Monday, July 2

Fat People with Eating Disorders: My Story

Early start to my cat lady life.
The only eating disorders that fat people can have, according to our culture, is binge eating or emotional eating. I want to talk about eating disorders in fat people because I have a lot of experience with it.  I'm a fat woman, and I've suffered/am currently suffering from eating disorders. When I was in middle school, while battling a terrible case of OCD, I was afraid to eat. I only ate prepackaged Poptarts, one pack a day, because I was afraid of any other food having food poisoning. Although I was a fat pre-teen (or so I thought at the time), I was not doing this for weight loss initially, I was doing it because I didn't want to throw up from contaminated food. After some long months of doing this, my peers started realizing that I was losing weight. They were complimenting me, telling me how great I looked. 

After a year or so of this, I picked myself up a boyfriend. I began to obsess about everything, thanks to my OCD, involving food. People started talking to me more, boys liked me, teachers even treated me differently. My obsessiveness got so intense that I found pro-ed blogs, LiveJournals mostly, and looked at what these girls were doing. While scrolling through the pages, looking at the emaciated pictures of these girls who were still calling themselves fat, and seeing everything they were eating (in these blogs, you'd post every single thing you were eating, down to the ounce), I thought.. well, if these girls are fat, then I'm way too fat. I began to love that grumbling stomach, begging for food, because it meant that I was doing something right. I never realized that what I was doing was wrong.
I didn't pee my pants, this was a practical joke.
Funny, funny. (I'm short on pictures so this is what you get)
Another girl in my 6th or 7th grade class was super athletic, and super thin. I remember one day she wasn't in class, and the next day and the next. She was out of school for about two weeks and when she came back, she looked absolutely terrible. It had been found that she was suffering from anorexia, a term that I wasn't familiar with even after I'd been internet friends with many people suffering from the same thing while I was suffering as well, and I wondered many things. I'm doing the same things that this girl is doing, but no one is recognizing my problem. Does that mean I don't have a problem? I'm equally suffering from exhaustion, upset stomach, not being able to focus on school work, constantly obsessing about my food, not eating school lunch, and nausea whenever I ate anything. No one cared about my problems because I was losing weight for the right reasons, I was fat. I dealt with the nausea so much that my mother had to carry around anti-nausea medicine with her, and though I'm sure it worried her, I don't think she knew what was going on with her daughter.
At a school dance in 7th grade.
No one knew what was going on with me. It was my own little secret, and I liked it that way. I went to school and I came home to get onto the computer and look at pictures of super-thin people, bond with the friends that I'd made online, and I was always so excited to just not eat. That grumbling stomach always told me what I was doing right. I was also working at the YMCA at this point, volunteering mostly, in swim lessons and stuff. Around this time, I picked up on swimming laps. I absolutely loved it. I loved being in the water, pushing my legs and moving my arms, gasping for that infamous swimmers side breath every few laps, and feeling my stomach growl while I was in the water. I'm telling you, this stomach growling was my favorite part of any day. My next favorite thing? The compliments I'd gotten on my weight loss. People asked what I was doing, how they were so proud of me for finally getting healthy. Little did they know, I was at one of the most unhealthy points in my life. I mean, at this point I was barely eating my daily Poptart.

Then, something changed. I was so hungry. So, so hungry. I remember the first bit of food I ate after my long stretch of not eating anything.  I remember being at the mall, with my mother I think. She had gotten a pretzel from Auntie Anne's, and I wanted one. Surprisingly. I ordered some big cinnamon one, and I ate the whole thing. I binged and I felt terrible about it. I wanted to puke, but as I mentioned above, I was terrified of throwing up (as I still am to this day). I didn't want to throw it up. I remember going on my LiveJournal and spewing out my regrets into the internet. How ridiculous is it that I felt so much guilt for eating this pretzel?
Freshman year of high school.
A few years later and I'm a cheerleader in high school trying the Atkins diet. I pass out at cheerleading practice, which is embarrassing enough. But no one assumes it's because of my new diet of eating, well, nothing healthy. According to nearly everyone, it's because I'm too fat to keep up with the other girls training for the yearly competition. What a shame. I could have gotten help.

Fast forward to today and what happens? I binge eat when I'm sad. I binge eat if I'm lonely. It's a way of comfort, and that's never okay. Whenever a 'diet' or 'lifestyle change' is introduced to me, I get really excited. I get an insane high that I can't even attempt to explain; remembering my past and counting calories and figuring out how in the negative I am with calories and working out and burning those calories. In my past, whenever I attempt to go on a diet and work out, it always goes to the extreme that it was when I was 11 or 12. There is no middle ground for me. There is no healthy diet for me, at least not yet. I think once I recognize these things fully, that I can have a more reasonable relationship with food. I feel like today I'm better. A lot better. I love who I am. But sometimes, it's bad again. If I want to start a new workout program, I get anxious and scared that I'll get obsessive again, and that makes me not even start it, which is so sad.

