My Eating Disorder: Looking Back and Moving Forward

Hello, dear friends 🙂

After a long and busy couple of weeks, I have finally found the time to type this post for both you and me. Last week was National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and this is near to my heart because not long ago, I myself struggled with an eating disorder.

I mentioned last week that I shared my eating disorder story with a small group of people for the Boston University Nutrition Club’s NEDA week event. I had seen that the club put NEDA week as an event on their calendar, so I reached out and offered to share any sort of support or personal account. Thus, the club officers invited me to speak about my story following a discussion about eating disorders led by Jennifer Culbert, MS, RD, LD.

And now, here I am to share some bits and pieces of my story with all of you. Since I told a lot of my story for NEDA week last year, I am going to focus on some aspects of my eating disorder that I did not cover in that post. In retrospect, I’ve learned just how deep my obsessions ran and how profoundly (and negatively) those affected my life. As the theme of NEDA week states, when I was in the midst of my eating disorder, I had no idea.

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P.S. Grab a seat and some coffee or tea. This is a long one. 🙂

My obsession with body image started when I was only 7 years old. I did not even realize this until recently. The more I tell people that I used to figure skate when I was younger, the more I remember how I used to compare myself to other girls. No one ever pressured me to have a certain physique when I figure skated or danced, but I think the performance aspect of both sports comes with a hyper-awareness of aesthetics.

I distinctly remember wanting to have nicer legs and a six pack. At seven years old. I skated with one girl who had muscular quads and hamstrings, and I wondered why my legs didn’t look like hers. I was a fit young’n who trained several hours per week, supplemented with Pilates and ballet, but why didn’t my body look as toned or fit? My negative self-image made me believe I was weaker.

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My insecurities went haywire when I gained a little weight. The natural perfectionist in me freaked out when I saw in photos and dance audition videos that my hips were wider and my legs were bigger. Rather than embracing my womanly curves, I wanted to run far away from them.

I would “pull” at my fat constantly and make negative comments about myself. I know I’m not the only one who was (and occasionally still is) guilty of the fat-grabbing. I’m not saying that this kind of self-awareness is intrinsically bad, but when we pass the line of self-awareness into the territory of self-hatred, that’s when we need to make a conscious effort to change our mindset.

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I turned to healthy living blogs for my first source of advice, but I took the information completely out of context. Now, we all know that Jenn’s fantastic What I Ate Wednesday linkup is NOT about comparison, restriction, or judgement, but as a girl whose self-esteem was diminishing and desire to lose weight was augmenting, I didn’t take those rules to heart. I read blogs for a year or so before starting Daily Moves and Grooves, and when I first started reading, it was to find weight loss advice.

“She only had 1300 calories in a day, so that means I need to have 1250.”

“No more than exactly one tablespoon of nut butter at breakfast. That’s the standard.”

“She only ate one afternoon snack. I should limit myself to one as well.”

All I can say now is, what in the flippin’ heck!? I wish I could take younger Alison by the shoulders, give her a nudge on the forehead, and tell her, “YOU’RE NOT THAT PERSON. You’re an active, growing person. Your future self needs you to EAT.”

This was my dinner on a regular basis in the midst of my eating disorder. Lettuce leaves, fruit, a smidgen of cheese, and a drizzle of dressing to end a day of school, activities, dance, and studying.

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Had a major salad for dinner! 🍮

A post shared by Alison (@alison_grooves) on

Calorie counting escalated my obsessions very quickly. Calorie counting works for some people, and that’s great! But it absolutely did not and still does not work well for me in terms of my mental health. Where there are numbers, there is critical analysis for me.

I would hide my phone whenever I was counting calories at the table. Day by day, I would cut back just a few more calories, and if I went over my “daily allowance,” I needed to compensate by restricting even more the next day and exercising ASAP.

I did have an idea that what I was doing was unhealthy. There were a lot of signs pointing to the fact that my behavior was unhealthy. I mean, I knew to hide my calorie-counting. My dance teachers called home. My hair fell out excessively. I was always cold. A priest told me I was getting skinny. I wasn’t completely naive, but my behaviors became ingrained habits, and they continued to snowball.

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I felt a false sense of discipline and pride in the fact that I allowed myself to starve. All the signs that I just mentioned meant that I was getting skinnier, and that’s all that mattered to me anymore. “What was health if I wasn’t skinny? I feel like I’m about to faint? Good. I have self-discipline.”

I had to see that someone else was hurting due to my actions in order to change. My big turning point occurred when my dad confronted me with tears in his eyes and slight anger in his voice. He told me once and for all that I what I was doing to myself was unhealthy and that I had an obligation as his daughter and God’s daughter to stop my habits.

