The past few years of my life, I have always been very obsessive with nutrition. For the majority of the time, I ate very healthy and exercised a lot. I have always danced an excessive amount and when I was not at dance, I was outside running, in my dance room, or at the gym. I have two older brothers who are also athletes so this was always “the normal” thing to do in my eyes. Even with all of this exercise and healthy eating, I never was “tiny” or “skinny.” My whole family, on both sides, is very large boned. I was not meant to be a “skinny” girl. Due to all of my exercising, I was also VERY muscular. I used to go to trainers who had me lifting and eating a lot of protein. I was SO in shape and HEALTHY! However, I did not see it this way. I have always wanted to have the ballerina/model look. I always dreamed of being tall and skinny to the point where “skinny thoughts” were all I would think about every day. I would try crazy diets, laxatives, over exercising, hot yoga, steam room, saunas in sweatshirts and sweatpants, water pills, and many other things, overdosing on many. I even went as far as paying people that were 18 to go buy me diet pills and taking over 3 times the recommended amount, stealing B12 and B6 vitamins from my mom, and I even duck taped saran wrap and garbage backs over my arms, legs, and stomach before bed to make myself sweat. I also would do the saran wrap around my stomach before I went to the gym and wear sweatshirts and sweatpants overtop. There are so many more desperate levels I went to just to attempt to be skinny.
I began to start researching diets of Victoria secret models, setting pictures of them as my wallpaper on my phone & computer, and even posting pictures of them around my bedroom and kitchen. In school, at dance (especially), at church, at the mall… everywhere I would go, this is all I would think about all day long. There was often times that dance teachers would say things about my weight just because of how muscular I was. I was told once when I was younger, once at a ballet school and then again when I went to visit Alvin Ailey in New York City by the ballet teacher. After I heard it that time, I was done. I made the decision that I was going to lose weight. I stopped eating meat completely. I would wake up in the morning and have a giant bowl of fruit, coffee and if I was REALLY hungry I would have a 100 calorie bagel thin with peanut butter. I expected this “breakfast” to hold me through a 2 hour ballet class until I got to school. When I got to school, I would either have veggies and ranch, more fruit, a salad or I would pick up a skinny latte from Starbucks on the way. After school I would usually have more fruit or Starbucks and every night for dinner was a salad. I would usually convince my mom to give me money for Panera because I knew that I could order the Greek salad and get no meat. If I was starving before bed I would have warm milk because I read that on a Victoria secret model diet. I was consuming only a few hundred calories a day and dancing two hours every morning, 4-5 hours every night and ALL day weekends. Basically, I thought I was eating all the time because I was eating all day. But, it was all barely any calories, so my body was starving itself.
The feeling of getting skinnier and losing weight became like a high for me. It felt so good to me. I began to eat less, and less, and less… and less. And I also began to exercise more, and more and more… and more. This became my life.
The LOWEST healthy weight for my height (5’7”) is 133 pounds. I started off in November of 2011 at a strong and healthy 155 pounds. By May of 2012, I was at my lowest, 114 pounds. None of my clothes fit me, I had lost all my muscle, and I loved it. I loved the feeling of being skinny. I thought I looked great. But to everyone else, I looked like a skeleton. My bones were sticking out, I was losing my hair, I was CONSTANTLY cold, I had ZERO energy, none of my clothes fit me, I was always cranky, I wasn’t thinking right, I was sick all of the time, but I was skinny… and to me, that’s all that mattered. The worst part is, I never thought I was skinny enough. I always wanted to lose more. I did not see myself the way that others saw me, but I LOVED hearing people talk about how much weight I had lost or how little I was. I began to thrive off of the compliments.
My friends were all too afraid to say anything, but my family was not going to be quiet any longer. I began going to a nutritionist and she put me on a meal plan to maintain a healthy weight of about 135-140 pounds. At first I listened, and then I stopped. I then had to go to the doctor every other week to get weighed, and every time I went, I was down another couple pounds. After I posted my prom pictures on facebook, my family got constant phone calls of family friends in tears of how “scary” I looked. It was killing my family. My dance teachers began to step in as well, but just like the nutritionist, I blocked them out as well. My mom tried everything. She tried therapists, doctors, nutritionists, even people who had recovered eating disorders. NOTHING had worked. After a while, friends began to call my mom and even come over to talk to me. I was scaring everyone so much, even myself.
