I can remember getting teased as a child for my weight. I distinctly remember one day in 5th grade a boy passed me a note and it said, “when everyone else was calling you fat, I stood up for you.” I was not sure how to take that but from that moment on, those words replayed in my head until today.
I was a very active kid. I played soccer from the age of 4 until 20. I went as far as to play on a Division I collegiate team. I loved it. Every bruise, every injury, all the blood sweat and tears. That’s who I was. Playing college soccer was not as glamorous and I anticipated it to be. The fun and games were over, it became a job. If I did not perform, I would not play. It didn’t help that my coach was extremely judgemental, discouraging and condescending. I could never do anything right. I could never please him. At one point I just stopped caring. I did not care about playing well, winning or even stepping onto the field. I dreaded it all. That’s when my life changed. I knew since I couldn’t control my coach or soccer, the only thing I could control was how I felt about myself (i.e. what I ate, or didn’t).
Growing up in Southern California, I was exposed to what I thought was the “ideal” girl at a very young age. I would always see the attractive men with girls who wore size 0, who wore the newest fashion, who had their hair and makeup done all day everyday. That was not me. I was heavy-set, was never up-to-date on the newest trend, I did not “fit the mold.” I was tired of feeling like an outcast, it was time for change.
The summer going into my junior year of college is when things spiraled. My family had just moved here (Nevada) but all my friends were still in California. That summer I spent most of it staying with my aunt in California so I could be with my friends. They had a room that was outside of the house that I was staying in. This gave me complete privacy to come and go as I please without them knowing. While majority of the time I was spending my summer with my small group of friends, there were days where they were busy and I wouldn’t have anyone to hang out with. These were the days that it was just me. So I turned to the thing that made me happy… exercise. At the time, I was on a training program for my next season of soccer so I was pretty intensely working out 6 days a week. I would go to the gym and do the workout I had to do then later that day, if I was bored, I would go back and do another workout. It got to the point where I was at the gym for 4-5 hours some days. Before I knew it, it was happening almost every day… I was addicted to working out. When I hear the word addiction, I think of drugs or alcohol, never would I think exercise.
As the weeks went on of these extremely workouts, I noticed a change. I was dropping weight like crazy, was able to see “definition” in my body and was receiving so much attention. I was LIVING for all the positive attention I was getting, saying I looked so “fit” and my body was “goals.” On the outside it was easy to see all the hard work I was putting in. What people didn’t see what was going on on the inside. I was constantly tired and fatigued, grossly undereating, I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t think clearly and most importantly, I lost my period. My external looks were WAY more important to me at the time because I felt “desired” and “wanted” by boys which made me feel good. This routine went on all summer (3 months) until I went back to school to report for preseason soccer.
When I returned back, all my teammates instantly noticed my weight change. I would convince them that I was just eating good and exercising good because that’s what I thought was the reason I lost all the weight. Since my college was in Louisiana, where during the summers it gets HOT with 100% humidity, our trainers were very strict on making sure we were eating enough and drinking enough water. Before we started preseason, we all have to get a sort of physical from our trainers to get our weight, height, vitals, all that jazz because of the weather conditions and our safety. When it was my turn, my results showed that from the end of last season to the beginning of this season (3 months), I had lost 20 pounds. My trainer was instantly skeptical about this and I told her what I told everyone else, I was working out hard and eating healthy. She didn’t seem convinced. I ensured her that I was okay and that I was ready to play.
The season went on and the more I could feel my body hurt. Every game got more competitive and every game I felt weaker and weaker, I could not continue to perform to my best ability. I would push through pain, telling myself that I was okay, I could do it. The truth was, I was not okay and I couldn’t do it. My body was undernourished, overtrained and in desperation. It wasn’t until my roommates sat me down one night, and told me they were worried about me. They could see that I was continuing to drop weight, wasn’t playing as well and that I wasn’t eating. That was the moment I knew I wasn’t okay and that I needed help. They reached out to my trainer and expressed their concerns. Together, we all decided that I was not physically or mentally healthy to continue to play competitive soccer. The end of my junior year was the end of my college soccer career. I was heartbroken. Soccer was my life, my identity, who I was but I knew it was putting my life at risk. I was at too low of weight, addicted to exercise, and scared of food. I was not okay. Shortly after the intervention with my roommates and trainer, I called my parents (who were in Texas traveling at the time) and told them what was going on. They jumped in their RV and drove straight to Louisiana. Together, we found an eating disorder treatment center in New Orleans that I would eventually stay in for 6 weeks. I withdrew from my classes for the next semester and started my (supposed to be) senior year checking into my inpatient treatment center. I was ready though, I knew I had to do this.
My parents dropped me off and that was the start of what changed my life. I won’t get into the crazy details about what my experience was like but let’s just say those 6 weeks were the turning point for me. I learned so much about myself and why I went down the path I went down. It got real dark in there and there were days that I didn’t think I was going to make it but the support I had, the resources I had and the faith I had in God is what pushed me through it. I went in there not knowing who I was, what my purpose was and wondering why this happened to me but I came out KNOWING who I was, discovered MY PURPOSE, and understanding WHY this happened to me.
To anyone who is suffering from an eating disorder, my advice to you is to NEVER GIVE UP! It is okay to ask for help, it doesn’t make you weak or any less of a person. It actually makes you stronger, braver and such a BAD ASS! Recovery is possible and it is so worth it, keep fighting!