Eating Disorder Rules Are Meant to Be Broken

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By Morganne Skinner, Guest Contributor

I clearly remember the day my eating disorder started. Of course, I didn't recognize it as then at the time. But looking back, I remember the day things changed. It all started in high school. I was at a rowing event for my crew team when my coach made a comment about not needing to eat if you didn't work out that day. And it was then I made my first connection to body and performance.

I was in 9th grade, rowing for the high school crew team and running cross country. I started monitoring my diet and following the latest diet trends to try to be the best athlete I could be. I wanted to eat healthy. And at first, I did. But somehow "healthy" turned into eating less overall, which then turned into nothing at all, which then turned into bingeing and purging as I struggled to maintain a slim figure, believing that the smaller and lighter I was, the better an athlete I would be. 

Fast forward 4 years. I felt stuck in my eating disorder. In the beginning, I didn't know I had a problem. It was only when I wanted to stop bingeing and purging that I realized I had a problem, that I was out of control. Although I was in a smaller-sized body, people assumed I was healthy, and that my exercise and food restriction were part of my healthy lifestyle. 

But I wasn't healthy at all. Not physically, not mentally, not spiritually, and certainly not socially. 

This all continued through college, until I opened up about my struggles to my boyfriend (now husband), who strongly encouraged me to seek help. I knew I had to change and made the efforts toward recovery. But in my efforts to recover, I swapped my anorexia/bulimia eating disorder for orthorexia. I thought I had recovered, but really I just moved my disordered habits around so they appeared acceptable.

To the outside world, I was a healthy vegan who ran a lot. I looked strong, smart and healthy. And I even thought I was. This "healthier pattern" of disordered eating kept up for a few more years, past college, and into married life and my nursing career. 

I joined the Peace Corps with my husband and moved across the world to Zambia, Africa where I began working in a rural village. My whole life changed, and amidst the many different stressors, my eating disorder habits reared its head.

I thought it was gone. I thought I had recovered. But, I wasn’t ok. I was running daily and maintaining a vegan diet that gave me control through food restriction and overexercise. So, when my routine changed with the move to another country, my mind fell back on old habits. But this time was different; I recognized it was happening. Struck with fear of falling back into anorexia and bulimia, I reached out for help to my husband and began the journey of renewing my mind. 

It's been a year since, and I've made ALOT of progress in my mental health. I am continuing to work on it. Every day my self-talk is either strengthening my mental health or tearing it down. I now realize the power my thoughts have over my mindset and overall health.

I learned that some rules I have made for myself had to be broken, that my relationship with food is more important than the food itself. I learned that my long-term health and well-being are more important than short-term appearance or accomplishments.

But most of all, I have learned to love and accept myself. My body has been through a lot, and it does amazing things. It's the only body I have, and it's mine. It doesn't have to look a certain way or be a certain size to be worthy of self-love or self-care. 

I am the happiest I've ever been. Are things perfect? No! I still have off days, but they're the exception and not the rule. I have control over my day, over my life again, and it is so freeing!

I am still living in Zambia with my husband, and although we face many challenges that come with living in a different culture, I am happier because I'm finally able to enjoy relationships, to enjoy meals, to enjoy relaxing days when they come. And I wouldn't trade it for anything.

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I am Morganne Skinner. I am 24-years-old. I grew up in Virginia in the United States. In high school, I ran cross country, ran track & field, rowed on a crew team, and swam on the swim team. After high school, I went to community college to study nursing. I began working in the ICU as a Registered Nurse and went to Liberty University for my bachelor’s degree in nursing. Currently, I am a Peace Corps volunteer in Zambia, where I teach about aquaculture, sustainable agriculture, nutrition and food security.