February 14, 2011

Defeating an Eating Disorder

Print More

My name is Jordan, and last year, I discovered that I had developed an eating disorder.

The statistics on eating disorders are easy to find, but numbers aren’t what I want to share with you.  Instead, I want to give a voice to an issue that screams silently from so many college-aged women and men, even here at Cornell.

To most people, my life looked as though it was held together pretty well.  Even my closest friends had no clue that something was seriously wrong. I was doing well in classes, leading a successful campus group, and enjoying finally being an upperclassman. But something was wrong.

I never realized it was happening. I woke up one morning feeling especially weak and sick to my stomach, so I e-mailed my professors to let them know I wouldn’t be coming to class that day. It was only after sleeping for a few more hours that I started trying to figure out what could be wrong with me. I realized that I hadn’t had dinner the night before. Or lunch before that. Thinking back farther, I hadn’t had lunch in recent memory, and dinner was a rarity too. Worried, I did what any sane college student would do: I Googled online quizzes about eating disorders. Then I looked up BMI calculators. When all of the results came up the same, I called Gannett in tears. “I think I have an eating disorder.”

I don’t think that there was one particular thing that had gotten me to that point, but looking back, I know that it had been a gradual process. Caught up in all the stress of life and junior year, I hadn’t scheduled any lunch breaks between classes.  I didn’t give myself time to make lunch before leaving in the morning, and buying food on campus made me feel guilty for spending so much money. My bank account was low, so I avoided the grocery store like the plague, thereby leaving me with an empty kitchen. I began to confuse hunger for sleepiness, and would nap every night at dinnertime. I didn’t have the energy to get through the day without copious amounts of coffee, but I assumed it was just because I had so much work to do. After months of this, I found myself in my bed, weak and on the phone with a nurse at Gannett.

Recovering was harder than I expected. I signed myself up for the Cornell Healthy Eating Program, but the pain didn’t just go away. My progress was slow. I didn’t want to gain weight, but I knew that my body needed it to be healthy. Eating was physically difficult: my body was so used to a restricted intake that I would get nauseous any time I tried to eat. I had to start taking digestive enzymes before every meal just so I could keep food down.

Once I started to gain the weight back, my clothes stopped fitting. I was in no way fat, but the raw emotional pain of not being able to zip my skinny jeans was devastating. My therapist at Gannett reminded me over and over again, “Don’t try to fit into clothes: find clothes that fit you.” I don’t think she realized the impact that such a statement would have on my recovery. Expanded, this has become a mantra for my life. I don’t need to try to fit into a particular mold: I can and I will find a way for the world to fit around who I am.

Nearly a year later, I write this as a healthy individual. I am by no means cured: some days present a tremendous struggle. I am, however, much healthier and emotionally stronger than before.  Next week, Feb. 20 to 26, is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.  Please don’t let it pass silently. Take this time to share your story with those closest to you. And reach out to those who may not be as far along in their journey as you are. If there is one thing you take away from my story, let it be that you are not alone.

Jordan Whitlock is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. Guest Room appears periodically throughout the semester.

Original Author: Jordan Whitlock