I realize today that eating disorders do not only hurt the victim himself/herself; they hurt the victims’ loved ones too. The more I meet people, especially close friends, who struggle with eating disorders, the more I realize how painful it is to watch them seemingly trapped in an unhealthy, self-loathing mindset. I also remember being cranky, stubborn, and hostile to others who changed my eating habits/schedule, even if they did not intend to.

Healthy living blogs have taken a new and improved role in my life. Both blogging and reading blogs have been a huge part of my support system during recovery. Whereas my focus was on calories and comparison when reading blogs before, my focus now is on overall health of the mind, body, and spirit. I cannot express how much I thank all of you for your support, whether you blog or not, comment or not. You all keep me going.

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The way I look at food will never be the same. And that’s not a bad thing. I feel as though once you’ve experienced an eating disorder, food never really has the same role in your life as it once did before you ever fell into an eating disorder.

When I was younger, food was fun, delicious, and often just a necessity.

During my eating disorder, food was something I so desperately wanted, but I made it the enemy.

Today, food is again fun, delicious, and a necessity, but I appreciate 100x more how important it is in keeping our incredibly created bodies in motion every day. I still know the number of calories in many foods, and there are the rare occasions when I feel guilty about eating something. But overall, my mindset has made a complete 180.

I’ve learned when I need to eat, even if I’m not hungry. I’ve learned that dessert in moderation (and sometimes not-so-in-moderation) is a good thing. I’ve learned that healthy food makes me feel good, junk food makes me feel meh, but there’s a place for both in my life/stomach, because they’re both delicious.

I am stronger, both physically and mentally now. Besides gaining a lot more physical strength now that I’m feeding myself properly, I’ve gained more mental and emotional strength than ever before thanks to recovery.

Just a few months ago, one of my close and beloved family members expressed that he thinks my legs are fat. If I had heard this at any point before last year, I probably would have spiraled into depression because my legs used to be the body part of mine which I despised the most.

But when I heard this comment a few months ago, I honestly just laughed it off. Yes, I was slightly hurt, but I know myself. I know my legs are naturally chunkier, but hey, more power to them. They carry me through an insane amount of activity throughout the day, not even including my workouts. If my legs’ abilities and strength have to be compromised in order for them to look skinny, then to hell with that. That being said, if they never look like a CrossFitter’s legs, that’s fine too.

If you have naturally skinny legs, embrace them. If you have naturally thicker legs, embrace them. If they’re somewhere in between, embrace them. They do a lot for you.

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If we can find beauty in others, then it is indeed possible to find beauty within ourselves. <— This right here is paraphrasing what my friend Lauren said during a Bible study last semester. We tell our friends how beautiful they are and how great they look all the time, and I like to believe that we’re genuine in saying these comments. So why not genuinely believe that we ourselves are beautiful too? Not just our bodies, but our personalities, our spirits, our smiles.

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The human body is an amazing instrument, which is why we want to treat it well. Treating the body well does not equate to attaining a certain shape or size. Rather, treating the body well equates to energizing, moving, resting, and loving it. And I believe that the body is just one element of God’s crowning creation of the whole human person. Energize, move, rest, and love your soul too. ♄

Holy moly.

The End.

Love you.

So tell me:

Anything about everything on this topic.

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Behind the Scenes #11: I Used to Have Hips

Hi guys!

Your comments on yesterday’s post seriously made my heart sing and dance with appreciation. Honestly, I was so nervous that my thoughts on the whole “blogging niche” thing wouldn’t make sense to anyone, and I would be given weird stares through the computer screen. Maybe that did happen and you’re not telling me, but whatever the case, I want to say thank you from the bottom of my peanut butter-loving heart. That’s a special place in my heart ya know. 😉

Today happens to be one of those days in which I would like to participate in a linkup (actually, I always want to participate in these random thoughts posts hosted by the amazing Amanda)! 

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This week’s edition of Thinking Out Loud will be focused on one of my biggest past struggles— my eating disorder. On Monday, Amanda posted about NEDA (National Eating Disorder Awareness) week, and suggested that any bloggers with past eating disorders make their Thinking Out Loud posts about their thoughts and experiences on the issue. This will surely be a more somber post than usual, but perhaps a look behind the scenes of my disorder could help raise awareness about something that so often torments young women (and men).

1. I distinctly remember the first time I was really not satisfied with my body. I was watching a video of myself dancing that I was going to send to the Orlando Ballet School as an audition tape. The thing that made me cringe the most: my hips. They were wider than I would have liked, but in reality, they were just feminine curves. The thing that pushed me further into my negative body image was comparison. A lot of my friends were petite and skinny, and I was NOT diggin’ the fact that I didn’t look just like them.

