My eating disorder story, woman silhouette, sunrise

My Eating Disorder Story: First Symptoms & Progression (Part 2)

This section of my story starts with me leaving home at 17 and living on my own for the first time. I talk about the first symptoms of having a problem with food, and how it progressed into a full-blown eating disorder. As you will see, it’s not really about the food. It’s more about the obsession of the mind, which causes compulsive behaviors with food and eating.

If you missed Part 1, please click here

Moving away from home

At 17 and fresh out of high school, I didn’t know much about the world. But at this young age, I found my first full-time job, got an apartment, and began supporting myself. Soon after that, I met a man. Before I even realized what was happening, I was in my first serious relationship.

We moved in together fairly soon after we met, and looking back I can see this was obviously a huge mistake! But at the time I was very naive and I was just looking for someone to love me. He was so persistent and gave me so much of the attention I was craving, that I thought it was true love.

To make a very long story short, I was with him for about 3 years, and it was an extremely tumultuous relationship. He drank a lot and used drugs, and was extremely abusive. He was ridiculously jealous and possessive, and it got to the point that I ended up very isolated. I couldn’t talk to anyone or have any friends without him becoming angry and suspicious.

I tried to break up with him a few times, but he would become so angry and violent that I feared for my life. After 3 years, though, I had finally had enough! I decided that whatever he might do to me, I had to get out of that relationship. It was a very ugly scene, followed by months of relentless stalking.

During those months, I lived in fear of what he might do to me. He called me at least 20 times a day, leaving threatening messages. He would wait outside my front door for me to leave, then get on the bus with me. When I got off work, he was there at the bus stop and would follow me home.

I didn’t bother going to the police, because I didn’t think they would believe me, or that they could help me.

It was a truly horrible time in my life. Thankfully, he did eventually give up, and I was finally free of him!

Another bad relationship

Woman And Man Sitting on Brown Wooden Bench In a Park, upset, not speaking

I wish I could say that after that destructive relationship, I moved on and found the man of my dreams. Sadly, that’s not the case.

Fortunately, since that time, though, I have never been with another man that I feared would hurt me physically. I did learn a lesson from that relationship, and I vowed that I would never, ever let someone threaten me with violence again.

But because of my childhood experiences that reinforced the idea that I wasn’t loveable, I continued to choose men who either didn’t have good relationship skills or who were just flat-out emotionally abusive.

My next serious relationship was with a much older man; I was 22 and he was 38. With an age gap of 16 years, there was much that we didn’t understand about each other. He was from a different country as well, so there was also a cultural difference, which led to a lot of misunderstandings. But the biggest problem of all was that because of his family obligations, he wasn’t able to fully commit to me.

During the years I was with him, there were many ups and downs in our relationship. He was very manipulative, and because he was so much older than me I allowed him to have more authority over me than he should have. I often just went along with what he wanted, because I didn’t think my own needs mattered.

Food obsession begins

At age 23, I had been with him for about a year. Looking back, I can see that this is when the very first symptoms of my eating disorder began. With my mind in a constant state of turmoil because of the relationship problems, I think I was looking for something else to focus on.

I started taking an exercise class at my neighborhood recreation center. I had never done aerobics before, so it was something new and fun, and I got to make some friends. My newly found interest in exercise gave me something to do with myself besides thinking about the problems in my life.

Something strange happened, though. I lost my appetite, and I found that I wasn’t eating as much as usual (this had never happened to me before). I started to lose weight, even though I wasn’t trying to. I was already thin, so I didn’t need to lose weight, but I can remember feeling excited about it. It became an addictive feeling; the more pounds I dropped, the happier I felt.

I found that I began to enjoy feeling hungry because it meant that I was losing weight, which meant that my body shape was changing. I finally felt like I had control over something! I’m not sure if I realized the thought process at the time, but looking back I can see that this is what it meant for me.

In the next few years, things went from bad to worse in that relationship. Eventually, I made the difficult decision to break up with him.

Living alone

After that disastrous relationship ended, I decided that I needed to take a break from relationships. I realized that I was trying to use relationships with men to validate me. I guess I thought that if I could just find the right man to love me, that would mean I was ok. I needed time to be alone, to not have to answer to anyone and to have some peace and quiet.

I had never lived completely by myself before, but I got a 1-bedroom apartment and a cat, and moved in! I have to say, there were a lot of things I liked about living alone. Mostly I liked being free to do whatever I wanted, without having to ask permission or worry about what someone would say. I went out on a few dates while I lived there for 4 years, but I didn’t have any serious relationships.

I do have some fond memories of that time by myself. Unfortunately, though, it was during those years that my eating disorder really reared its head and took hold. When you live alone, it’s much easier to cater to the eating disorder. No one is watching, so you are free to spend as much time and energy as you want on the food and exercise obsession.

