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1.16.2009

For clarity's sake, this is the story of how I came to know Ned.


I was normal in high school. Well, as normal as any sixteen year old really can be. 

I remember when my hips had the first surge of expansion. Suddenly a skirt I had worn two weeks ago was tight across my butt. Wait a second, suddenly I had a butt. Panic first took hold, and then a certain amount of pride. After all, I had nothing in the chest region, so a butt was a nice kind of supplement. 

I remember in my Junior and Senior year I wanted to lose some weight. After all I was weighing in at a whopping 145 for my 5 foot, ten inch frame. What was a girl to do? (Let me just say right now that the healthy weight range for someone of my height is between 139 and 174 pounds). I casually dated the South Beach diet and got down to 140 pounds, but I couldn't break that 140 mark. I'd worry about it for a minute, but then I'd be off on the next adventure. In all honesty, it wasn't really surprising that I'd gained some weight, after all I'd pretty much given up sports for the first time in my life. So the daily regimen of swimming or softball, or rather the lack thereof was just taking it's toll. The point is...while I would have passing thoughts of losing weight, it wasn't really a concern. I was still thin.

I headed off to my first year of Juilliard. And every morning began with an intense 50 minute cardio class. Freshman fifteen? Ha, I would probably lose fifteen pounds! So imagine my surprise when I got on the scale at Halloween and got the spook of a lifetime: 162 pounds. Huh. And yet, I didn't feel I looked as though I'd gained seventeen pounds. I was still relatively happy. But nevertheless action had to be taken. If only I could get back to that 130 pounds from sophomore year. I know, I know 30 pounds when I thought I still looked okay? Ridiculous! But then again movies like Bridget Jones' Diary made 140 pounds out to be unacceptable. The question then became, how do I lose weight? I had notta clue. So thin and content had I been that I didn't even know what a calorie was. 

Going home for Christmas break was when Ned first showed his face in all his glory. I remember standing in front of my mirror. I looked at myself, thought I looked fine, and identified that as the problem. All my life I had been thin, so I still saw myself, identified myself as a thin person. Take a careful look, I told myself, what you see now is not thin. This is fat. 

There it was. I stood in front of a mirror and literally changed how I saw myself--I changed what I saw. And to this day I have no idea whether or not what I see in the mirror is a true reflection or not.

When I returned to school I attempted to lose weight by cutting out snacks. Unfortunately this also meant I cut out socializing. Going out posed to much of a temptation because more often than not it centered around food and drink. But I ate at meal time. And oh did I eat. I didn't know that peanut butter consumed in large quantities is bad. And I thought granola with chocolate chips was a much better alternative than chocolate chip cookies. But I exercised too. I walked in the park in the morning or did the elliptical for thirty minutes. So when I left my first year I had lost about eight of those added pounds. 

And then entered weight watchers. Points values for foods. Suddenly I knew the value of a calorie, and the true impact of all that peanut butter. It abolished my guessing game and that, in itself, was a tremendous weight lifted. It was easy, so easy. 30 minutes each day walking on the treadmill. 20 points a day. And one meal each week where I ate whatever I wanted. I lost 16 pounds and got down to 139 right as the summer ended. Maybe that was the problem. I didn't have the same surroundings and support system in which to learn to maintain the weight loss. Instead I was thrown back into school. 

Now don't get me wrong. I felt great. I didn't feel too thin. And I absolutely loved the way I looked. What I did not like was the constant attention. The probing remarks. "What happened to the other half of you," someone asked. "Oh you're just cold because you don't have any fat on your body," another girl remarked. And many, many, many people asked if I was healthy. And truth be told, I had never felt healthier. I was eating healthy foods. Really healthy foods. And then a boy I had dated the previous year said he couldn't even look at me because I looked so different. And my first year movement teacher (the one who conducted the cardio class and who knew I had body issues) told me not to worry because Moni (the second year movement teacher) would make me fat.

I'm not sure when the first one occurred, but it didn't take long. A binge. A short period in which I would eat an overwhelming amount of food. Then I would feel such guilt that I would climb into bed and fall asleep so that I didn't have to feel anything. I remembered all of them, at the beginning. And then it leveled off to Tuesdays and Fridays. Tuesdays and Fridays Ned would arrive and sink me under the surface. 

