Life After An Eating Disorder

Eating disorders are bad. What comes after, though, can be a hell of a lot worse.

First of all, there’s the food. You actually have to eat it this time, and you know that, but it doesn’t make the feeling of a full stomach any better. No more surviving off of three rice cakes and an apple for two days — trust me, your grocery bill is going to go way up.

Not to mention the fact that you have to deal with your problems again. After a fight with your friends or family, you can’t just throw up and automatically feel better. What used to be your own comforting, private hell of calories, exercise, and pounds has turned into the everyday issues of friendship drama, money problems, and worst of all, your uncertain future. Yeah, you can’t just count on the eating disorder to do you in after college anymore; now it’s time to catch up on all that planning for a career and a 401k you ignored while trying to only eat broth for a semester.

You have to deal with people again, too. An eating disorder is a great excuse to stay in for the evening instead of going out for dinner with that friend you haven’t seen in a while and don’t really like. You didn’t even feel bad, because seriously, even the salads at that place have bacon in them — do you even know how many calories are in that? And throwing up an expensive meal feels even worse than a cheap one.

You start to look back fondly on the good old days, when you were too exhausted to notice how boring work can be. You could count on the scale for a pleasant surprise every morning — well, most mornings at least, when you were at your best. Let’s not think about those other mornings, after a huge family meal or a drunken McDonald’s feast, when that little digital number reduced you to a sobbing mess. No, most of the time, waking up and running to see what you weighed was the best part of the day, like a little present –- really, a whole pound lost? You shouldn’t have!

Don’t forget about the clothes, either. Sure, maybe a few will still fit, but what about those size 24 designer jeans, the ones you couldn’t wait to have falling off your bony little hips? They’ll have to go, along with all the pictures you saved on your computer of stick-thin, slightly emo teenagers -– both deemed “unhealthy” for you to have around. All of a sudden, you’ll have to try things on again, instead of just grabbing the smallest size and then complaining that it’s just swimming on you (even if you were smiling with glee on the inside).

And, of course, there’s the envy. Every time you pass a skinny twig of a girl (never mind that she’s 13 and hasn’t hit puberty), every time a friend says she’s on a diet, every time you go out to eat and see the woman next to you picking at a salad. You, on the other hand, are wolfing down a cheeseburger because you can’t even remember the last time you allowed yourself to eat one, so long you forgot how damn good they taste, and the fries, too. But no matter how delicious every bite is, that salad-picker is still enough to send you into seething fits of jealous anger. This is also known as a childish temper tantrum: why can’t I go on a diet? It’s not fair!

Because it’s never fair, and it won’t ever be fair again. Once, everything made perfect, ordered sense of calories in vs. calories out, but now you have to make a conscious effort not to check the fat content of your canned soup. While other women get to kill themselves at the gym and gloat about how slim their thighs are getting, you have to watch yourself, and make sure that you’re only going for short runs at modest speeds — nothing to gloat about, sadly. And, no matter how many of your friends decide to lose 10 pounds after New Years, you are absolutely not allowed to agree with them, for that way lies madness. And more hospital bills.

Nothing is quite so easy or fair anymore. But hopefully, one day, you’ll be able to turn on MTV and wrinkle your nose at how old/ scary/ downright sad that twig-thin reality star looks, and know that you’re actually okay. One day, not even the slim plastic mannequins in storefront windows will make you collapse into a jealous, angry heap, and one day, you’ll order that hamburger and eat it slowly, joyfully, just because you want to.

That has to happen eventually, right? TC mark

image – Jamesrabbit

More From Thought Catalog

  • Lee

    yeah, it happens eventually. 

  • JosephStash

    This was so poignant. As a man I feel the stigma of me admitting I ever had an eating disorder is even bigger than if you’re female, but everything you wrote in this article resonated with me, so thank you, and all the best :) 

  • A.

    i’m crying

  • Anonymous

    “What used to be your own comforting, private hell of calories, exercise, and pounds has turned into the everyday issues of friendship drama, money problems, and worst of all, your uncertain future.”
    So bloody true. Not just for eating disorders but also for SI. After getting rid of the drama you just have to deal with…life.

