Surviving An Eating Disorder
Rock bottom is a place. It’s cold, lonely, terrifying…But you want to know what is scarier? When you don’t even know you’re there. I understand addiction, it comes in many forms and levels. When you think something is working for you, it’s only human to want to continue on that path. You may disagree, but anyone can fall short of the ‘right’ decision one time and be hooked. Here is my experience of the hardest thing I’ve ever faced.
**Please be advised the content in this story may be disturbing to read. This also could be triggering to anyone who may be battling body image and/or an eating disorder**
September 23rd, 2014 was by far one of the happiest days of my life. Zachary and I were officially engaged. It wasn’t long after, we booked our wedding venue at the Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The big day was set to take place March 28, 2015, leaving six months to plan and prep. Luckily, we had the best wedding planner (my mother in law) which left us pretty much stress-free for the most part. She made the entire thing a complete breeze for the two of us. With the holidays approaching that fall/winter, I figured I could enjoy them all and start a raw, clean diet in January, a couple of months before the wedding.
I’ve always been a person to like healthy living and eating, some times more disciplined than others, just depending on what was happening. Previous to the engagement, I had joined CrossFit and really enjoyed the results I was noticing. I would workout four or five times a week along with the popular Paleo diet everyone was trying. Paleo eating worked very well for me. I like that it wasn’t too strict and I actually believe it’s a well-rounded eating style for anyone, AKA the “Cave Man Diet” essentially just meat, veggies, fruits and nuts. I allowed for cheese, of course, and occasional adult beverages.
The holidays passed, it was January 2015. Our year! The year I would become a wife, I was so happy and felt so grateful for the life I had. I believe I already had my dress, maybe purchased in October or November, but of course it could be altered closer to time… And so the clean, healthy eating would finally commence! If I’m being completely honest, I knew in my mind it was going to be a restrictive few months, planning to eat very small portions - on TOP of the healthy food. Note- when you truly eat as clean as I’m talking, portions shouldn’t be an issue.
At the time I worked full time in the salon, four long, full days, and occasional Saturdays. Hair coloring, cutting and styling is a very physical job, for anyone who may not realize. I would often come home and soak in an Epsom salt bath and pour a glass of wine just to take off the edge. I loved what I did (and miss it some) but it was hard on my entire body. With my new way of eating, I was bringing my own lunches to work of course.
First week of January daily lunch: one hearty, full size lettuce wrap (usually chicken or tuna), several flax crackers, a slice of cheese, normal size portion of fruit and some nuts. Water.
It was a matter of a few days, I started to noticeably feeling lighter, pants a little looser and such. That was exciting to me right away- progress! At this time too, I was no longer doing CrossFit, I lost interest in it. I was gaining a lot of muscle and it made me (feel) “bulky” or thick. I just wanted to “tone”… So I started hitting the Wellness Center every morning, before Kamille woke up. She stayed home with Zach while I worked out, we already were living together by the way. The only two things I did in the gym were treadmills and rowing. It seemed just right for me.
A few weeks passed, I developed this sort of “give an inch, take a mile” concept. For example, my lunches were becoming smaller, as were my breakfasts and dinners. By February, I was becoming dizzy at work and irritable with people close to me (mood swings). I also had started taking water pills, purchased usually at Whole Foods. And TMI… my bowel movements were becoming less frequent, so I also started taking Swiss Kriss- a “natural” laxative. That stemmed from not eating ENOUGH, but I didn’t realize that and still wanted to feel “regular”. The Swiss Kriss and water pills also made me lose weight, so I stuck with them on daily basis from there.
February daily lunch: a very small lettuce wrap with little filling, a few flax crackers, a very small amount of fruit. Water.
Keep in mind, the lunches I would eat at work, was just enough to keep my on my feet and that would be pretty much it for the day. The dizzy spells and moods worsened. I even wondered if I was becoming Bipolar. I would ask “what is WRONG with me?” Depression and anxiety would sink in at night, especially when I would be so hungry from hardly having anything to eat. This is embarrassing to admit, but I would looks at photos of food on Instagram and watch ‘Diners, Drive ins and Dives’ on repeat. Food became a fantasy for me. I was breaking.