Sometime after (or before Christmas) I don't even remember anymore, I went to the school doctor and with an eating disorder pamphlet in hand, told her that I could answer yes to every question on the back. "No, no, you don't have an eating disorder," she said, as she lead me to a free school therapist. He didn't think I had one either. 

Going home for spring break it had become clear to my parents that something was wrong. At this point I was extremely depressed and had stopped going out all together. So I was sent to a new general practitioner. I told her of my plight. "You don't have an eating disorder," she said "You're just depressed, anxious." And she sent me to a life coach. 

Amidst all the denial Ned grew stronger and stronger. He showed up more often, for longer periods of time. And I gained back more weight than I had ever lost. 

Here's the important thing to take away from this, you know you're body. If you think something is wrong, or know in your bones that a diagnosis is wrong, keep fighting.

Sitting across from a friend, at the beginning of my fourth year, he asked me what was wrong. After some probing I proceeded to tell him and he in turn suggested a therapist connected to NYU who was specialized in dealing with artists and in dealing with eating disorders.

I met with her. And she listened to me. Really listened. And she believed me. And the first crack in Ned's impenetrable armor was born. 

I had reached out to teachers, school officials, doctors, therapists, friends, and after two years someone finally got the diagnosis right. 

It was a start, but it certainly wasn't the end. My mom came up three times during my fourth year to stay with me--to help me--to get me on track. And I would feel myself getting better, only to succumb all over again.

You see, Ned influenced ever decision of my day. What I would wear when I got up, what I would eat, whether I would exercise, whether or not I was strong enough to endure the day's class, what I would buy at the store. He was a tremendous drain on funds. The amount of money on waisted foods, ill-fated diets, talismans I bought in stores that I thought would serve as a symbol of my new resolve. He literally consumed me, leaving behind a shell of a person. I disappeared, went into hiding.

Meeting Dr. Bob was a big step in the right direction. He was the most knowledgeable person I had met. He knew exactly what it was and he talked about it in scientific terms. I have loathed science all my life, but these terms make it seem like something outside myself. Something that could be controlled. 

Part of the eating disorder is something called thought-action fusion. What this is, is the inability of the brain to distinguish between the actual thought and the subsequent action. I would have the thought of a binge and be absolutely helpless to then resist it. I would try, but it was as if something much larger than myself would drive me to carry it out. That's why docto's say, have the thought and then try to wait five minutes before you begin the binge. Next time see if you can go ten minutes. Then fifteen. By increasing the time intervals you are actually strengthening your brain and the brain's ability to distinguish the thoughts and the actions. The other thing Tom said is that while most people suffer from disordered eating, an eating disorder differs in that the person registers a lack of food as actual pain, and thus feels the need to eat to compensate for that. 

How did I develop an eating disorder? Well, probably a whole slew of things in my life and characteristics of my personality led to it. The catalyst, most probably, was the 20 point diet from weight watchers. 20 points is the equivalent of 1,000 calories, which is not enough for anyone, anywhere. I was literally starving myself. And the first time the body has this experience, it loves it. It starts producing endorphins like crazy, as if you're on a drug. But there is only so long the body can keep this up before it rebels and demands that foods be taken in. For fear of ever starving again, it demands huge amounts of food and the result is a binge. 

I'm not binge free. And I may struggle with it for the rest of my life. And yet, I have a sneaking suspicion that I won't--a hopeful suspicion if you will. Everyday I wake to find more of myself.

Writing down what I eat (with absolutely no judgement), allowing myself to eat what I want, when I want it, and exercising have helped me tremendously. Taking the emphasis off of losing weight--instead creating a lifestyle that I will want to live each day for the rest of my life has been key to any success I have had. However, the road to recovery is paved with pitfalls. Step backwards are in fact a necessary part of the process, so I'm chugging along. Sometimes forward, sometimes back, sometimes I don't even know where, but I'm moving. 





If anyone has any questions for me or wants to share their own story you are welcome to request my email in the comments section and I will be more than happy to get in touch with you. Your stories provide me with insight and power and are thus extremely welcome. Thanks to everyone for their support.

