At first it seemed so unique. So special and isolated. It wasn’t until I had been in this field for a while before I realized my story starts out the same as a lot of other people who have struggled with an eating disorder: a distorted body image that started way too early.
In second grade I was comparing my private school uniform sizes to those of my friends on a playdate.
In third grade I wasted too many birthday, eyelash, and shooting star wishes on being thinner and losing weight (coupled with the wish to ride on an airport baggage claim carousel, which has yet to be fulfilled).
In fourth grade I remember lying in bed with a pair of scissors, wishing more than anything that I could just cut off that chunk of fat on my stomach.
In fifth grade I remember boasting that after being sick for a week with the stomach flu that I had dropped 8 pounds.
I was young and full of adventure. I lived for playdates with my friends. Sleepovers and pool parties cluttered my summer. But I could never get rid of the nagging feeling that I was bigger and weighed more than my friends. There was always a little voice that would tell me my stomach was too big to wear that swimsuit.
To change into my pajamas in the bathroom because no one wanted to see my thighs.
That I shouldn’t have popcorn AND candy during the movie.
In middle school I was AWKWARD. Not the typical braces and crocs awkward that everyone can relate to. I mean awkward in the sense that I had braces, and awful haircut, and a horrible sense of style. (Think: sundress over a long-sleeved t shirt over jeans). I didn’t know where I fit in, and I definitely didn’t feel like I deserved to fit in. That voice had gotten louder. It told me to eat salad for lunch. It told me to skip that pool party. It told me I was disgusting, fat, and overweight.
But one day, that voice wasn’t just internal. It wasn’t just me beating myself up. One day, that voice came from a boy in my class who walked right up to me in the hallway and told me how fat I looked.
That night I threw up my dinner for the first time. That night started a cycle of harmful eating habits, excessive workouts, and a pattern of binging and purging that would last way too long. In my mind, if I had all these thoughts, and he said them, then they must be true.
These thoughts, that voice, and those actions affected me for too long. I blame this partially on the lack of education on eating disorders and mental illnesses. My knowledge was limited, and what I did know scared the hell out of me. All I knew was that something in my brain wasn’t matching up. I didn’t know that 4 out of 10 Americans will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives. I didn’t know that eating disorders were the mental illness with the highest mortality rate. I didn’t know that I wasn’t alone. I didn’t know that I wasn’t the only one with this story.
Written By: Becca Schollaert
Emily Estes lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with her Goldendoodle pup, Miss Adley Mae. Recovery from her own struggle with an eating disorder, anxiety, and depression has led Emily to create community and resources to empower others on the journey. Emily owns Sage Nutrition, LLC where she serves as a Registered Dietitian. Her work revolves around her motto that "food is meant to nourish our bodies, not nurture us."