By Tamara Jones
Usually moving is an exciting time in a person’s life. Meeting new people, having new experiences and getting a broader outlook on life… But at age 13, after growing up in the same house just a few kilometers away from my family’s houses, my school and the hospital I was born in, I just felt like my life was spiraling out of control. The summer before high school, I sat in my basement and ate in front of the TV and my weight reached an all time high. I’d always been a bigger and more athletic kid but never overweight. I only realized how bad it had gotten when I went back to school shopping and hated the way everything looked on me. That was the first time I ever cried in a change room.
Entering high school and knowing absolutely no one, which looking back, could have been a blessing, was in actuality, life-altering in a way that will affect me forever. When I did make a group of friends, I made the excuse that I had homework at lunch. I would sit in a corner of the library, eat carrots and read. At home I slowly restricted my diet. No fat, no meat, only one slice of bread, no sugar, only veggies if I’m still hungry… and if I caved and binged, which only happened twice, I purged.
When I wasn’t doing homework, I was researching foods that would burn fat and “how to lose 40 pounds in 4 months”. My food intake got smaller and smaller until I was eating a planned 900 calories a day and running for at least 45 minutes to burn it off. At one time I also went to grueling cheerleading practices and would attempt to not eat throughout those too. My coaches noticed and questioned me on my health but I denied that anything was wrong. I ended up having to drop out in preparation for knee surgery.
Within a year I had dropped the weight I gained and reached my goal of 120. My goal then changed to 110, then 105, 100 and the lowest, 97 pounds. I restricted my diet accordingly. None of my family members confronted me about it but they slowly stopped taking pictures of me at family events. My mom told me later that I looked frail and sick when all I saw was ‘skinny but not skinny enough’.
I was one of the leads in the school musical that same year in high school which gave me an excuse to not have time to eat but also introduced me to the friends I’m close to now. I began spending more time with them and felt happier. I finally felt like I belonged. There was something else to think about other than calories. We went out for dinners and went to the mall and Movie Theater and I began eating more regularly and healthily. I eventually reached my ideal weight of 120 and stayed there.
I believe that my eating disorder stemmed from my not being happy in my situation so I tried to control even the smallest aspect of my life. But when I let my guard down and made friends, I was forced to think about something other than myself and my negative and obsessive outlook on food. I was able to get some clarity and perspective that your weight is not the most important thing in life. Cultivating relationships will make you happier than any number on a scale. I realized that with exercise, you can eat a healthy amount of the right foods and be happy and fit in doing it. I still obsess about food but now it’s obsessing over whole food and recipes that taste amazing and nourish my body.
I took up hot yoga and strength training and work out with my boyfriend, who didn’t know me during the worst parts of my ED, and when we eat together we choose healthy options. I still count calories now and then, have given up meat and always check the nutrition facts at restaurants and on the foods I eat. I still work out and judge myself when I look in the mirror. But now my goal is to be happy in life and healthy. I look at the parts of my body that I’m proud of and I work on the areas that have trouble, but it no longer consumes my day. I have fun working out, rather than forcing myself to keep going for the wrong reasons. I hope that anyone struggling with an eating disorder would talk to someone they trust instead of denying it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Having the courage to talk to someone about it is the first step to gaining control over your illness. You may still have bad days, I do too, but the key is to take it day by day and to live a happy, healthy, balanced life.
By Tamara Jones-
19-year-old Canadian actress, singer and journalist who lives for yoga, food, fashion, nature and travelling