My parents threatened me with having to be sent away so I finally decided to try to eat a little bit more. However, my stomach had shrunk so much that it couldn’t take the food. I would try to eat a whole meal and end up spending the rest of the night in a ball in my bed, crying because my stomach hurt so badly. It was a constant battle and I was not winning. My friends were suffering, my family was suffering, and my healthy was MAJORLY SUFFERING (more than I had even known)… Even though I did not know it, I was killing myself.
Towards the end of May, I went to the doctors to get weighed and then my mom took me to dance. While I was in dance, the doctor called my mom to tell her I had lost even more weight and now I weigh 114 pounds. My mother was devastated and scared for my life. Later that night when dance was over, I was walking to my car with my mom and I saw my two best friends, Kelsey and Alyssa, standing outside of the car, holding hands and crying. I was so confused. I sat down in the car in the middle of the both of them with my mom driving and my brother in the front seat. I was so confused. After everyone stopped crying, my mom told me that we needed to go to the “hospital” to see if I was okay. After about half of an hour in the car we pulled into Western Psyche Hospital. I was absolutely terrified. I began to cry hysterically and beg my mom to give me another chance with a different nutritionist, with anyone. But she stuck to her gut knowing that no one could help me because I wouldn’t listen to anyone. We walked into the hospital and sat in the weighting room next to some of the scariest people I had ever seen. They took me back to get tests then had us all wait in the weighting room until about 2am. Finally, the doctor came out and asked to speak to all of us privately. We went into a room with two chairs, me and one, the doctor in the other, and everyone else around me. He began to tell me that because of how much weight I lost and how fast I lost it, he had no choice but to admit me into the hospital that night. I was screaming and crying nonstop, BEGGING my mom to take me home with her. I will never forget how scared I was. I began to get so mad at her while we were waiting for my room to be available that I refused to hug her, kiss her or even let her near me. I was doing my best to make her feel as guilty as possible. All four of them promised they would be there every day to visit me and that I was going to get better.
After a few hours, the doctors took me upstairs. They asked me a bunch of questions and put me in my own room at the very end of the hall. I remember I needed them to turn up the heat and get me extra blankets because I was so cold because I had no fat on my body. A few hours later, I was woken up to get weighed and shower. They gave me a hospital robe and told me to leave my clothes in my room. They weighed me, checked my blood pressure and then walked me to the showers. However, they forgot that this shower was broken. I walked in, pressed the button (yes, a button) and the water was ice cold. I began to scream and cry once again. I had to walk down the hall to the other showers in my towel. We were not allowed any razors or anything and even the water in this shower was not warm. After I showered (I cried the whole time), I walked back to my room. The nurse told me that they had to go through the bag my mom packed me because there were a lot of rules. No cell phones, no straighteneners/ curling irons, no razors, no hoodies with strings in them, no sweat pants with strings in them… nothing was allowed here.
This place was absolute hell. We got woken up around 7 every day, had to take meds, had to shower, breakfast was at 8, we had to sit in the “lobby” area (no blankets allowed) because of a fire hazard) all day until lunch at 12, then again until dinner at 5, then we could go to our rooms but leave the door open. There was one computer for all of the girls to share and one phone on the wall. We would randomly have group lessons but no one would talk. Basically you sat, ate, and slept. No one really talked much at all. Everyone was miserable. There were so many rules, nothing to do, nothing to look forward to, and we were constantly full because the dieticians continued to add more and more food. There were menus that you got at the beginning of the week with a few options that you got to pick from for the week, depending on the meal plan. The food was AWFUL and changing your food was NOT an option. You were timed at every meal and if you refused to finish you would get force fed through a tube. The worst part about the whole thing was you did not know when you were getting out. Also, my second day there, I got woken up to get blood work. I got walked down to the other end of the hall where the older patients were. As soon as I saw how incredibly sick these patients were, I began to feel sick. All I remember is I began to sweat and feel nauseous. Next thing I know, I was on the ground and woke up with people surrounding me and a terrible headache. I had fainted. Thinking the doctor would be concerned, his response was “she’s fine.” Because of my incident, I was considered a “fall risk.” This meant that from now on I could only shower at a certain time in the morning because one of the employees had to watch me shower at all times. I began to get so angry and depressed that I would leave facebook messages and voicemails on my mom’s phone about how much I hated her and how I wished the worst for her for putting me through this. I will never forgive myself for the things I said to her.
