Carrots are an American produce staple. We dip them in ranch. We pair them with celery and hummus. We add them to soups and curl them all fancy like on top of salads. We feed our elderly mushy steamed carrots to compensate for their lack of teeth.
Carrots are not all that significant. One serving of baby carrots (about 8) contains 30 calories, 2.5 grams of fiber and more than double the daily recommended vision-boosting vitamin A. When I was deep in the dredges of my eating disorder, I routinely ate roughly five pounds of carrots each week—not normal in case you were wondering. I ate carrots for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everything in between. If I ate other “safe” foods, I would pair them with carrots to feel less hungry.
One of the worst parts of my eating disorder was constantly feeling hungry and never feeling satiated. Even when I ate, I was simply less hungry than I was prior to eating. And, I discovered something most people probably don’t know about eating, which is that if you don’t eat for long enough and go through all the stages of hunger, from nibbly to famished to starving, you begin to not feel hungry anymore. The feeling simply disappears (for a while, it always returns). Over the years, I fine-tuned the exact moment I needed to stop eating to not feel anything.
I often felt as if I controlled nothing in my life, but I damn sure could control what I ate. The more restraint I felt in other areas of my life, the more rigid I was about food. And when my boyfriend mentioned that I was looking too thin and that he was scared? Extra bonus points for me! That is fucked up and weird, and a bit hard to understand. My obsession with carrots was also weird, and eventually turned the palms of my hands and the soles of my feet an orange-ish tint. As I slowly learned to nourish myself, I decreased my carrot consumption. My carrot quota has been filled.
I thought that by controlling my body, I was solving my problems. I think people do this far more often than we realize. We try to control our partner instead of learning to trust them, to have that Instagram-holding-hands-on-the-beach relationship we think is happiness. We think that by controlling what other people see of us, we can control their perceptions of us as cool or put together or amazing, even if we don’t feel any of those ways about ourselves.
In Augusten Burrough's book This is How, he writes, “Often, the pursuit of thin lasts a lifetime and the goal is never reached. For these people, thin isn't really about being slender. Thin is being more beautiful than you are. Thin is coming from a wealthier family. Thin is a bigger chest. Thin is a more popular channel on YouTube. Thin is famous. Thin is a perfect score on the SAT. Thin is your first-choice college. Thin is an iPhone, not a rip-off. Thin is having a better singing voice. Thin is being from somewhere better. Thin is being respected. Thin is loving yourself."
Burgeous hit the nail on the head. Grabbed the bull by the horns. Wrote the words I knew in my heart to be true but had never seen in black, unforgiving, ink. I hated being controlled, and a lack of control was the impetus I needed to control myself. I was underweight, malnourished, and slowly destroying my liver. Beyond that, I was deeply unhappy. The first time I saw a therapist, she said, "You can either continue, or you can die. It's up to you."
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa, someone in America dies every 62 minutes because of an eating disorder. Eating disorders are the most deadly mental illness, and that fact was impossible for me to ignore.
The process of beginning Recovery looked like this: I said out loud “I have an eating disorder.” This seems minor, but saying those words was extremely, heart-wrenchingly difficult. I found a therapist and learned to trust her. I cried a lot, and learned to eat foods that were formerly “forbidden.” I relapsed and stuck my fingers down my throat. Felt lonely. Tried to love myself. Let go of toxic people. Learned to exercise when and how my body wanted, not when and how my brain dictated. Found people who had similar pain and experienced our pain together. Experienced triumph together.
Recovery is cyclical, and may never truly be over. I will probably consider myself in Recovery for a very long time. If you’ve ever made yourself throw up, binged, restricted, hated your body, you are not alone. And if you want, you never have to be alone again.
P.S. If you or someone you love is suffering from an eating disorder, call the NEDA helpline at (800) 931-2237. Find a comprehensive list of Eating Disorder Anonymous meetings HERE. For the top treatment centers in every state, go HERE. Much love, always,