Zach was noticing my behavior, but being the LEAST judgmental human that he is, he never created conflict about it. You would almost think he was supporting it, but he definitely was not. e just loved me, cared for me, and I think was just hoping it was all a little phase. When I finally sat down and told him I wanted to “talk to someone”, he knew I needed some help and he was willing to always take off work to drive me so I didn’t feel so alone. I made an appointment with the behavior health clinic and my intake visit was very simple. Can’t remember if it was with the doctor first, or the counselor. Anyway, I talked to the actual psychiatrist there, not long after these sessions took place. I was prescribed medication for anxiety. The medicine did not help at all, I believe it was Effexor. I felt worse and worse, even more irritable than before. They switched me over to Zoloft which seemed to balance out a lot better.
I have yet to mention my actual weight during this journey. Prior to any of this, I weighed approximately 125-130. Im am 5’7 and have always been naturally petite/thin. I get those genes from my dad’s side of the family, I’m built like him. Weight hasn’t ever been a struggle for me. In fact, as a child, I would have LOVED to have curves. I would see girls who were more “pear-shaped” and wished to be built like them. I was called names like “chicken legs” and felt too skinny in grade school. When I became a young adult, I noticed filling out more, not too much, just to where I had more “meat” on my bones. After having Kamille at age 19, I lost the baby weight quickly without trying (also due to stress), but was certainly not too thin. For me, I was my heaviest at age 22, weighing 135-140. I felt like I was getting “fat” for the first time, yet didn’t change any habits right away. I have always liked food.. a lot! So really it wasn’t until all of this stuff (wedding) started that I was so obsessed.
March arrived. The month I had been dreaming of, our wedding month. One side of me was so excited and full of joy, the other was shattered and fighting a downhill battle with myself. By this time, my eating disorder was serious and controlling. I couldn’t go one minute without thinking about food, or the lack of food. I would weigh first thing in the mornings, without any clothes. The scale was now reading numbers like 110, 105 and even 102 pounds. The truth is, it had turned into a mental game and I don’t think it mattered at that point what the scale showed, as long as it was lower than before. I dropped two pant/jean and top sizes. The thought of others starting to worry about me caused fear and guilt, so I would start wearing things that help hide my weight loss. The simplest things like getting up from my seat to walk somewhere, would make me super dizzy.
March daily lunch: plain lettuce, a few bites of plain tuna. Water.
My eating disorder was obviously so bad, that I was close to being anorexic. I would count 300, even 200 calories some days. In the shower, I would sit on the bench and look down at my bony legs. They were like sticks, I knew they didn’t look good. Zach even knew at this point that I wasn’t comfortable with going to restaurants. Again, he wasn’t supporting my lifestyle changes, but he didn’t really know WHAT to do about it either. Counseling sessions were regular, but they didn’t help much. I would just vent, then leave and continue to do my thing. Sometimes when I would be in the kitchen or at work eating a snack, I would spit it out, changing my mind before I swallowed. (Ugh, that is gross and HARD to admit). The girl who does my pedicure said something once about how ‘skinny’ I looked. She could tell by rubbing my feet and legs how small they were, and I just would brush it off or play it down. My mom was worried and would talk to me as I was always open and honest with her. I was okay with her knowing exactly what was going on, because I needed to have people in my corner who KNEW. Somehow it made me feel a little safer knowing I wasn’t living a lie… But deep down, I was a broken mess who just wanted to live life again.
My wedding dress had its final altering a couple of weeks before the wedding, and man is it tiny! Honestly, when I look back at our beautiful photos, I can’t help but go back go that time when I didn’t even recognize I was suffering. A few days ago, I noticed my reception dress hanging in the back of the closet (I kept all of the dresses I wore for the events). I’m pretty sure it would fit Kamille. I held it up and (especially being pregnant now) couldn’t believe how small it looked.
Our anniversary took place in Kona, Hawaii at the incredible Four Seasons Resort. It was nothing short of a DREAM vacation! Of course I still had my eating/non eating habits there, I couldn’t just shake it immediately although the wedding was over. In Hawaii and over the next few weeks, I started to eat a little more, yet I was still malnourished and fighting the disorder 24/7. This basically continued for a year.
