*** Proceed with caution in this post as I discuss calories and weight. This is the story of my eating disorder, and therefore if you are easily triggered, this may not be a good post for you to read. I know how much I needed to read other peoples stories when I was in the depths of my illness, and if this could help someone, that would be fantastic. However, I do understand that this may not be appropriate to read for some of you out there, and I would never want to harm any of my readers.
I originally titled this, “My Story,” but then I realized that no, this is not my story. Sure, my eating disorder has played a significant role in my life, but it is nowhere near the sum of all my parts. I am not defined by my eating disorder whatsoever, and I scoff at the notion of it being all I can amount to. So, this is not my story. This is my eating disorder story. It is only a chapter in the novel of my life.
“You say you’re a girl, but you have the thighs of a gorilla.”
That one sentence, recited on June 3, 2010, changed my life forever.
It was not the cause of my eating disorder- no- but it was the remark that was uttered in my head every time I stepped in front of a mirror from that day on.
I was born on August 1, 1996, in Sacramento California to two loving, selfless parents. At the time, my older brother was two and a half years old, and the three of them constantly recount to me how excited they all were to meet me. I came into this world highly anticipated. We had a beautiful house, and my parents love for each other grew with each new day (it still does). It was a recipe for success, and a baby could not be born into a more perfect world. I can say it time and time again, and people probably get tired of me saying it, but I was immeasurably blessed. I still am to this day. My home was always a safe place, and growing up with a stay at home mom was the best. That has led to our relationship remaining strong to this day.
We lived in Sacramento up until the summer following kindergarten. That July, my parents desired to closer to the rest of our family who live in Los Angeles. Upon that decision, we were set to move in August.
When we moved to this new area, my parents put enrolled my brother and I in a small, private, Christian school. Throughout the elementary years, everything was great! I developed a relationship with the Lord and asked Him into my life in fifth grade. At the time, I had no clue what that truly entailed. (I am still learning now! As a Christian, I don’t think I will ever have it all figured out)
I had always wanted to be a gymnast. My wonderful parents signed me up for classes, and that was it- I fell in love. I could never describe how amazing it was those first couple of years in gymnastics. Learning and achieving new skills empowered my little child self, and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring new ways to move my body. During this time, leotards were required, but you could always wear shorts and t-shirts on over- just so long as you wore a leotard underneath. Due to this, I never felt self conscious of my body because the issue never arose.
The summer before my sixth grade year, which was also the beginning of middle school, my body began to develop. I “became” a woman in the sense that I received my first period. Now, can we all just take a moment to pity me: my first period came the day before my eleventh birthday. At a movie theatre. I freaked out. Looking back, it was actually a really hilarious experience, but ten year old me was absolutely horrified. I remember my mom getting excited, and I just sat there on the toilet looking at her like she was insane. Now I realize how momentous it was.
Everything began to change after receiving my first menstrual cycle. I began to notice my body more, and I began to grow more and more curious as to what happens in the body. More time was spent looking in the mirror, and I started to notice the parts of my body that were not as great as I once thought them to be. Still, at just eleven years old, I did not waste too much time on such thoughts.
Entering the “tween” years definitely brought about an emotional change for me.
Eighth grade year was when things shifted. All throughout my middle school years, I had been a bit chubby. In NO way was I what people consider to be fat, but I definitely had some baby love on my body. It made sense, and it could be attributed to a couple of reasons: I had gotten my menstrual cycle at such a young age and was therefore in the process of my body figuring itself out and I was a good eater.
I had always loved food. My after school daily snack usually consisted of chocolate ice cream drowned in Hershey’s chocolate syrup. That same meal was repeated for dessert on most nights too. I never turned down a brownie or a piece of cake, and Reese’s were my weakness. Now, this is not to say that I was a binge eater or a food hoarder at all. I was just a girl who loved to eat, and did not judge myself for it. I was always open to trying new things, and had anobsession for carne asada burritos (still do). My family loved my adventurous taste buds, and they always encouraged me to eat when I needed to. I was raised in a family that did not promote eating disorders whatsoever, and I want to make that very clear.
