April 23, 2009

I was stuck in an endless cycle of bulimia from my late teens to mid-20s. The disease took over my life during my last year of high school, when I weighed around 140 pounds. At the time, my life was changing rapidly - I was graduating from high school, starting college, leaving home - and I felt powerless. Food was the only thing that offered me the reassurance I needed during that confusing time. After eating, though, I would feel guilty and worry about gaining weight, so I purged whatever I could. My days became full of thoughts of what I was going to eat during a binge and how I was going to purge it while hiding the disease from my parents.

In college, I sneaked food into my room and purged in the bathroom. My weight settled at 160 pounds, I was unhappy and my self-esteem was practically nonexistent, but I didn't know how to get out of the cycle. Even my boyfriend at the time fed into my insecurities and constantly told me I needed to lose weight. Not having the courage to leave and thinking I didn't deserve better, I stayed with him while my self-confidence continued to suffer. After three years, I finally took my family and friends' advice and ended the relationship. Still, I was bulimic and depressed.

On Mother's Day, I asked my mom what I could give her and when she told me that the only gift she wanted was for me to stop mistreating my body, something inside me clicked and I vowed never to purge again. I promised to treat my body with the care and respect it deserved.

The biggest obstacle to my recovery was changing my mind-set about food. In the past, I would eat huge quantities of food in one sitting, feel guilty and purge. I slowly learned that I could eat smaller portions of food and enjoy every bite. I started eating three healthy meals (plus two snacks) a day and began to pay attention to the taste and texture of food.

When I felt comfortable with a regular eating pattern, I began working out at the gym, doing cardio and weight lifting four to five times a week. I started losing weight, and two years later, I was 20 pounds lighter and weighed 140 pounds.

I eventually married a man who loved me no matter how much I weighed, and when we learned that I was pregnant with our first child, I immediately thought, "How big will I get? Will I be able to lose the weight after my pregnancy?" But when I realized my baby was counting on me to take care of her by eating healthfully and exercising regularly, I relaxed and enjoyed my pregnancy. My being active not only made labor easier to manage, but it also helped me return to my pre-pregnancy size four months after giving birth. I truly feel as if I have conquered the world. Not only have I managed to overcome a terrible eating disorder, but I have also brought a wonderful child into the world. My life is fulfilled.