If I step on a scale and see a number that I don't like, my mind immediately goes into overdrive thinking of how many calories I can burn in one week and how many pounds that translates to. I daydream about my old days of wearing Abercrombie & Fitch jeans, and not worrying about whether or not I would be able to find clothes in any random clothing store. Somedays I dream of that, and as sad as this is to admit, I think that that's a natural part of being human in the culture that we live in. We aren't supposed to like what we look like. I mean, that's why the diet industry is making billions upon billions of dollars each year, right? We all see this thin propaganda, usually without even thinking about it. It goes in one ear and out the other, but that is not to discredit what it does to our brains. If I'm out with friends for dinner, I try to be as normal as possible while ordering food. Fat people are scrutinized for what they eat, thin people aren't. I can be at dinner with a few friends and we could all order huge cheeseburgers, but who is the waitress going to give the stink eye to? Do I really have to even ask? 
Cincinnati Pride: Courtesy of Citybeat
Don't get me wrong, everyone, I do love who I am. I love wearing my bikini (who wants to go swimming?), and I love breaking boundaries that fat ladies have. I love every minute of it. I am fat, and I will never be thin, and that is necessary to recognize. And I'm okay with that. This isn't even the whole of my eating disorder history, but it is the most devastating to me. I wanted to share this story with all of you because I want people to stop thinking that fat people can't have eating disorders. Through this whole not-eating journey and battle with anorexia in middle school, I still only lost enough weight to get down to about a size 10 or 12. Not thin by today's standards, and definitely not thin by my middle school peer's standards or by my pro-ed LiveJournal friend's standards. Currently, I'm around a size 24 probably, I'm always wearing leggings so I don't really keep track.

The moral of the story? You have to love yourself. And even that isn't enough sometimes. A fat person not eating is not a noble lifestyle change. It's a disorder, an illness, a disease. Congratulating them is hurting them. We all have to love ourselves, and I cannot stress that enough. I love myself so so much, and that isn't even enough sometimes. Maybe somedays I watch more tv than other days, and see more weight loss propaganda, or maybe one day I am thinking about stupid shit too much. Whatever the reason, the guilty, regretful feelings still come back. But when do I love myself the most? When I'm not obsessing about my stomach, when I find a cute outfit, when I'm around people who love me, when readers like you email me or message me on Facebook and tell me how much I've changed your lives. Those things drive me. They make me so so happy. I'm so glad I can make you all love yourselves so much. In that sense, I didn't want everyone to think that I'm free of these same thoughts that you have. I just try to approach them differently. 

I know that I'm not the only one who has dealt with these issues, but how would I know if people don't talk about them? That is why I wanted to write this post. That is also why it was so hard for me to write this post. I'm on the verge of tears, and I'm shaking, but I had to do this for myself and for you. You are okay. You are beautiful. You deserve to love yourself. There is nothing wrong with you. You are perfect. 

You are amazing, and I love you. 
xo, Cortnie


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  2. I am so very proud of you. I am also so sorry for not realizing all those years ago that there was a horrible problem I was so busy trying to take care of you and your brother I neglected knowing what was really wrong with you in your teen years. I love you.


  3. I'm a 314 lb restrictive anorectic. It took me a long time to admit that and seek help (I have a great therapist right now). Yes, it seems no one believes that a fat person can have any eating disorder other than binging or worse, being CONGRATULATED for having an ED since it will be that much easier to lose the weight.
    I ended up in the hospital with severe malnutrition and I had stopped producing blood. I stopped MAKING BLOOD. I needed six units tranfused because I was going into organ failure and no one could believe that the 350 lb. woman in the bed (with no hair since it fell out) could be malnourished. They were just impressed that I was down that low from 679 lbs. even if it almost killed me. Someone actually said, I'd rather be dead than fat.
    It's a daily battle. I know know why I do and did it and I'm doing a lot of self-care and my recovery progress is excellent. I just have to be careful and honest when I'm very stressed. And yes, you couldn't have said it better---You have to love yourself. You also have to believe that your worth is not like some currency based on an arbitrary exchange rate or worse, other people's opinions or treatment of you. Your worth never changes-you are priceless and important and worth everything and every dream and desire you have. Great blog post.

    1. Thank you so much for your love! You are great!