Middle school years are tough for everyone, am I right? Though I did not bode well with other girls, I was very successful in keeping great relationships with the guys at my school. There was one boy in particular that really meant a lot to me. I told him everything, and we stayed up every night texting about nonsense, and creating memories over the silliest of things. I adored him, and he was my best friend. Not to get into petty details, but we got into an insipid fight and somewhere along the back and forth banter between us, that harsh comment was recited.
“You say you’re a girl, but you have the thighs of a gorilla.”
I want to reiterate that this boy was NOT the cause of my eating disorder. Not even close. This comment simply stuck with me for a very long time. I still have trouble occasionally shaking these words from my head. This guy meant no long term malicious effect by saying this, and I in no way, shape, or form blame him for anything that occurred afterward. The part of my brain that holds on to disordered thoughts happened to remember this moment in my life.
The day following that argument was such a struggle. It was 8th grade graduation. I had purchased my graduation dress with my mom a few months prior. I remember how beautiful I had felt the day we found it. My mom and I pranced around the fitting rooms, dancing and twirling for the sparkling accents to be seen in full effect. It truly was a magnificent day, and I look back on it fondly. But when the ceremonial day came, I did not feel even remotely beautiful. I did not want to wear the dress at all. I was so concerned with looking hideous. I felt horrendous and huge. It was difficult to walk around taking pictures with all of my friends, and I remember constantly thinking, “Do I look fat in this?” “What animal am I today?” “It is a dress though so I don’t have to worry about my thighs being seen.”
Later that summer, I was invited to a pool party. The birthday boy had a diving board, and being a gymnast, I wanted to show off my skills. I got up and did a front flip into the pool. I remember feeling so confident as I soared through the air, making the perfect acrobatic move to impress the others. When I came up for air after performing the aerial dive, I broke through the water’s surface to the words, “big splash,” pouring out of someone’s mouth. Again, this did not cause my eating disorder, but it is something that has always stuck with me.
I excused myself to the bathroom where I had my first panic attack.
Gymnastics had changed. The gym was under new management, and I no longer felt comfortable in the place that had been my second home.
Shortly after I quit, an event occurred in my life that unfortunately, I have not worked up the courage to discuss in detail yet. I know it needs to happen, and I am going to take baby steps in writing it out. What I will say is that on February 14, 2011, I was sexually assaulted by someone in my life I should have been able to trust. I can count the number of people in my life who know about this on one hand, therefore I hope you can understand my hesitance to go into further detail about this on the blog. One day, I promise to share my story as I know it is important. It is apart of the healing process. I think it is one of the main reasons as to why this all even happened, and I know I will never truly heal until the day I share it with the world.
I felt so lost after I quit gymnastics. People at school knew me as Julia the gymnast. Heck, that is still my email address. But when I quit, I was just Julia. I did not like being “just Julia.” I needed something to fill that gaping hole in my heart, but soon after, I found it!
I had always made fun of cheerleading as a gymnast. Gymnasts tend to find cheerleaders as wimpy, and I used this as a form of rebelling against gymnastics. I made varsity my first year on the squad, and it was such a confidence boost. I gladly enjoyed multiple slices of deep-dish pizza and pazookie at BJ’s the night of tryouts in celebration.
When cheer practice started, I realized how wrong I was about cheerleaders. They are not wimpy in the slightest. The workouts my coaches had us do were the most grueling I had ever endured, but I loved feeling stronger. During this time, my body finally began to figure itself out as well, and the baby fat was floating away. I began to trim down, without changing my eating habits whatsoever. I started to feel a bit more beautiful, and loved how good I felt about myself after a workout.
A few months into cheer, I had my annual doctor’s appointment where she weighed me. I was overjoyed. I had lost a decent amount of weight and I had not even been trying.
Emotionally, I knew I had never gotten over the sexual assault, but I shoved it under the rug. I focused on everything except what was going on internally. Pair that with being broken up with by my first love, and I was set up for some hard months.
Following that break up, I was very shaken up. For the past year, I had invested all of my energy into my relationship to avoid dealing with other things, and what was I to do now? I then had another doctor’s appointment where I weighed in and lost even more weight. I remember being amazed at myself. It was the first thing that made me happy in months. I loved seeing that number go down, AND I had not even been really trying. That is when I decided to put my focus into my health. How succesful could I be once I invested time into this aspect of my life? I was ready to find out.
