Thought Catalog

How My Popular Online Presence Fueled My Eating Disorder

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Dominik Martin

*Now, before I get started, I want to make it very clear that I do not BLAME my once popular fitness page for my eating disorder; this is simply just a story of how we never truly know what is going on in someone’s life, or their mind, just by what they put out into the world. People were following me because I made them believe that I was healthy, not because I actually was.*

My goals with getting healthier started out with good intentions, and it didn’t take long for me to figure out that my mind was wired in a way to be very self-disciplined in a very self-destructive manner. After my first two years of college consisting of late night partying, and drunk binge eating, I had successfully gained that “Freshman 15” we were always warned about; except for me, it was more like “Freshman 40.” Feeling depressed, I made the choice to change the things I no longer wanted to see. I didn’t mean for my healthy behaviors to turn into unhealthy ones, but if there is anything I learned throughout this journey of mine, it’s that too much of a good thing can also be bad.

I am a naturally tall person, standing at about 5’10” – ask a doctor what a healthy weight for that height is, and they will tell you anywhere between the range of 140-160lbs. Before I made the choice to get healthier, I weighed in upwards of 180lbs – I was considered overweight. Mind you, I was a collegiate athlete, so I had more muscle than the average person, but I was by no means in shape like I was before my two years of college partying.

The first two months of my lifestyle change filled me with a happiness that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I was working out regularly and receiving those natural endorphins everyone raved about; I was eating food that gave me positive and sustained energy throughout the day; I was no longer drinking and feeling the consequences of late night binge eating, and early morning hangovers. I was starting to see all the health benefits you are told you will see if you are patient enough to get the right results. I was happy again, and I wanted to share this part of my life with the world, so I created a “Fitness” Twitter page, to share my workouts, and post pictures of the meals I would make so others could see that they too could make the same lifestyle change. Within two months of this journey, I had lost 20 lbs., and I finally felt like I was “enough”; that was until, enough was no longer enough, and I needed quicker faster results.

I became obsessed with the numbers: How many calories I was taking in, how many calories I was burning, the number on the scale, and lastly, the amount of people online who were following me for “advice.” My once healthy lifestyle, turned into rituals, a need for control, and ultimately, a fear that I wouldn’t be able to maintain this lifestyle that I created for myself.

Thousands of people were starting to follow my journey, so I was quick to justify my behavior and tell myself that I was doing a good thing. I wasn’t taking into effect that I had developed a serious social anxiety, especially when food was involved. Every thought I had revolved around how much time I would need to spend doing cardio to burn something off, or “I can eat this if I just do an extra workout today, what will be the harm?” I ate the same foods because I knew exactly what was in all of it. I ate at the same times for fear that changing my routine would cause my weight to fluctuate. I avoided any gathering that would force me to answer the question, “Why aren’t you eating?” I would ‘punish’ myself in the gym if I had caved and consumed something other than what I was used to. I was no longer being ‘healthy’ to be happy about who I was; I was being ‘healthy’ so I could satisfy this strong sickness I had developed but was nowhere near ready to acknowledge.

At the peak of my eating disorder, I was working out two, sometimes three times a day, making sure to never consume over 900 calories, addicted to weight loss supplements that gave me the energy my body was no longer capable of giving me on its own, and starving (pun intended) for the wrong kind of attention through my “Fitness” page. I had a compulsive need to check my reflection in every mirror or window I could see in; just to make sure I hadn’t gained weight back. Always feeling for my hip bones as a way to tell that I was still in shape; never thinking to myself that I shouldn’t be able to see my hip bones in the first place. I very rarely took off days from the gym because the thought alone made me severely anxious. Most days, I was at a calorie deficit of almost 1,200 calories a day. Basically, my body was so desperate for food, that it started to eat away anything that it could. I stopped menstruating because my body fat level dipped below 8%, and my athletic trainer in college told me I wouldn’t be able to play soccer anymore until I gained some weight back. At the time, this news was devastating. I had worked so hard to get to where I was, that my first thought wasn’t that maybe I had a problem, it was, “How am I going to be able to keep this up while keeping everyone else happy?” I wish I could say that my eating disorder ended with a recovery program, but instead, it just leads to other addictions, but that is a story for another time.

The first time I even considered that I may have had an eating disorder is when someone asked me, “How do I get my arms to look like yours?” So, naturally, I started listing off some exercises she could do that would trim the muscles in her arms, and she shook her head and said, “No, I mean, how do I get them to look like I am starving?” Um, excuse me? I laughed it off, and I let that question simmer for the rest of the day. What did she mean by that? By morning, I had already pushed that memory down, and I learned that denial was always a bit stronger than my bodies desire for more calories.

My phone filled up with “gym selfies” to post to my Twitter page just so I could get validation for my actions. All the positive feedback I was getting was justification for why I was doing what I was doing. At my lowest weight, I ranged anywhere from 110-115 lbs., and the girl I saw in the mirror was no longer me; it was the shell of a girl who was running away from herself. It was hard to talk to the people in my life because they saw the sickness I was living in denial of, so I spent most of my time online, in a world where people seemed to understand this lifestyle of mine; never truly considering that they didn’t really know the motivation behind my “Fitness” journey. To them, I was healthy and taking the right steps, but to me, they were just another thing for me to control, and get the ‘results’ I was desperate for.

Nowadays, I still workout 6 days of the week, but never more, and sometimes less. I work out for MYSELF, and the endorphins I get from it. Since becoming sober nearly two years ago, it has become a huge part, if not the biggest part of my recovery. I no longer count calories or track every single thing I put into my body. I don’t ‘punish’ myself in the gym if I ate a cheeseburger the day before, and I make sure to splurge on certain days because you shouldn’t live your life in fear of eating a doughnut, or a slice a pizza. It is OKAY to have bad days, and I now live with the belief that I can change whatever I want; I just practice being patient with the results.

I don’t fear to look into the mirror, or stepping on a scale. I no longer live my life based on numbers; I simply am just living and going with the flow of what that means. Each day is a choice to become better than the last, and I am finally getting a chance to love the girl I used to fight so hard on becoming. TC mark

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