  • Anon

    This was an awesome article! As someone who has struggled with their weight/body image for awhile now in a borderline dangerous way, this was refreshing to read. Good luck in your journey, and thanks for letting us in a little :) 

  • Hannah

    This hit so close to home that I felt a literal pain in my heart while I was reading this. Or maybe that’s just the heart damage that I’m also now paying attention to on top of the rest of my life that I’ve ignored for the past ten years.

    Excellent contribution, one of the best I’ve read on Thought Catalog–I can’t express to you enough gratitude for writing this.

  • Vincent

    I admire the dedication of people with eating disorders. Their heart is in the right place. They want to look more like slim, fit models (assuming the model is fit/healthy and not just skinny), so they track their calories consumed/burned obsessively because they believe in the outdated merits of calories in, calories out, steady-state intensity cardio, and “all fat is bad, but somehow sugar is okay”. This is where they go wrong. If they simply redirect their focus to a paleo/primal diet, a low body fat percentage becomes effortless without restriction of wholesome, healthy, delicious food.

    • Vee

      “They want to look more like slim, fit models”? Quite clearly, sir, you completely misunderstand eating disorders, and I’d politely ask you not to make such sweeping and quite frankly insultingly misinformed statements in the future.

      • Vincent

        I apologize for offending you. I am simply suggesting that were more accurate information taught by our media/government on how to healthily and efficiently take control of one’s body weight (instead of “calories in, calories out”), many an obsession could avoid being turned into a disorder.

      • wtf

        are you joking? have you ever heard of a nutritionist? a dietician? the modified food pyramid? there IS accurate information. it IS taught. it’s a matter of what becomes more convenient for most individuals. in the case of obese americans, it’s a 50-piece chicken mcnugget for $10 instead of having to pick out vegetables, prepare them, and have a salad for $10.

        also, your argument about where individuals with eating disorders “go wrong” when they believe fat is bad and sugar is okay is completely ludicrous. ignorant people like you are infuriating.

      • guest

        Educate yourself on the nature of eating disorders before offering such statements to such a forum.   Those who struggle with eating disorders are not uneducated about their health, they struggle with biological, psychological, and/or environmental abnormalities.

      • macgyver51

        I think you’re talking about 2 different things. An eating disorder is an illness, its not a result of misinformation. I can’t imagine you realized this. I’m going to decide that you were naive rather than an asshole, but maybe you’re both.

    • Rebecca

      ugh.

    • http://www.twitter.com/slhodkin Shayna

      are you serious?

    • Emily Anne

      I cannot believe that you would say something like that. You clearly have no idea what an eating disorder is.

    • isabel

      wow, you are actually an idiot
      a certifiable idiot

  • Aimee

    I had a very different experience but it’s still nice to read and know that I’m not alone.

  • guest

    My sister suffered from EDNOS for four years before she was hospitalized. I didn’t cry for most of the entire ordeal until the she looked at me, years after her first day of treatment, and exclaimed about how good her pasta dish was. It was at that point that I knew she was back to the sister I grew up with and loved so dearly.

    If she can fight her way back from the clutches from death, so can you. Good luck.

  • Guest

    Thank you for this. It was exactly what I needed to read. Somedays feel like one step forward and two steps back, but I believe it does get better. It has to, right? 

  • GUEST

    After six years i still struggle with everything you have listed. Its been the most difficult thing to manage. I hope I can overcome this like you have. This gives hope no matter how scared I may be of these inevitable situations. Thank you.

  • Carlyarkfeld

    It gets better. I promise. After six years most of the time I’m the girl you described at the end. And lets face it, cheeseburgers are yummy.

  • Cammy

    Wow, this was way too true. The only way out is through, though.

  • jess

    very well done!

  • Sarah

    “Sure, maybe a few will still fit, but what about those size 24 designer jeans, the ones you couldn’t wait to have falling off your bony little hips?”
    Ugh, this. I’m 5″9 and I have a fair amount of 25″s and 0″s laying around (mostly high school hold-overs, from when I was flirting with the whole not eating thing) and the sane part of me knows it’s not even healthy to fit that size at my age and height, but I still get this unparalleled ecstatic kind of happiness when I’ve been working out and eating right and they still fit well, and so depressed and sullen when I’m even the slightest bit bloated and they’re a little too tight.

    Powerful stuff, at any rate. 

  • Aieeeeya

    I really felt this. I am at the same point. You really captured that sense of loss. Thanks.