That entire next summer was devoted to running and learning about health. It was not done in a harmful manner at all, but it did set me up for disaster.
Junior year approached and I overworked myself like crazy that year. I was on cheer, in theatre, studying for the SAT, and taking three APs. Again, I was setting myself up to be a stress ball.
Sometime during September-October I had taken up calorie counting with the My Fitness Pal app. I typed in my stats and it told me to consume that almight “1,200” calories. I remember looking at my calorie count and thinking that it was now a maximum, not a goal. I did what I could to cut corners in my eating. Not by much at the beginning, but it soon got out of hand.
In March of that year, cheer season was over and the musical I was in premiered. I decided not to return to cheer for multiple reasons, and I had a TON of free time open up for me. I did not know what to do with myself. I began to pick up my exercise, and I felt so good about it. Prior to this time, I probably stepped on the scale once a month. Slowly, this increased to once a week. I was shocked everytime I would see a lower number on the scale but with each new week, I’d decrease in weight. My confidence was through the roof at this point. This makes me sad to think about now.
Spring break, a fews weeks later, I went on a mission trip with my school. I lived off of oatmeal, rice cakes, peanut butter, and oranges, and ate extremely poorly. I wasted what could have been an enlightening spiritual week compulsively worried about the calories I was ingesting. On the last day, I had an itch on my chest. As I began to rub myself, I felt a bump that I had never felt before. I had no clue what it was and was quite worried. I had my friend feel it too, and she had no idea what it was. Turns out it was my bones portruding.
I came home from that trip, and my dad told me I looked real thin. He wanted to make sure I was okay. I stepped onto the scale the next morning and found I had lost 5 pounds in a week. I KNEW that was not okay, and I KNEW I was underweight. I went for my daily run, and came back and made myself double the breakfast I usually have. When my parents got up, I asked if we could go for avocado cheeseburgers- something I loved greatly before I became a pescatarian. I had done the no-meat thing for about ten months, and I was content with that. I decided I deserved to reward myself, plus it would make it easier to gain the weight, right? It was the best burger of my life.
I had a doctor’s appointment a few weeks later, and I informed my doctor that I had not received my period since September. She told me that it could be solved by gaining some weight- five pounds would probably solve the problem (FYI- no.)
My parents were pretty happy with this. I got to gain weight! How fun, right?! They tried to place it in the mindset that this could be exciting.
For some reason, this is what triggered me to restrict the calories. My mom started to watch what I’d eat and it would freak me out to be monitored. I was worried that weight gain equated to never ending weight gain. I did not understand what it meant to maintain weight, and I thought I would spiral out of control.
Summer is when things got worse. I had even more free time and saw it as an opportunity to improve my running. Before I knew it, one mile turned into five miles, and those fifteen minutes on the eliptical turned into twenty five- minimum. I began spending all of the time I was not exercising googling mouthwatering desserts that I would never allow my tastebuds to experience.
As the summer wore on, my runs got longer, and my food got smaller. I found other ways to cut corners.
Besides my job, I never left my house. I did not want to see anyone and legitimately never left unless my parents pleaded with me. I isolated myself entirely, and felt a sick sort of comfort with this. I then began to live through my mind. I imagined a perfect life, but lived the opposite. At the time though, I saw nothing wrong with this.
From then on, things just got worse, and I cannot even remember much. The rest of the summer was spent in a haze.
“Meet the teacher” night came a few weeks later, and the reaction I got from people was very interesting. EVERYONE commented on how thin I looked. They were not compliments- people just stated the fact. I did not know how to react and my mind twisted them into compliments. That night, my mom layed in bed with me and I told her about how I felt. I told her I did not understand why I had to gain weight when people were telling me how fabulous I looked. Little did I know those “compliments” were cries of concern. My disordered mind just simply could not process this.
The next week, my senior year began. The last year of high school. Supposedly, one of the best years of my life. That first day of school was torturous. All day long people came up to me asking if I was alright, and I desperately wanted to leave there as quickly as possible.I came home and sobbed for hours. By this point, I became exhausted of crying, but I had no clue what to do anymore. The school had called my mom at 9 AM about my weight. 9 AM. School starts for me at 8AM. I was angered,a s I believed everyone was making a big deal from nothing.
