If It Hadn't Been For Them: A Story of Eating Disorder Recovery
By Samantha Brior, Guest Contributor
“And the winner of Season 5 Biggest Loser is, Alli!” I sat on the bed in my college apartment watching confetti fly across the television screen as Alli smiled big in triumph. “If she can do it, I can too!” I thought to myself. It was early spring, and I had a cruise coming up the end of July. I had always wanted to lose some weight, and the cruise seemed enough motivation to do so.
How much weight did I need to lose, was the question.
I studied several BMI charts and researched what the “ideal weight” for my height. I was shocked when I saw the number—a whopping 40 pounds less than what I weighed! I has always thought I had a little bit of extra weight, but not that much! The charts must be true, I figured. To achieve a 40-pound weight loss by the time I set sail on the cruise, I would need to lose exactly 10 pounds a month. It seemed like a lot, but I was determined.
Two months down of working out with no days off and eating right, I was down twenty pounds and felt great. I started getting praise from all my friends and people I hadn’t seen in a while for how different I looked. “You look great!” they would say, and I would respond, “Well thanks, but I am only half way there!” And they would look at me like I was crazy.
At this time, I had an extremely busy schedule. I was working an internship, taking 3 summer courses, and making time each day to go to the gym. My boyfriend at the time began mentioning more frequently that he was upset he never really got to see me. Instead of scheduling more time to spend with him, I took his comments as an attack and that he wanted to deter me from my weight loss goals, which pulled us apart even further.
The day of the cruise was finally here, and I had made my goal. I should have felt excited that I actually really did it, but instead I didn’t. The cruise up being more of a pain than anything. I needed to wake up super early to get my workouts in before we got off the boat for excursions. I was freezing all of the time, and I had to wear a sweatshirt over all of my nice clothes because I was so cold. I fought with my family because there were a lot of days where I wasn’t hungry and didn’t want to eat.
When we got home from the cruise, college had started up again and my family sought out a doctor who specialized in eating disorders. Although I hated going, I agreed to go to humor them that I was okay. The next few weeks in college became really difficult. I had aced my summer classes. Now, I would read a page and immediately forget what I had just read.
One day at work a sharp pain ran up my neck and I immediately couldn’t catch my breath. I was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. Although I wasn’t diagnosed with having a heart attack, my body was definitely trying to tell me something.
The next week I had gone to the doctor with my family and after I had gotten done stepping off the scale, the doctor looked at my mom and said, “If she loses any more weight she needs to go to the hospital. She lost another ten pounds since she was here!” I was now ten pounds under my goal weight and I just couldn’t stop for fear of gaining weight.
After we left the doctors, my family and I went to lunch and then back to my apartment. I sat on the couch with my mom and sobbed because I knew this was it, I had hit rock bottom. I looked at her and said, “I can’t go back to eating normally on my own, I know I can’t.” My mom squeezed my hand and pulled out my insurance cards and started dialing eating disorder programs. That was the day a piece of Sam, although barely there, had started to come back.
I owe a huge chunk of my recovery to my family, especially my sister who saw that I had a problem and didn’t care how hard I resisted her help. If it hadn't been for them, who knows what would have happened to me. Possibly a heart attack…or worse.
Since that day on the couch with my mom, when I owned that I needed help, I’ve had a couple of relapses, only one major. I would be lying if I said I don’t ever on occasion find myself thinking eating disorder thoughts. On stressful days eating disorder tendencies try to sneak up on me. The difference today is that I recognize them and can deal with them effectively before they start to take over. This ability certainly did not happen overnight. It took practice, patience and a lot of work on myself.
I am proud for how far I have come, especially when I remember how afraid I once was to chew more than a certain number of pieces of gum. I was lucky in my recovery because I think my eating disorder was more about appearance versus a deeper underlying issue.
Recovery is possible. It doesn’t happen overnight. It is uncomfortable, and it is terrifying, but once you get through it, you’ll look back and say “Damn, that was worth it.”
Samantha Brior lives in Northeast Pennsylvania with her dog Chica. She is the founder of safesams.com, a website where she shares her recipes for her Orchard Spice Bars, which are snack bars she specifically designed for people in recovery for their eating disorders. Check out her recipes and unique blog at safesams.com.