{I've changed my Doctor's name because all the information that he gives me and that I then pass on is presented through my own skewed lens, so I can't promise that its completely correct; I do not want to attribute things to him for which he could get in some trouble; and plus I haven't asked him if I can write about him}

20 comments:

krissa reann said...

Wow...Meg you are amazing and you I believe you find yourself more when you let this out. I too have struggled for such a long time with weight... I am really looking forward to gettin this book on Ed to better understand my issues because I have them.
I definitely think you are helping others by writing about this. I wish more people were there to support you when you need it when you first sook out help.

Angela said...

Terrific post Meg. So honest, and brave. Would love to hear more...

Stephanie J. Robertson said...

uh oh, me again. :) i just wanted to say bravo for sharing and that this makes so (so so so) much sense to me and i have never quite heard this type of eating disorder expressed before and your weight story sounds a lot like mine. i try to not worry too much since i am pregnant right now, but if i am entirely honest, i cant not think about it. anyway, thank you for sharing and best wished for crushing ned in 2009!

Nicole said...

I went to the Dr.'s office yesterday and while I was sitting in the waiting room I noticed a pamphlet on eating disorders. And lo and behold binge eating was listed among bulimia and anorexia. It was so interesting to read through all the symptoms and gave me a better understanding of what it is that you're going through. Just know that all your friends are there for you if you need us!

Monica said...

You don't know me, but I connected to your blog through my friends' blogs and have read your blog for a while--such small world. I wanted to email you after your first "Ned" post, but couldn't find one on your page. I would love to get your email address as I understand what you are going through all too well and believe that people need to talk about this and support each other. Anyways, you can email me at monicasimmons 34 @ gmail . com (Sorry I separated it here.) Hope to communicate with you soon!
-Monica

Mandee lost her individuality. said...

hey, I'd like to share some stories with you. mandeeballerina@yahoo.com.

Bee said...

Just discovered your blog. I admire your honesty. Would love to get in touch. Hope you can send me an email at contently at gmail dot com! Bee

Lucy said...

meg.
hi. i'm lucy. i have been reading your blog for the last few hours and am drawn to your struggle with food and body. i am you. i have the same problem...exactly. and i've never known anyone like me. you put in words my struggle with food...exactly! i've been to therapists...several therapists. i even went to an eating disorder clinic years ago...but it never really helped. i want you to know that you've helped me. bless you. bless you for being honest and blessing other people through your openness. bless you!

Crystal Ball said...

Hello Meg, I am Crystal and you are my new favorite blogger.
Honestly, I cannot get over it.
I stumbled across your blog through the latest post by the English Muse. I was impressed by your honesty, your good heart and understanding of what it was you "did wrong". So there I went clicking the link to your profile. And when I was browsing through your posts and the wonderful quotes you have on your sidebar, I saw Ned for the first time. Then I read Ned for the first time (I read the post where you mentioned Ned to the blogging world for the first time) and then this one.
I want to thank you for your honesty, for your thoughts, for sharing your experiences, for being an inspiration to all bloggers out there. I do not suffer from an eating disorder, however, while reading this I kept thinking about how I could relate in one way or another. I have low self esteem when it comes to my body. I had recently gained a bit of weight and my self-image skyrocketed to possibly the worst its ever been. The beginning and middle of this summer, I couldn't even look at my body in the mirror. I didn't want to wear pants because my hips and thighs and butt had noticeably expanded or anything that showed how my once slim stomach had grown some belly fat (I am naturally slimmer on top and heavier on bottom, like a pear). I felt disgusting, uglier then ever. Finally, at the end of the summer I began a workout routine and completely changed the way I ate: I went from eating three meals a day (plus whatever I craved in between) to eating five, smaller meals a day. I have lost about five pounds since then and I hope to continue losing weight until I reach a healthier number. The only problem is that I stopped my work out routine because college leaves me very little time. Well, enough about me.
Oh, Meg. I know I'm rambling a lot, and I'm writing an abnormally long comment, but I am really glad I found your blog. I look forward to reading your blog more. I guess I'm just trying to say thank you. Thank you for being true to yourself because that is the biggest and most beautiful inspiration.

Wren said...

Know this post is old but just came across it.

just wanted to tell you not to give up that vision and hope you have for getting over it.

i had the exact same ednos (eating disorders not otherwise specified)...non-purging bulimia...and I've been "recovered" and free from it for almost 3 years now.

