By Caroline Ejzak
Dear Knoch High School,
This is a farewell, of a sort.
This is an article that I have wanted to write since I first started newspaper class. I’ve been waiting for the right time, but I guess better late than never right?
The story might be shocking to some and not to others. That’s okay, just as long as it is being told and told right.
This year, I was voted “Most Fit” of my senior class.
Last year, I was diagnosed with orthorexia: an obsession with defining and maintaining the perfect, healthy diet.
What a paradox am I right?
That’s not all folks. I have been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, body dysmorphia, and exercise bulimia.
Now that I’ve come clean, let’s get into the story.
Freshman year, I found a love for cheeseburgers and chocolate milkshakes, and I got them every single time I went out to a restaurant. Clearly, my child metabolism stopped, and I started to get noticeably chubbier.
Sophomore year, I knew I had to change, so I went on the Whole 30 diet. Basically, for 30 days, I didn’t consume the following: gluten/grains, dairy, sugar, or processed foods. In other words, it was highly restrictive. It worked, I guess. I lost 13 pounds in a month. I am already a naturally driven person, so once I made weight loss my goal, I went into high gear. This is where the obsession began.
That same year, sophomore year, I went on the Whole 30 diet again in the winter before the musical because I wanted to look the best on the stage.
At one point, my mom hugged me and said that I felt “bird-like”. Whenever I heard this, I didn’t know how to react because the eating disorder was so strong in my mind that I thought that this is what is the goal. Side note: This is not the goal.
No one at school noticed. I hardly noticed.
This is what I actually looked like, and I didn’t even think that there was anything wrong. Looking back at this picture now, I don’t even know who that girl is, but I feel sorry for her.
Fast forward a few months, and I saw a nutritionist. I started eating a little more and I started to gain back some weight. Because I know my own personal triggers, I will not be including any of the weights that I was during high school. Regardless of what year it was, the height and weight test that the nurse did every year was my absolute least favorite thing in the world.
Summer of junior year, I was getting better. I was happy. I was in a relationship, and I thought things were good. (Mind my memory: of course that doesn’t mean I was healed).
I still looked at the menu before I went to every restaurant to find the lowest calorie item on it. I had episodes of starving myself. I had mental breakdowns because I didn’t look how I wanted to look. I felt shame when I looked in the mirror.
Let’s talk about workouts, shall we? From freshman to sophomore to junior year of high school, I was doing explicitly cardio workouts, specifically, HIIT. It was designed to “tone your body into the best form that can be” giving you “lean muscle mass.”
I worked out seven days a week. If I missed a workout or two, I felt useless. I ignored the signs of over exercising, thinking all good athletes fought through pain.
Food occupied my thoughts all day every day. What was I going to eat? How many calories is that? How can I burn that off? It was exhausting.
Flash forward to senior year summer. I met with a personal trainer and got a workout planned for myself. I thought this was it! After eight weeks of doing this program of exercises, I was going to be a mean, lean muscle mass machine!
Like everything else, I set my expectations so high that I couldn’t even see them unless I was on Instagram. I saw that I was gaining muscle and also gaining mass overall, so I stopped. “I don’t want to get bigger” I remember thinking. I started doing a balanced exercise schedule (granted that it still was seven days a week). I would cut out certain foods like processed foods or sugar for 30 days, thinking hopefully that I would lose a ton of weight.
All these behaviors were my way of coping with not accepting my body for the way it was.
Fast forward to present day. I wish I could say that I recovered from all my eating disorders, but that’s not how this works. I’m working on it every single day: listening to my body, giving my body the food it needs, and accepting myself imperfections and all. Now: I have a flexible exercise schedule, I give myself rest days, I live gluten free and plant based, but I still treat myself.
In summary, I’m trying to focus my energy on keeping myself healthy, not working myself to death, and it feels so much better.
I’m writing this article because I wish that someone told me all these things when I was at my worst. If you feel that you can relate to any of these things at all, you’re not alone.
It’s hard: I will never ever say that it is not hard to have any disorder, but this is something that you can recover from. Your main purpose in this life is NOT to be thin or look a certain way. You have so much more to give than your body. Eating that cookie will not make you a lesser person!!!
The 15 year old girl in the picture never would have imagined receiving the most fit award. I did this for her, and anyone else who doesn’t believe they can get better.
I believe in you, and if you ever need to be reminded of that, here’s my email.