54. Eat, Exercise, Brush Your Teeth

54. Eat, Exercise, Brush Your Teeth

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

Eat, Exercise,
Brush Your Teeth

You are your own judge.
The verdict is up to you.
 ~Astrid Alauda

“You have eating disorder N.O.S.” Those words came from my physician only a few days after New Year’s Day several years ago. N.O.S. stands for not otherwise specified. I had a cross between anorexia and bulimia. My eating habits had been deteriorating for almost a year.

I’d grown up living a healthy lifestyle. My parents were health-conscious and emphasized the importance of eating right and exercising. Growing up, Goldfish crackers were considered a treat, and there was no soda in the house. I already had small bones and a lean body when I got mononucleosis my junior year in high school.

Normally, there is a loss of appetite with the illness, but I had an abscess in my throat, and the only time that it did not hurt was when I was eating. On top of constantly eating anything that I craved, I could not exercise due to fatigue and the risk of rupturing my spleen, which is a concern during and after having mono.

I gained 10 pounds. So once I was better I went back to exercising and eating right. The springtime came, and people were complimenting me on how great I looked. But by the end of junior year, a falling out with my group of girl friends triggered a downhill spiral. I had a hard time controlling my emotions, and struggled to deal with everything going on in my life, so I started to over-exercise and under-eat.

The summer between my junior and senior year is filled with awful memories. I was a terror to be around for my younger sister and parents. I would eat a slice of cheese, a piece of chicken, and some vegetables for a day’s worth of food on top of running several miles in the middle of a hot summer day.

Some days I found myself so hungry that I couldn’t think straight, yet the compliments would keep flowing. “What a great little body you have,” or “you’re so tiny.” Those comments kept me going, along with the discovery of laxatives.

I’ve always had a sweet tooth, so I still found it difficult not being able to eat candy or cookies. Some days I would eat everything in sight, and before going to bed, I would take at least four laxative pills, dehydrating and emptying my body.

I thought that I was losing all the weight and calories that I had consumed, but really I was just harming my digestive tract. In the winter of my senior year, I admitted to a friend that I had been using laxatives. She didn’t run and tell my parents, but her genuine concern for me helped me to stop taking them.

Finally, I broke down to my parents. It was one of the hardest things to do: admitting that I knew I had a problem, and that I wasn’t this perfect person that I lead everyone to believe I was.

I began outpatient treatment at one of the top eating disorder clinics in America. I saw a therapist once a week, along with a dietician and a physician. It wasn’t easy and I did relapse.

I struggled for a year and started seeing a therapist in college. My eating habits would alter based on what was going on in my life, but as I learned in therapy, eating should not correlate with emotions.

While I was seeing my therapist in high school, she said the simplest, but most profound thing to me. “Eating is like brushing your teeth. Would you wake up in the morning and not brush your teeth? No. Well it’s the same thing with eating.”

I’ve learned that, for me, sometimes if I’m stressed I’ll eat more or less, but that’s okay. As long as I am eating, and conscious of what is going on, I’m fine. Being aware of my body and my surroundings brought me to the place I am today.

I can now say that I have not consumed laxatives in almost four years. I am beyond proud of myself. I exercise daily, not to lose weight, but because it makes me feel good and I enjoy it. I eat balanced meals because my body actually feels better when I’m not depriving it or feeding it with junk food.

Admitting I had a problem was one part of this journey, but overcoming it has helped me learn that, no matter what is going on in my life, one always has to eat, just like one always has to brush one’s teeth.

~Amanda Romaniello

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