Each day was an inner struggle and a toxic relationship with food. Something I had enjoyed and appreciated my whole life before. Life is celebrated and focused around cooking, dinners, gatherings, etc. I wanted so badly to let go and love it again. Not only that, just to go through a whole day without dwelling on it. I wanted to be comfortable in my skin and be proud of body again, the one that is my own and that I loved before. This nightmare had to end, I just wasn’t sure how for a while. I knew there was more to life and things I desired to happen. What did the future hold?
We had originally planned to start trying to grow our family after two years of marriage. First of all, I didn’t really want to wait that long after I already waited a year. Second, I was getting baby fever! Kamille was seven years old now and we just hit our one year when I would start conversations with Zach about trying earlier. He wasn’t fully on board right away, however, I was pretty persistent in my negotiating. I started to see this (trying to conceive) as an opportunity. A breakthrough. I started to get excited about it right away, this was GAME CHANGER. If he would agree to start trying, it would be enough for me to have reason to nourish my body properly and prepare for a baby. And yes, four short months later I convinced my husband we WERE ready.
July 14, 2016 we moved across town. This was a breath of fresh air, a new start to a happy life and expanding family. The best vibes filled our home and it felt like the sun came out for the first time in a very long time. The disorder I wrestled for seventeen months was quickly starting to vanish. For the sake of this story and helping others, I wish I could express a more detailed way I overcame this disease, and exactly how it improved. It was almost effortless, like as if you are watching a painting unfold in a time lapse, just forming and forming until it is complete. A life was waiting on me, I just had to break free of the chains that tied me down. The hopes and joys of having another baby gave me a glow, and a fast 10 pounds. That 10 turned into 15, then 20… I felt like an actual human again. Don’t get me wrong, I would occasionally walk by the mirror and see myself as “overweight”, and I was well over my weight I had through it all. Sure, that messed with my head but I had to keep focusing on what was to come and happiness.
Fast forward a couple months - I was pregnant and miscarried early in September. Immediately following that loss (without a cycle in between) I was pregnant again. This time everything added up just right, confirmed a heartbeat at the doctor’s office, and our Rosalie was officially on the way! From that moment on, I can truly confess the dark days of my eating disorder were completely done. A commitment to my family and the promise to press onward and upward saved my health, heart and life. I had been extremely weak, to the point where I literally was breaking over and over and over…but my strength and confidence pulled though, I fought so hard and ultimately SURVIVED.
This chapter was the scariest thing I’ve dealt with and it’s not to be taken lightly. I understand everything behind it all and if you are going though it or something similar, I understand you. I hear you. I see you. I know the thrills of feeling skinny and the first few pounds that drop. I know what it’s like to easily fit in size 24 jeans, which is two sizes too small normally. I also know the stabbing pain of hunger that keeps you awake at night. The medication you THINK you need because you’re anxious and irritable, when it’s really just the side affects of anorexia. I understand hiding your thin body in baggy clothing, disguising yourself to your family and friends. Feeling sad when your husband plans a date night, avoiding making dinner reservations because he knows you won’t eat. I’m sorry if this is you or any of it sounds familiar. You are braver, smarter and stronger than you think. You can win this, too.
I am here to talk in anyone needs. Open to any questions and private conversations. I’ve wanted for so long to reach anyone out there struggling with these things. I’m forever grateful for my husband who never stopped loving me, my mom who always encouraged me, and daughter Kamille who was my constant inspiration. Also the gift of our baby (Rosalie) who entered our world and gave me a new purpose. Finally, I’m happy to report I never had any body image or eating disorder since. I had seamlessly weaned from the Zoloft before trying to conceive. I “gradauated” from my counseling sessions after she was convinced I was fully recovered. I am now healthy mentally and physically, and carrying our baby boy due in September. Food is something I thoroughly enjoy, without any stress or portion control. I love my body and know it’s amazing for everything it provides. I admit that I could be healthier and more “fit” in my pregnancy, but I don’t lose sleep over it at all. I haven’t weighed myself in almost three years, besides prenatal visits.
My heart is immeasurably full. Thank you for reading my story.
Katy Rose Prichard
@katyroseprichard on Instagram
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