It is possible and you can do it! Don't give up hope and not sure if you believe in our Father and Creator. I hope so because you can call out to Him and know He loves you and can heal you.

(in addition to the counsel and medical wisdom you are receiving...i believe those come from God)

Anyways...don't give up.

Shannon Venanzio said...

I found your blog through Rockstar Diaries...

Reading this entry has made me realize how similar my own self-image is to yours at this time.

I just can't seem to break that 150 mark, no matter how hard I'm trying. Sometimes it seems the easiest road is just to stop eating all together... but then the hunger sets in.

You've inspired me and I thank you for that. Thank you for being so honest and corageous.

I'm going to do this the right way...

Amanda said...

Hi Meg. I just found your blog via Kristen at Right Through The Very Heart of It. Reading this post, I just have to say that I think it's so great that you've come to a place where you can talk about your experience with an eating disorder. Sharing with others is just another step in healing. I've been talking about my eating disorder for a while now. I'm a chronic overeater and I've just recently, in the last year or so, come to a point where food does not rule every aspect of my life any more. It was a very long struggle and probably something I will deal with for the rest of my life, but it's not something that I'm afraid of anymore or that keeps me from doing what I want and being who I want to be.

My problem started when I was in high school, just because of the fact I was brought up eating so much junk and never gained any weight and then began to gain weight my freshman year of college. I remember feeling like I was someone I didn't know whenever I looked into a mirror and I blamed myself for ruining my body. It definitely started with binging and then turned into a full on way of eating, where every day I was binging. Most of the time it felt as though someone was forcing me to eat and I had no control over it; on top of which I ate so fast most of the time, I ended up eating more.

In the last year I've stopped focusing on how much I weigh and what I'm eating and just go with what makes me happy. I eat when I'm hungry and I don't need to keep eating. The main thing for me was slowing down when I ate and not giving myself such big portions. I still overeat sometimes, but it's usually during holidays such as this one where everyone around me is overeating! I'm slowly getting my body back to a healthy weight and my mind back to feeling comfortable in my own skin and I have to say, in the end, that's all that really matters.

Thank you so much for sharing your story. I look forward to reading more of what you have to say :) I hope you're having a lovely holiday season!

Anonymous said...

What a great resource!

Anonymous said...

Meg,

I stumbled upon your blog today, and it feels like fate was at play. I can relate with so many of your descriptions about Ned. You have inspired me to get the help I need.

Erin said...

Meg,

Thanks so much for this. I found your blog through Rockstar Diaries (no, I've never met her, yes I'm obsessed with stalking the blog) and am so glad you are so honest. I too struggled with an eating disorder, and had my family doctor tell my mom he thought "teenagers and mothers would have more important things to fight about than eating." It's been awhile, and I do feel like the destructive patterns are out of my life (maybe as much as they'll ever be). Good for you for encouraging us all to know and stand up for our own bodies.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this. I never realized how binge eating is a disorder and I can so easily relate to many of the symptoms you describe. You have motivated and inspired me. Thank you so, so much.

marta said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. It is the issue most people pretend not to know about.
When I had a weight problem, the most hard to deal with were the remarks of "friends", no matter that I felt better than ever before in my life and finally was on the way to liking myself.
I am feeling good now, eating healthy foods, exercising, liking my reflection in the mirror and inner myself. But again, thank you so much for support and inspiration I get from your blog!

m.a.f said...

marta it is my great pleasure to share my story in the hopes that information will lead to .... well, to things getting better, all over.

keep on fighting the good fight.

xo.

sarah said...

Meg

Amazing post. I have been following your blog for more than a year and was sucked into your post today. As someone who has struggled with an eating disorder everything you said was so realitable. If only it was just about being thin then we would get thin and get over it, right? But it is so much more complicated than that. Some how in a few few words you explained it so well. My eating disorder is in the very far past, but it is still a part of me and i feel that I work at it everyday. Best of luck to you!

Love, Sarah

anne taylor said...

Again, I am so glad that I found your blog and this stream of posts. While my story is different than yours, it is so nice to hear that I'm not alone in the world. Thank you for your bravery.