*WARNING: this post contains vivid descriptions of what I did to lose weight. Please take aware what I did was very harmful to my body and that this is not a healthy method to lose weight. If this might trigger you, please do not read on. The intention of this post is for you to get to know about my journey of how I became anorexic and how Ana was a manifestation of what had become my habitual critical judgmental way of thinking after 10 years.
More of Ana, less of Gaby
I went back to Edinburgh for the start of year 2. I began researching what foods can help you lose weight, voluminous foods, to eat more veggies and fruits since they are filled with fibre and fill you up. I cut off all carbs and fat.
I began incessantly calorie counting.
I portioned out my meals.
I weighed every single gram of food.
I went on a strict eating and fitness routine. Breakfast was a small bowl of plain oatmeal with some grapes. Lunch was yogurt with blueberries and some granola. Dinner was a plate of steamed / raw veggies. I ran for 2 hours every afternoon.
I drank 3-5 cups of black coffee a day because I learned that it was a natural appetite suppressant.
I also drank green and matcha tea because I learned that it naturally increases your body’s metabolism, helping you lose weight even more.
I ate a lot of apples since they fill you up and stay in your stomach longer without having too much calories in them.
I did everything imaginable in order to lose weight. and it worked.
I stepped on the scale again after a few weeks and the scale read 47kg. This was sometime in the morning October 2012.
My period had stopped.
Losing weight became my ultimate goal. I had unconsciously tied my self worth to it. My perfectionism had gone into overdrive and it wasn’t stopping anytime soon. Ana was very happy.
No more Gaby
Life descended into whirlwind spiral after that.
The workload for law became too much for me. 2nd year was horrendous. There was too many things to read, too many things to understand, too many things to write, too many things to do.
Ana started speaking up. ‘You don’t deserve to eat that, that essay you submitted wasn’t good enough. Go for a run instead.’
And when I didn’t complete a 2-hour run because of the wind had become too strong, Ana spoke even louder. ‘How weak of you to not be able to finish that run. You don’t deserve to eat dinner.’
I didn’t realize that I had grown fearful of food. Eating had become painful. Every bite became excruciating. There were some days where all I could eat was only half a portion of soup and some asparagus sticks.
I didn’t realize that Ana was a manifestation of my own critical mind to which I had been operating on for the past decade. So I just continued to subconsciously listen to her. All that mattered was pleasing Ana. Ana became the validation of my self-worth.
As a result, I continued to still losing weight.
By this time my body had gone into starvation mode. I did not have enough energy to keep my body warm- I was forever cold, and the many layers (and I wore a lot, 2 thick socks, wore thermal trousers under my jeans and about 5 layers of clothing, plus a thick scarf and gloves). It still wasn’t enough, I was still freezing and endlessly shivering.
I didn’t realize I was hurting my own body.
All I could think of was how to lose the next kilogram. How much calories was in that food. How I could burn off the calories I consumed. How undeserving I was to experience the pleasures of life.
As I struggled to keep up with my workload, I became socially isolated. I said no to any sort of social interaction, especially that had anything to do with food.
Life started happening. Relationship drama, feeling homesick, the workload. The severely cold weather.
I couldn’t take it anymore. As I felt my life spiral out of control, I latched onto the only thin I could control, which was my food intake.
As a result of underfeeding, my hands started hurting. I couldn’t type properly anymore in lectures. Things started getting blurry. I would have mental fogs where I couldn’t seem to think clearly.
My legs started becoming weak. I would fall or stumble during my jog and huge bruises covered my thighs and calf. I was forced to stop running eventually since the weather had gone too cold and I had no more energy left.
Ana was the only voice I could hear at this point. She would tell me how weak I was, how selfish I was, how I was not good enough. How I needed to exercise harder so that I could lose more weight. How I needed to eat less, since I was underserving of any morsel of food.
It was mid-December. I was surviving only on fruits and twigs of veggies.
The world had gone dark and cold.
To celebrate Christmas and New Years, my friends and I had planned a trip to go to London and Paris.
As much as I wanted to have fun, I couldn’t. I had no energy to have fun. I couldn’t eat anything my friends were eating, despite we were visiting to all yummy restaurants.
Ana wouldn’t let me and I didn’t have the courage to rebel.
When I tried to take a bite of a pastry or delicious crusty bread or sweet treats, her overly critical voice would scream and say, ‘No you don’t deserve this. You can’t have this. Look at all the hard work you have done to lose all this weight. You will ruin it if you take that bite.’
I survived on mostly small pots of yogurt and berries on that trip.
After the New Year and as I returned to Edinburgh, I was 38kg.
I couldn’t sit comfortably anymore since I had lost my butt. I could only feel my tailbone sticking through.
I couldn’t type anymore in my lectures, so the only thing I could do was record it.
I couldn’t sleep anymore since laying down was excruciatingly painful.