I was absolutely devastated. I missed the end of my junior year, I was not allowed to dance, or even stretch. I was supposed to dance with the Rockettes in NYC in June, dance in Vegas, perform at my recital, and have an amazing summer with my friends. Instead I wasn’t dancing, I wasn’t at school, I wasn’t with my friends and I wasn’t having ANY summer. I was sitting in a hospital for my summer with people watching me shower, people constantly watching me… it was just horrible. I cried myself to sleep every single night in my hospital bed. I harassed my mom every day for putting me in this hospital. I begged everyone and anyone to get me out. I was not acting myself, I couldn’t act myself. There were not enough fat cells in my brain for it to even function properly, so I was acting crazy. I was acting so crazy that my dad told me that there was a point in time where they could hardly recognize me. My personality was NOT me. Anorexia had taken over my life. ED was winning. I almost gave up. I wanted to give up. I wanted to be dead.
My friends, family and dance teachers came to visit me all of the time, which definitely helped. However, visiting hours were very short. This place was becoming intolerable. After about a week and a half, which felt like 5 years, I got moved up to the next level of the program. This meant that I still had to spend Monday-Friday at the hospital all day, but I could sleep at home. I was not happy with this because I did not want to come to the hospital, but I was so happy to be able to even shave my legs, sleep in my own bed, put on makeup, drink coffee again, and be in my house, just everything. This program was a lot more lenient than the inpatient program. However, I still did not like it. I hated the meal plan, I hated the faculty members, I hated the hospital, I hated the hours, I hated how close our meal times were, and I just hated it. I was in this program for a very long time. Almost all summer. Eventually, I got moved down to the last level of the program. This meant that I only had to go to the hospital 3 days a week for just a few hours and have dinner there, but this time I could bring my own dinner. I was in this program for a few weeks until my parents made a deal with the hospital. I contacted the old nutritionist that worked with me before and begged her to help me, I was so desperate. She made a deal with me that if I would go to her, listen to her, and go to a therapist that she recommended, she would do it. My parents finally agreed and the hospital did too. Finally, I was DONE at the hospital. I was DONE with their meal plan. I was thrilled.
Once I was out of the hospital, ALL I wanted to do was dance. However, I still physically was NO WHERE near ready to dance. Leslie began my new meal plan, which I liked so much better, and allowing me to take Pilates classes and eventually I was able to dance again. Once I started to eat more, I began to develop a LOVE for food again. I was eating VERY healthy and clean choices, as I still do, but I was eating… and that’s what mattered. I have developed the biggest passion for cooking and creating healthy meals and snacks. Over time, I was able to begin dancing again. It was the BEST feeling in the world. And once I began to gain weight, not only did I look better, but I felt SO much better. I was eating actual meals, I was dancing, I was going out with my friends, I was eating meat again, and occasionally I would have treats… I was becoming ME AGAIN. This time, I was winning. Everyone began to compliment me on how amazing I looked because I wasn’t a skeleton anymore. My nutritionist, Leslie Bonce, saved my life. Today, I am STILL not at my goal weight. However, I am dancing and eating. I have been bouncing around 125 pounds for a while now because for some reason, these last five pounds are the hardest to gain. But before I was burning THOUSANDS of calories a day at dance, competitions and assisting conventions on the weekends and just eating salads. Now I am dancing the same, if not more, and fueling my body with the food that it needs. And to me, that is what matters. I WILL reach my goal weight. I am determined. I am still in therapy, still trying to gain, still getting weighed, and still struggling. But I am working on it every single day. Every day is a battle against ED but guess what? I’m going to win, there is no doubt in my mind.
I have learned that no one can truly understand an eating disorder unless they have had one. No one understand the thoughts that go through someone’s mind with an eating disorder, the fears of food, the constant ED thoughts, the constant relapse thoughts, the need for measuring foods, for eating healthy… no one understands, which makes it even harder. I do not think that these ED thoughts will ever go away, and some days they are stronger than ever, but I do KNOW for a fact that they will never win. I am winning, and there is no turning back. This is the new Liz. The strong, healthy, determined, motivated and happy Liz… and I am here to stay. So screw you ED.
Via Elissa Berardi