My eating disorder started young. I dealt with bullying for my weight through most of my childhood, but it wasn't until middle school that the bullies decided to become louder. Usually they made little remarks or laughed when I walked by, but that was mostly the extent of it.

Until one day I was walking out of the cafeteria. I was unfortunately alone so I guess that made me an easy target. Two boys, including one that I actually thought I was kind of friends with, decided to follow me out. They made elephant noises at me, called me a rhino, and pretended that the ground was shaking every time I took a step.

I think that was the first day my eating disorder started.


Christy Mckenna on Flickr

After that, I became dedicated to losing the weight. I talked to my doctor about going on Weight Watchers and she thought it was a great idea. I was only in 8th grade, so I was around 14, four years younger than the age limit to join Weight Watchers. So I lied and said I was 18 in order to join online.

I used it the right way, for a little while at least. Until I hit that first plateau. I'd lost a lot of weight, but I still hated what I saw in the mirror. Then I realized I could lose more weight by playing with the numbers a little. My goal for each day used to be eating the amount of points allotted. Then I started eating slightly less points (and never, ever, using the weekly splurge points they give you).

Then I would eat as few points as possible, feeling satisfied when I saw that I'd only eaten maybe six points worth of food in a day. I would skip breakfast and lunch and only eat a small dinner with my family every night.

coffee, pizza, beer
Jacqueline Gualtieri

It worked. I remember walking into class on my first day of sophomore year and everyone telling me how great I looked. I was starving myself and all anyone could do was congratulate me. 

After a while, I stopped losing weight and even gained a little back which terrified me. So I ate less, but eventually I broke. I missed the foods that I used to love. So I developed a new system.

I would eat more of the things that I loved, but I wouldn't let it actually enter my body for long. It wasn't even something that was necessarily big. If I had a slice of cake or a bowl of ice cream, things that normally people could just eat and be okay with eating, I would hate myself and excuse myself to the nearest bathroom to throw it back up.

I Shouldn't Have Had The Dessert I

LauraLewis23 on Flickr

For a long time, I thought it was bulimia. It wasn't until I was in college and took an abnormal psychology class that I heard the phrase "anorexia binge/purge type" and I thought I identified with that.

It's more likely, though, that I have an Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED), although I've never been formally diagnosed. It used to be an Eating Disorder Otherwise Not Specified (EDONS) but the DSM-5 upgraded the term to OSFED, which covers five additional eating disorders: atypical anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa of low frequency and/or limited duration, binge eating disorder of low frequency and/or limited duration, purge disorder, and night eating syndrome. 

In the case of bulimia, those with the disorder tend to have very frequent periods of binging and purging, with the binges typically entering over 2,000 calories at a time. In the case of anorexia binge/purge type, the binging and purging is often less frequent. I was never sure what category I fit into. That's because I did not fit into either, which led to me believing there wasn't really a problem


M.Cicchetti Photography on Flickr

I was at a friend's house one evening when I first realized there was a problem. I ate a few Oreo cookies and a couple handfuls of chips. I noticed that I was looking for a bathroom right away. It was the first time I ate "too much" when I wasn't in my own home. Usually when I was with friends, I would avoid eating altogether. At school, I made my schedule so that I never had a lunch period, so that I wouldn't have to eat in front of anyone.

That evening, just a few snacks had me running for a bathroom, but I was too ashamed to go through with it. I actually thought about leaving to go vomit in my own home. I held it instead. I felt embarrassed for the rest of the night, but I felt a little stronger. I decided to focus on changing. Not changing my body anymore, but changing my eating disorder

I started eating more and forcing myself to not purge. Any time that I felt like I would, I texted or called someone or spent time with my parents so I would have less of a chance to excuse myself to throw up, at least without anyone knowing. It didn't work 100 percent of the time. And I've definitely had my backslides, but they came fewer and far between after a while. I still have those backslides. The last time I broke was six months ago and, before that, I was clean for a full year. 

cake, egg, beer, pizza
Jacqueline Gualtieri

One of the worst realizations of this process was that I never learned how to get healthy and, when I stopped starving myself or throwing up, I gained a lot of the weight back. I was proud of myself for putting more fuel in my body, for treating it well for the first time in years, but, to the outside world, it just looked like I'd fallen off the wagon. And I was treated the same way. The congratulations were gone. I was beating an eating disorder, but I didn't look healthy, so I wasn't treated like I was healthy. 

Every day feels like a struggle. I want to "get healthy" and lose weight again. I work out at least five times per week and I try to eat a balanced diet, but weight doesn't fall off me the way it did when I was forcing myself to starve or purge. It can be triggering to look in a mirror, but I'm not ready to break my streak. I hope I never break my streak again. 

In the meantime, I deal with it when someone comments that I can lose the weight again. That they believe in me, never knowing how I lost the weight the first time. I deal with it when I go out a Tinder date and the guy says he was hoping I'd be skinnier. I deal with it when my friends, who weigh much less then me, talk about how fat they are and how much weight they need to lose. 

Not all eating disorder sufferers look the same. Don't just pay attention to how their bodies look. Don't just congratulate them because they look like how they are "supposed" to look now that they've lost some weight. Pay attention to the signs. I went through it alone because nobody noticed. Don't let someone else do the same.