I had to be very careful every time I walked, since if I bumped into something, I would get a huge black bruise.
What my used to be long luscious black hair, started falling out in clumps.
The only thing I could do was sit next to the heater, wrapped in a big blanket.
I started crying for no apparent reason.
Even in the moments of clarity, I couldn’t feel anything anymore. I felt empty.
I felt I was slowly drowning in a deep dark hole and I couldn’t tell the difference anymore to what was real or not.
I thought I was losing my mind.
I felt constantly lost.
I didn’t know who I was anymore.
2 of my good friends, sat me down one evening in a coffee shop and asked me what was wrong? What happened? How come I had lost so much weight? When was the last time I felt happy?
I didn’t know how to answer them. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I didn’t know how I had gone from the energetic life-loving girl who can eat anything she wanted turned had turned into this obsessive, food fearing girl who couldn’t eat anything anymore. What was worse was that I couldn’t remember the last time I actually felt happy.
Ana had taken over and I had become so out of touch with myself that I didn’t know what things in life brought me joy. I couldn’t remember the last time I smiled or laughed.
I came home and looked into the mirror. My friends had told me that I looked so small and fragile. I was skin and bones, but I couldn’t see what they were describing. I thought I looked just fine.
*There are physical reasons why I thought I looked fine. There’s research that have said due to lack of nutrition the part of our brain that processes spatial visual seeing becomes impaired. There’s also research that says due to the rapid weight loss, our perception of how we see ourselves has not fully caught up with the reality of how our bodies look like.
What I’m talking about here is much more than just skin deep. We see what we choose to see. Up until that moment, I had gotten used to living without being true to myself. Without having emotional closure with all of my traumatic childhood, I had made the subconscious decision that I could live in my mind. I had gotten used to simply ‘brushing off’ any strong feelings I get under the carpet and sought security in the rationality of my mind.
It was one of the reasons why I couldn’t answer the question my friends had asked me, ‘What makes you happy?’ I didn’t know what makes me happy because I never thought of paying attention to it. I never learned that taking care of our emotions is just as important as taking care of our physical bodies. In denying my heart, I was cutting off a substantial part of who I was.
I was raised and grew up believing that to show any vulnerability or feelings makes us weak. Ever since my recovery, I learned that it’s the contrary. Our emotions is an integral part of who we are. When we deny our hearts, it will seek to feed itself elsewhere. As I sought security in the rationality of my mind (initially it was logic and grades, thinking that I could have control over my life through calorie counting, portioning out food, weighing myself on the scale) my heart sought feeding from people’s approval, putting other’s happiness before mine, got emotionally involved with guys that did not treat me well but felt I could help them. My heart was yearning to be loved. But on a deep level, I had believed that I didn’t deserve to be loved.
In order to heal fully, I needed to let myself feel.
I had to open up my heart.
This wasn’t easy after 10 years of being it closed up. There were many feeling that I needed to feel and listen to and sort out the thoughts behind those feelings that had taken root in in my subconscious mind.
I needed to surrender my thinking and acknowledge that I needed help.
I remember praying and feeling that there had to be a better way of life than living the way I was living. Life isn’t hard, or painful, or filled with sadness or betrayal. It was just that was the kind of life I was exposed to up until that point in my life.
In order to heal or be ‘unstuck’ in our life, we need to be open to a better way of thinking than the currently one we are operating on.
The life that we’re meant to live is filled with love, beauty, happiness, flow, grace, and hope for our future. Life is good. But we can only see good when we choose to see it. Even more so, we need to believe, deep down, that we’re worthy of living a good life.
Stay tuned for part III: More of Gaby, Less of Ana
I will show how:
-I listened to my feelings and show you why it’s important in taking care of them. Your feelings are responsible for your heart’s well-being. It can also be your sign points to the parts of you that need paying attention to. It’s also why when we tend to feel depressed or frustrated that we feel relief when we eat chocolate or our comfort food. When in actuality, food will not give us emotional relief. When we learn to feel our feelings and we can begin to seek emotional fulfillment in the right places.
In sharing about my experience in meeting Ana, I hope that some of you will be able to relate to what I went through. I understand the difficulty and struggles in living with and recovering from an eating disorder. This Be Fre(ed) series is dedicated to helping those of you who may be struggling with food, or body image, or feel trapped in their minds with negative / harmful thoughts that may be weighing you down.
I want to get to know YOU more, what are some of the struggles that you have with food or body image? If you are recovering from an ED, what are some of the difficulties that you have been encountering?
Feel free to comment below, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also connect with me via Instagram @wellnesstogo, Facebook, or Twitter @thewellnesstogo. I read every single email, or comment that comes through and will answer to your questions! I am here to serve you so that you can find food, body, and mind freedom, and be the healthiest, happiest and most loving version of yourself!