Inside, I was crying for help- but I was so lost.
Thankfully, my parents began to be really dominant in my life. They took over all of my meals and made me up my calories.
If you have been following me for a while on Instagram, it is evident that I followed the Minnie Maud guidelines for the majority of my recovery. Prior to beginning Minnie Maud, my parents were in control of every meal placed in front of me, and while it was a step up from the amount I was previously eating, I was only getting about 1,500-1,800 calories in each day. During this period of time, my body went completely out of whack. I was miserable when my parents were feeding me for a multitude of reasons, but one of the main reasons was how my body reacted to the food.
For approximately 2-3 months prior to beginning Minnie Maud, I spent every. waking. moment. researching ‘how to recover from an eating disorder.’ I found absolutely nothing that “spoke” to me. There were websites advocating eating 1,500 calories or 2,000 calories, or only doing strength training. I must have read thousands of articles from doctors saying to just eat an avocado and get some sleep. Boom. Bam. Done. The periods would come back. The mind would heal. Everyone would be happy. It was all so… fake. All of my free time was consumed with finding the magical formula, and I could not find it. No matter how hard I searched. I was so frustrated. This alongside a couple of parents who were begging me, pleading with me, screaming at me to eat more- I became increasingly more frustrated with each passing moment.
I remember one specific moment after an extremely difficult lunch with my mom where I fell down on the bathroom floor, clutching the bathmat, and cursing God to just hurry up and take my life. It was one of the darkest moments of my life.
When I finally came across YourEatopia, I felt like God had answered my prayers, and that this could be the start of my second chance. I did not immediately choose to start though. I had so many reservations and there were a lot of inner battles I would have to overcome in order to finally make the jump.
Finally, my parents became so fed up with me. They threatened to take away college, and I could tell they were serious. That same day, I was in a car accident. Talk about a bad day, huh? I knew that this was it. I needed to put some serious effort into recovery if I was ever going to get my life back.
I began Minnie Maud in November of 2013, and I have not looked back since. I am currently in the midst of writing up more detailed articles on my personal experience with MM and I will link them back here when they are posted.
Obviously, I have had my fair share of struggles from this point, but I promise, Recovery has given me so much life. I cannot even begin to describe how much happier I am now. I have been given so many opportunities that would have never happened had I held on to my eating disorder. Truthfully, I do not even think I would be alive today had it not been for choosing to recover.
I now happily eat ice cream and carne asada burritos and peanut butter and brownies. My fears of food are minimal and I am not afraid to take rest days. I am learning to love the girl that looks back in the mirror. I don’t allow myself to be called gorilla thighs by the disordered thoughts in my head. I am learning to live for myself. I am realizing that the Lord does in fact still love me, even after I have damaged this body that He entrusted me with.
I am grateful for every single person that has stood by me, support me, and helped me fight against my eating disorder. It has been an extensive process, but I do not regret it in the slightest.
As I am writing this, I still believe I am in the midst of my recovery. I have come incredibly far, but I do know that I am not 100% fully recovered. Will I get there? Is it even possible to fully recover? I don’t know, but you can bet that I am join got be spending the rest of my life trying my hardest to find that out for myself. I have made leaps and bounds from where I was a year and a half ago, and I cannot wait to see what further recovery will lead me to.
To anyone out there that can resonate with my story, I am so sorry that we relate over such a morbid subject. I am deeply sorry that you are enduring such a sad time in your life, but I do want to leave you with hope. I never imagined myself living past my eating disorder, but here I am- alive, healthy, and most importantly, HAPPY. I am not a special case; everyone is capable of fully recovering from their eating disorder. YOU are capable of recovering from your eating disorder. I know it seems like an uphill battle, but little by little, you will get there. There is a life out there for you that is not defined by what you look like in the mirror, or what the scale reads. That life is out there waiting for you at this very moment.
It may be the hardest battle of your life, but it will also be worth it.
Thank you. Thank you for following along in my journey toward recovery. Thank you for reading my story. Thank you for sharing your life with me. Thank you for supporting my blog. Thank you for every sentence of encouragement you have sent to me. Just… thank you.