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For a little light-heartedness 🙂

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2. I think I followed the path of many others who have struggled with eating disorders. Initially, I just wanted to shed a few pounds, become healthier, and exercise more. (I didn’t even need to lose weight at all. Sure, I gained some weight, but that’s what happens to growing teenagers. I failed to realize that.) Then entered the calorie counting, fitspiration, and reading up on how to eat less. Before I knew it, my initial intentions magnified month after month into a monster that just wanted skinny.

3. I would try to hide my phone from my friends and family as I counted calories on it. One chip? That goes into the log. Gummy vitamins? Those as well. I would also overestimate calories BIG time, leaving me with fewer calories in my body every day.

4. A lot of people say they never knew that I had disordered habits because I was always snacking and excited to have food. Little did they know that everything I ate was calculated, and I was so enthusiastic about food because I was starving a lot of the time.

5.. The delicious cheesy pastas, noodle soups, and fried rice that my mom made so generously for the family were never touched by me. I had eaten those things every day prior to my eating disorder, and I was fine back then! But during my eating disorder, those foods became enemies. I cut out most carbs, most meats, most desserts, and anything that had an unknown number of calories. On the rare occasion that I did eat one of those things, I would invest extra time in estimating how many calories I would have to shave off my next meal.

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6. The thing that hurts me the most: I would be judgmental and critical towards my family for what they ate. It makes me want to cry thinking about my attitude. I’m so sorry, family. Please also forgive me when some remnants of those comments come out to this day.

7. I went to bed thinking about food and woke up thinking about food. I didn’t have enough of it in my system, but I still restricted myself day after day. If anything interfered with my meal plan for the day, I would secretly (or sometimes not so secretly) be angry, frustrated, and anxious. Same thing goes for workouts. No workout=not a happy Alison.

8. At the time my eating disorder began to heighten, I was dancing for 5-6 hours a day. After the summer dance program ended, I continued to increase my exercise. Ate a few too many craisins? Gotta work it off ASAP. I thought I was doing great things for myself by increasing my strength and stamina. Although this did happen to an extent, I was compromising my overall health in the process.

9. Cold. All the time. At my school’s homecoming soccer game two years ago, my body was trembling from the cold, and nothing could make me warm. I was bundled up, I was jumping around, but I was still freezing. Everyone else was cold too, but I was suffering. My body did not have enough insulation or energy to keep me warm.

10. My dance teacher called my parents, expressing concern over my lack of energy, drawn face, and weight loss. A priest at my church even asked me why I looked so skinny! That’s when you know…

11. I knew that I wasn’t doing something right for my body, but the habits were too difficult to break
on my own. As my habits became more alarming, my parents reciprocally became concerned. God intervened through my father one day when we were on vacation in Florida. My mom had accidentally bought 10% Greek yogurt instead of fat free, and terrified of all that fat, I asked her if she could exchange it for fat free. She later talked to my dad about my request, and I later learned that he became both angry and deeply saddened. The morning after this, he put on his “dad face” with raised eyebrows, and I knew that I was in trouble for something. He told me to go weigh myself, and when I did, we saw a number that was way too low. I had lost weight since my doctor’s appointment the month before, and we both knew it. Then and there, with tears in his eyes, my dad said, “As your father, I am telling you to eat. And as my daughter, you are to obey me.” As hesitant and fearful as I was, I knew I had to obey. Not just for me, but for my family and for God. Because how the heck can I serve Him if I’m withering away to nothing?

That’s when my recovery started. When we got back to NY, my dad took me to an awesome nutritionist who was able to teach me the how and why of fueling my body. I am so fortunate to have a family that was able to pull me out before my eating disorder became any worse.

12. Blog-reading and blogging myself have been gifts in this process. Without the support, love, and experience from so many bloggers and readers out there, this would have been ten times more difficult. Thank you.


Phew. We made it to 12 thoughts, and now I’m getting teary-eyed here. All I can say is: Thanks be to God that things have changed tremendously for the better. This journey has impacted me so deeply that I actually wrote my college essay about it. It hasn’t been easy or straightforward at all, but it’s been a wonderful learning experience. 

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I just found this on Pinterest— how appropriate that it’s 12 steps to recovery! Even if it is technically for Alcoholics Anonymous
It can apply to eat disorders too. 😉

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I hope you all have a lovely day!

Feel free to share any of your thoughts and experiences with disordered eating if applicable.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder and would like aid and/or support, you can visit the NEDA website for more information. Also, feel free to email me at dailymovesandgrooves@gmail.com if you want to talk about anything!

Things do get better ♄