  • Rebecca

    This was so interesting to read. I’ve never had an eating disorder but my younger brother just spent a chunk of time in a young adult rehab facility; he was there for drug addiction but many were there for eating disorders. It’s a long-term struggle caused by legitimate medical reasons (i.e. different wiring in the brain, different release of chemicals or something… yeah, I’m dumb at science). If you “admire the dedication” of a person with an eating disorder it’s kind of like admiring the dedication of an alcoholic to alcohol… from what I’ve seen, both people are somewhat powerless over the situation, i.e. their addiction, and it can ruin lives. ANYWHO, sorry to ramble, but this was a great article.

  • Anonymous

    I really related to this article. As someone who has been in recovery for over 4 years now I can say that it does get easier. However it will always loom over you. I’m 50 pounds heavier now than when I was at my lowest weight and I feel more confident and happy with the way I look than I did when I was below 100.

  • Anon

    Solidarity, darling, solidarity.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Timberman/922794 Steven Timberman

    Loved this, one of the best I’ve seen on TC in quite some time. The last line feels a bit on the nose, but outside of that? I’m very much a fan.

    All of your points are especially, er, on point. From what I know with my experience  and others in similar situations, most of us just traded in our eating disorders for an even worse depression. Progress, right? :P

  • TwoCents

    Like most of the other commenters, I flirted with an eating disorder. It was in high school. While I never got treatment, I knew the feeling of studying nutrition labels and the joy of fitting into tiny clothing. It finally got to the point where I looked at myself in the mirror one day and just cried… not because I was fat, but because I looked so small and weak. And that was it for me. While it’s about 5 years or so later, and I’m still not always happy with my weight, I can honestly say those obsessive feelings have really gone away. This is the first time I’ve even thought about it in awhile. I obviously don’t know the extent of your experience, but I can tell from the candour and acceptance of your article, that you’re definitely in the right direction.

  • macgyver51

    Powerful. This was a tough read. Eating disorders are still grossly misunderstood, one of the reasons being that it takes true courage to come forward and talk about it. I know I couldn’t do it, I’m glad you can.

  • isabel

    I’ve been prescribed amphetamines for the past year or so for ADD, and they boost your metabolism and totally kill your appetite. I’ve also struggled with crippling insecurities about my body for…I don’t even know how long; as long as I can remember. But over the summer I started abusing my ADD meds so I could lose weight (I’m 5’8 and my lowest weight was 114) – and I didn’t even realize I had a problem. Now that my meds are controlled for me and I am gaining weight, I can all too well understand what you’re going through – there’s almost a feeling of shame that accompanies not being able to fit into a 00 skirt anymore, or having protruding collarbones. I don’t consider what I went through nearly as severe as others’ experiences, yet I struggle with it all the time. I wish you the best of luck in getting better and learning to love your body.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5QFFNASRAV7HSPEFXVDJLBXTNA Jesee Sparte

    this is legit powerful stuff. i had an eating disorder for 3 years after my sister passed away from cancer. i’ve never told anyone and won’t ever be able to, i’ve just moved on to other vices in hopes i’ll never want to throw up again.

  • Guest

    what about the bit when you turn into a crazy monster lusting after food after denying yourself for so long? i felt like an insane person once I allowed myself to eat again. the cravings were insatiable. i craved peanut butter every single day, all day. I would go to bed wishing for the next day to hurry and come so I could eat again. every single bite was so good, yet so awful, and as i chewed I knew the taste would be over soon and that would make me sad. i don’t know if people have had this same experience. it was the most awful experience of my life…not being able to control your thoughts or your body. i’m past the cravings stage, but i still struggle with many other aspects of the disorder.

    • Isla

      i can relate to this so much…i am at this stage right now and trying to control myself,but its very hard.

    • Tiffany

      I’ve been recently diagnosed and am going to get treatment soon as an in-patient, and this is what I’ve been experiencing as of late although mine is a bit different. I eat small portions but I eat them s-l-o-w-l-y so I can “savor” my “meals’ more but also  so I can convince myself that I’m satiated with  less food and that I’m bored of eating; if I were to eat a bit faster, it’ll shame me because it means that I’m enjoying my food and that I’m gross and food should be for survival. This would cause me to eat slower or stop eating and then I’ll go crazy trying to replay how “fast” I was eating.  I’m relieved that what I’m suffering from right now isn’t so uncommon. I wish you the best.

blog comments powered by Disqus