The ED takes over

barbed wire, prison, chain link
My mind became a prison

I was out one afternoon on a very long walk around my neighborhood. It was a business area, and I heard what sounded like loud dance music. I stopped to look at the sign and saw that it was a women’s gym. After peeking in the window I was curious, so I went in. The girl at the front desk was very friendly, and she gave me a tour of the facilities. I started to get really excited, and by the end of the tour, I was ready to sign up for a 1-year membership!

I can remember thinking that this was something I could do that would be a positive change, after all the chaos and heartbreak I’d gone through the past several years. I was eager to get started with my “new life”, so I showed up the very next morning for my first aerobics class of many at that gym.

Right away I got into the routine of going to the gym every day. During the week I packed my gym bag so that I could go right after work. On weekends, I was there in the morning for the first class of the day. I quickly got to know all the class instructors and the other women at the gym.

For the first time in my life, I was part of the “popular” crowd! I loved talking to everyone, and people would often ask for my advice on how to do the exercises in the weight room. I also got a lot of questions about how I stayed so thin, which really fed into my ED. It encouraged me to keep going with what I was doing.

A double-edged sword

The gym became a place where I felt well-liked and admired. It was what I had been yearning for my whole life. And not only that, but I also finally felt like I was good at something. I never thought I had any special talents or abilities before, but now people admired me!

The dark side of it, though, was that I was falling deeper and deeper into the pit of food and exercise obsession. I began spending more and more time at the gym and cutting down way more on my food consumption. I got thinner and thinner, and people noticed, which kept feeding the illness.

The ED does a flip-flop

After being “successful” at staying super thin for several years, something changed. I have a very clear memory of a thought that occurred to me one Friday night. It wouldn’t hurt to have a little dessert, would it? I hadn’t allowed myself that type of food in so long, and I decided to go to the store to pick something up.

I was at the store for a really long time, because it was so hard to decide what to get. The anorexia was screaming at me, don’t do it! Don’t break your perfect record! But there was another side that said, no, it’s ok to have something to eat just for pleasure, don’t make a big deal out of it. I think that was the rational, sane part of me that was trying to speak up. I asked myself, why is this so hard?

I finally made a decision, got something, and went home. I put it in the oven to bake while I had dinner. All during dinner, my thoughts were racing wildly from one extreme to another. Do I really want to do this? Yes! There’s nothing wrong with it! What about all the work you’ve put in all these years, you’re just going to throw it away? I’m not throwing anything away, I’m just having a little dessert, like a normal person!

I had my dessert that night, which I only ate half of because it was enough for 2 servings. It was enjoyable, and I felt happy because I had conquered a fear. Maybe I didn’t have a problem with food after all? Little did I know the next morning would be the beginning of another side of the illness.

The first binge

The next morning I woke up thinking about the dessert I ate the night before. I had planned on having the other half that night after dinner. But as soon as I got to the kitchen, my mind started racing. I rationalized that it would be better to just eat it for breakfast, so I wouldn’t have to think about it for the rest of the day.

I ate it for breakfast, but what happened next horrified me! I don’t remember much after that, it’s kind of a blur. I just remember eating a huge amount of food, and then going to the store to buy more. I kept eating and eating until I was completely full and felt sick. I laid down and went to sleep and woke up hours later, disgusted at what I had done.

I vowed I would never, ever do that again!

It gets worse

That first binge marked the beginning of a new side of my eating disorder. Up to that point, it had taken the form of anorexia and over-exercising. My ability to control my food, my exercise and my weight had given me a feeling of power and safety.

I never wanted to ever binge again like I did that night. It was so horrifying and disgusting to me, and also physically painful. But it was like a switch had been turned on inside my brain, and just a week later I found myself doing exactly the same thing, all over again.

Once again, I thought I would have some dessert after dinner. It was the weekend after all, so why not enjoy a little something? It became a terrifying repeat of the previous week, and I woke up the next morning again feeling disgusted with myself. I felt scared and out of control. What was happening to me?

The bingeing behavior continued regularly after that. Each time it happened I felt so much remorse and swore that I would never do it again. It seemed the more I didn’t want to do it, the more frequent the bingeing episodes became.

What started out as innocently having dessert one night quickly morphed into bingeing several nights a week. Then before I knew it, I was bingeing almost every day!

Click here for My Eating Disorder Story: Hitting Bottom (Part 3)

Please feel free to share your thoughts or ask questions in the comment section below ?

Assorted Colorful Vegetables Arranged on Round Stainless Steel Plate



I promise never to spam you, or sell your personal information (Read our privacy policy for more info.)

Similar Posts


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.