recovery is also life-changing. It provides strength and confidence you never knew you had.

My thighs touch. I get “hangy” without large meals and snacks. I workout, but I’ve traded the elliptical for weightlifting, which helps me become more, not less.

That old eating disorder voice creeps up sometimes, but now I recognize those thoughts as irrational and destructive. I’m learning to ignore them.

I’m learning to remember I’m a work in progress, one who is more than a number in a calorie counter or on a scale. One who is doing more than surviving.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on August 8th, 2015
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.