I am an active woman. At any weight.

I am an active woman. At any weight.

I am an active woman. At any weight.

HGTV hummed in the background and a stack of gossip magazines were lazily stacked on the table next to me. My hands rested on my lap, tightly woven together. Thumbs anxiously pressed against each other, I hummed to myself. A combination of Beyoncé and Sylvan Esso circulated through my head – my pump up music driving to the office. I was nervous.

The room had that typical waiting room sense of calm and fatigue – a damp heaviness reminiscent of a summer evening in DC. I wrung my fingers and trapped them under my thighs, hoping to ease my nervous energy. Thirty seconds later they were back on my lap, twisted into an anxious knot.

I was at the doctor’s office, waiting for a routine check-up and exam. Typically a mundane way to spend the afternoon, but this was different. The nurse called my name and pointed me toward the first room on the right – I saw the scale in the corner. She took my blood pressure and attempted light conversation. Her voice was in a tunnel, and I just laughed and nodded when the time seemed right. She gestured to the scale, and, not wanting to make a scene, I stepped on. The burden of years of anxiety, restriction, and inadequacy weighed heavily on my shoulders. With that same dry tone she used to say hello, she announced the number and scribbled it on her clipboard.

In college, I weighed myself regularly. Every visit to the campus rec center involved stepping on the scale two, maybe three times a day. Miles and reps were added to workouts if the number was deemed too high; meals skipped even if it remained the same. The scale had a hypnotic power over me. An allure I could not deny. For years, the scale determined my attitude, appetite, and confidence. It honed my ability to control my cravings and cut off all communication with my body, physically and emotionally. My sense of worth and empowerment was transient, and the scale provided a clean and easy means of measuring my value to the world. The ritual was sacred.

A series of injuries and a shift from collegiate triathlon to amateur cycling forced me away from the gym. Away from the scale. The ritual became more infrequent and, eventually, nonexistent. Pathways opened, and I began the process of healing – of learning to listen to my body and isolate my worth from metrics.

But the familiar comfort, the sacred nature of the scale, continues to taunt me.

When I stepped on that scale two weeks ago, I was terrified. It wasn’t the number that scared me so much as myself. Diminished self-worth seemed imminent, and stepping on that scale felt as though I was opening the door for my eating disorder, welcoming it into my home, and inviting it to stay a while. It brought me eye-to-eye with my past struggles and pains. And yet, in that split moment, as I registered the number on the screen, I felt nothing. No remorse. No pain. No rejection. I felt the exact same as I did before I knew the number. I opened the door, and no one was there.

I finished up the appointment and walked into that stagnant waiting room elated. I was overwhelmed with a sense of pride for my body, for its health and resilience. Its strength and curves. Being a woman no longer seems like a burden, and being an active woman no longer seems so well-defined. I am an active woman. At any weight.

I have a newfound sense of ownership and gratitude. This is mine. Every pound. Every curve. Every muscle. It’s me. It’s unapologetically me. An athlete, a friend, an advocate, a woman.

—-

This was originally published for the Lane 9 Project here.

NEDA Week Day 7: Lane 9, a Project

NEDA Week Day 7: Lane 9, a Project
NEDAwareness Week Day 7: Welcome to the Ninth Lane

I wanted gloves. It was a cold Saturday morning when we came together, and my fingers were pressed tightly within my thin sleeves. Jacket gloves, some would say. We were meeting by a nearby trail, a good friend of mine and a new friend. She was the first one there, also shivering. Small talk ensued until we saw Heather running down the trail, ponytail swinging. Hellos were exchanged, and watches chimed in unison. We started running. Sparse chatter evolved into a chorus of “Yes! Me too!” Hands slipped out of sleeves, and the pace quickened with excitement. Within a few miles, Lane Nine was born.

Continue reading “NEDA Week Day 7: Lane 9, a Project”

NEDA Week Day 6: Today

NEDA Week Day 6: Today
NEDAwareness Week Day 6: Silencing the Internal Critic

When I originally embarked on sharing my story, I thought I was in a place where I could separate myself from who I used to be – detach my present identity from this battle that consumed the greater part of my adolescence. I envisioned a polished essay with a crisp and neat conclusion. A happy ending. But there is no ending. I am in the thick of it. Weak and tired from years of being on the defense, this battle is still raging. You never fully recover from an eating disorder. You never fully rid yourself of anxiety. You don’t eradicate the voice in your head reminding you that you are not enough. You adapt. You cope. You learn to overpower the voice within you – to quiet the internal critic, if only for a moment.

Continue reading “NEDA Week Day 6: Today”

NEDA Week Day 5: Treatment

NEDA Week Day 5: Treatment
NEDAwareness Week Day 5: Asking for Help

It was 9 p.m. on a Wednesday somewhere in the middle of Kansas. I scrolled through the pale pink web page, eyes squinting in my phone’s harsh light. I was partway through a cross-country drive, eventually landing in San Diego, Calif. for a summer internship. I was also headed to the San Diego-based eating disorder clinic I had decidedly entered myself. The deposit was paid, and the application was finalized. My certainty, however, was not. Continue reading “NEDA Week Day 5: Treatment”

NEDA Week Day 4: Eating Disorder, defined

NEDA Week Day 4: Eating Disorder, defined
NEDAwareness Week Day 4: Defining an Eating Disorder

The room smelled familiar – like antiseptic soap and one too many sprays of Febreeze. I shifted on the table, wincing as the paper scratched against the cheap leather. I had just finished another round of the Gardasil vaccine and inquired about remedies for dry skin – my hands used to get really dry in the winter – as in arid, cracked hands with knuckles that bled when I held a pencil. My doctor looked over my hands, brushing his moisturized fingers over the red knuckles. He set them down on my lap and looked at me very matter-of-factly. Continue reading “NEDA Week Day 4: Eating Disorder, defined”

NEDA Week Day 3: Running Away

NEDA Week Day 3: Running Away
NEDA Week Day 3: A (complicated) relationship with running

I started running when I was 12. The sport taught me resilience and the merits of grit and determination. During a time of social angst and growing academic stress, running was my sanctuary. It freed me from my anxiety and fears – every mile a reprieve from this internal battle. I relished my strength and marveled at what my body could do. There came a point, however, when things shifted. Continue reading “NEDA Week Day 3: Running Away”

NEDA Week Day 2: Perfectionism

NEDA Week Day 2: Perfectionism
NEDAwareness Week Day 2: The Burden of Perfection

I have always been prone to anxiety. I remember sitting in pre-algebra, my right arm warm from the dusty projector crammed between my desk and a peer’s. The week’s fraction quiz glared at me with a large red C circled in the top right corner. A brick dropped in my stomach, weighing me down to the point that my shoulders slumped and my chest tightened to bear the load. I blinked back tears and ended up in the nurse’s office. A “stomach ache,” I said. Continue reading “NEDA Week Day 2: Perfectionism”