Honestly, I was SO nervous about recording my episode with Ryann. I had never told my story outside of therapy and with close loved ones, let alone recorded it for a podcast. In the days leading up, I told myself not to plan it out so as not to come across as scripted because, knowing me, it would. But I also wanted to remember key points I wanted to share. The day of, it felt like my nerves got the best of me, and I felt like an incoherent mess. Thanks to Ryann’s support and editing skills, my story sounds a lot less messy hahaha
Here is a written version of my story, including some parts I skipped over in the recording and want to mention now. Let’s get into it…
Part 1: Life Before ED
I grew up in a pretty normal household in terms of food. Yes, my nickname as a baby and toddler was “gordita” (which means little fat girl in Spanish – not an ill-intended nickname on my family’s part) because I was a chubby baby… but this didn’t phase me as a child. My family was overall healthy, with my mom being the classic ‘healthy mom.’ She was a marathon runner, cooked us balanced meals every day, and mainly kept healthy snacks in the house (with a few fun snacks as well). I have no memory of my mom dieting when I was a kid and while my dad would back and forth diet, my parents' individual relationships with food never impacted how I viewed and treated food as a kid.
Throughout elementary and high school, I rarely thought about my body, ate when I was hungry and stopped when I was full. I was always active, on different sports teams and playing with neighbors. I joined the cheer team in 9th grade and was made a flyer because of my small stature. My frame was naturally thinner, and I was short for my age. Then in 11th grade, I started to grow… fast. I shot up from about 5’2 to 5’6 or 5’7 and was kept as a flyer. This made me more aware of my body, and I felt like I was taking up too much space in the air and was a burden on my bases. Senior year, I was switched to a back spot and returned to not thinking about my body so much.
Then I went to college….
Part 2: College Years (Enter ED)
I started my freshman year at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2017. I was nervous and excited, and still a regular eater. I became friendly with some girls on my floor and my roommate and had a pretty typical freshman fall semester. I wasn’t necessarily happy, but I was faking it until I made it, so to speak. Then I joined a sorority during freshman spring, quickly realized it wasn’t for me, and dropped out. I really started to feel unhappy at Carolina. I was done faking it until I made it, I didn’t feel connected to anyone or anything there, and I felt alone. So, I decided to transfer for my sophomore year… BUT, by the time I decided to transfer, I had missed the deadline for fall applications. I was devastated. Also helpful to mention that I became much more aware of my body and food around this time, as “freshman 15” was thrown around constantly. I made some efforts to ‘be healthier,’ but nothing drastic yet.
Summer came, and I worked at an all-day day camp as a counselor. I considered going to the community college at home instead of returning back to Carolina in the fall but ultimately decided to come back for the last semester before transferring. This was when things took a turn for me.
Fall of 2018, I’m back at Carolina, living with the same roommate I did last year, but now more estranged, as I had started to isolate myself last year a bit. Did I mention I was also newly single? I was not in a stable mental place, to say the least. I felt helpless being back at a place where I felt so alone and unhappy and needed something to control. I decided, “if I can’t control the fact that I'm here right now, I can control my health,” and I started pursuing a “healthy diet.”
I discovered intermittent fasting online and immediately picked that up. I downloaded My Fitness Pal and started tracking calories. I started exercising longer and more often. I felt like I had at least one aspect of my life together. Only I didn’t. All of these seemingly innocent habits snowballed quickly. I was starving myself, overexercising to compensate for everything I ate, and punishing myself every day for being “bad” and breaking the incredibly rigid rules of my ED. My constant state of being was depleted, but I thought I was being healthy. And it was an added perk that I had lost some weight… because skinny was good, right?
I eventually left Carolina and transferred to Boston College. Here, my ED morphed to fit my new life and schedule in Boston. I was drinking and eating more with new friends, and my body started to change from Carolina. This was when I began to hate my body. This was when my desire to shrink my body was brought to the forefront.
My obsessive exercise leveled up, I got a fitness tracker, and continued to restrict restrict restrict. I started using alcohol as a weekend escape, then spiraled into guilt and shame during the week. Then COVID hit.
Part 3: Living at Home
Moving home because of COVID forced my ED to morph yet again. I couldn’t practice my rituals alone, eat alone, or spend hours by myself exercising. I lived in a small apartment with my mom and sister, and they started picking up on my habits.
My mom eventually tried to confront me (kindly) about her observations, and I exploded. At the time, it was me and my eating disorder against the world, including my own family. That interaction didn’t end well, and I continued doing what I was doing, striving to shrink my body every day.
During the last few weeks of summer before my senior year, I started to feel tired. I was always physically tired, but I mean mentally tired of keeping up with the impossible-to-meet standards and demands of my eating disorder. I planned to talk to my mom before leaving for school about possibly having an issue with food… and didn’t. I left for school and continued following my ED without hesitation.
My first turning point was early in the fall of 2020. I was in the midst of my forced morning workout (the one that would make it okay for me to eat my ‘breakfast’) and I just burst into tears. I was done at that moment. I couldn’t continue doing what I was doing, living how I was living. I hated my body, the exhaustion, everything… and I just felt done. I called my family that day and told them I had an issue, and they said they knew. This was when I started therapy.
Part 4: Recovery
I technically started recovery in the fall of 2020 but was not ready for it. I quickly dropped out of ED therapy and fell into a depressive state. I spent most of my spring semester of senior year living at home doing online classes instead of being in Boston. I felt hopeless and numb… that there was no point in trying to heal because I couldn’t.
This is the most I’ve ever purged with methods other than over-exercising. I picked up laxatives a few times and spent nights over the toilet trying to make myself sick, even though I knew it was counterproductive to the possibility of healing. This was a dark, confusing, numb time.
I was able to be with friends during my last few weeks of college and enjoyed all the senior week grad festivities. Then, when I got home, I finally felt ready to heal. I started my real recovery journey.
I never went back to therapy, but I committed myself to reintroduce foods I had cut out, honoring my physical and mental hunger, and sitting in the yuck and discomfort that comes with recovery. I sat through the body changes, cried out my emotions, and journaled my thoughts in a diary and on my Instagram (which morphed with me). I started to heal, and things got easier. I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel and am now freer than ever.
I feel that I am still on my own healing journey. I occasionally catch that toxic ED voice in the back of my mind, some days much louder than others, but now I have the tools to deal with it. I am equipped with challenging thoughts, responses, and behaviors to my ED’s beliefs. I can and do separate myself from that toxic voice, knowing that that voice isn’t me.
Part 5: Working With Ryann
Working for Ryann has been a dream come true. I have never felt so passionate about any work ever… because I get it. I have been there and experienced life controlled by food. Connecting with others who are just starting their healing journeys and break-ups with diet culture is so special to me, and I feel so lucky to be in this space. Grateful and proud to be here today and every day.
I know this was long. I got carried away. But if you have read this far, then thank you. If you relate to anything I shared, know that you aren’t alone, and it gets better. Recovery is possible for everyone, including you.
Follow along with me
- Instagram: @isabels.plate
- TikTok: @isabel.megale