The term "anorexia" was first introduced to me at a young age by my father talking about some celebrity.
I remember being in shock and couldn't even fathom physically starving yourself. Throughout middle school and early high school, I remember gossiping about girls who were anorexic or bulimic.
We would stigmatize them and wonder what was wrong with them. I never thought I would develop an eating disorder myself.
My senior year was coming to an end and big changes were quickly approaching.
An unhealthy relationship, a future out of my control, obsessive tendencies and the "clean eating movement" made the perfect combination to trigger my eating disorder.
The eating disorder which once controlled my life has shaped me into the woman I am today.
I didn't overcome my eating disorder weak and insecure, but rose above it, standing tall and beautiful.
I no longer obsess over the calories; I consume and what I need to do to burn them. I no longer worry about every single ingredient I am eating or how many grams of sugar I am consuming.
I no longer let it beat me down; I no longer let it consume my every thought. I no longer surrender to my eating disorder.
However, I will never forget my eating disorder because it has taught me so much.
How incredibly beautiful I am
First and foremost, I am beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. My weight has nothing to do with my beauty.
I remember obsessing over the fact that no guy would ever find me attractive if I had a stomach pooch or jiggly thighs. I remember thinking if I wasn't thin, I would no longer be considered beautiful.
At the start of my senior year I was 117 lbs, completely healthy for my 5'4" self. At the end of my senior year, I was 110 lbs, and a friend said, "Oh you're so skinny! I wish I was little like you."
I loved that; I obsessed over that, and I remember thinking, "Oh I can get even skinnier, I can become more beautiful."
That's when my eating disorder took full force. I thought the secret to beauty was to be thin.
How incredibly strong I am
Reflecting back to those dark days, I remember being so anxious and distraught. I let my eating disorder consume my every thought, every action, every motive and every experience of my life.
I constantly focused on what I was going to eat and how much I was going to eat. Workouts became intense, and I had to burn X amount of calories to stay my "beautiful weight."
I was motivated by my eating disorder to eat only healthy foods and to run this far and this fast for this long.
I also let it guide my social actions: no drinking because those are undesired calories; no social events because that meant mostly comfort food like chips or sweets; no this, no that, etc.
I let my eating disorder rule my life, and it broke me down to a vulnerable state full of insecurity and depression.
I had to let it break me down and reflect on the root of my disorder. A lack of control over all aspects of my life drove me to obsess over something I could control.
It taught me to let things go and trust that things were all going to be okay at the end of the day. It made me stronger than my fears and obsessions, and for that, I am thankful.
I am NOT alone in my struggle
Millions of girls (and guys!) struggle with some form of an eating disorder. We often associate eating disorders with something to be ashamed of, or we think if someone knows our secrets, he or she will treat us differently.
This is your mind controlling you and keeping you a slave to your eating disorder. Seeking help and telling someone is what liberates you from this awful, manipulative disease.
After telling others about my struggle, I have set myself free, but I also discovered I am not alone.
I have discovered many of my friends are struggling with the same cross, and we can help one another carry these heavy burdens.
I have also learned this struggle I have dealt with can be a source of hope, inspiration and courage to others with an eating disorder.
It is something I will always struggle with
Yes, it isn't consuming every thought, every action, every motive and every experience in my life, but it doesn't mean some days I don't slip.
There are days when the struggle is so hard, and I feel so broken and consumed by those two pieces of pizza, that piece of cake or those glasses of wine.
But the difference is, I don't let it control my life. I have grown too strong and made too much progress to let it break me down.
I have to constantly struggle with a sport I fell in love with: running. I once used it as a means to burn calories to help me stay thin, instead of the cathartic exercise that now helps me to relieve stress.
I am not ashamed of my body or eating disorder
I remember when I weighed close to 100 pounds at the end of my freshman year of college; I became hyper-aware of what people said to me.
People would say, "Eat a hamburger or something, you're just skin and bones," or people would poke at my collarbones or shoulders and say, "You're soooo thin."
These remarks would play back over and over in my head.
Well, what am I supposed to look like? I felt like I couldn't win. I felt like no matter what I did, I would never be this beautiful girl I so desperately desired to be.
My eating disorder has taught me not to be ashamed of my body; this was the body I was given, and I am truly blessed to be living in.
You know, I may not have a flat stomach; I may have bones that stick out; my thighs may jiggle and have cellulite, and I may have no boobs whatsoever, but this is MY body and I am not ashamed of it.
I am not ashamed of my eating disorder because without it, I would not be the woman I am today.
My eating disorder broke me down, but it has built me into this confident, life-loving, positive and optimistic woman, and for that I am truly and utterly blessed .
How good ice cream is
Every time I eat ice cream (especially a waffle cone of birthday cake ice cream), I consider it my own personal victory and a reminder of how far I have come.
I now consider it a healthy treat because now, when I eat ice cream, I don't let the vicious cycle of my eating disorder break me down.