Thursday, March 10, 2016

This Has Nothing To Do With Writing (possible ED/anxiety triggers)

When I read Katherine Locke's District Ballet Series (find my reviews here & here) which deal with the eating disorders and ballet, I promised to someday write about my own unhealthy relationship with food. So, here I am.

I've been dancing since I was 2. I've been performing in Nutcracker since I was 5 and have been every female character except the Sugar Plum Fairy. I take class four nights a week and have rehearsal for roughly 8-10 hours a weekend. I'm not a professional dancer but dance has always been a part of my life (and always will be). 

I'm 5'6"(ish) and weigh between 100-125 pounds depending on my relationship with food at the time. I've always been naturally slim even when I've been dancing infrequently, injured, or just plain lazy.

The surprising part about my weight fluctuations and issues with food is that they have pretty much nothing to do with my dancing. Sure, I remember being thirteen and having my director tell our whole class that losing a few pounds and eating healthier would be good for all of us, but I was already a very picky but mostly healthy eater and I remember flippantly telling friends at the time "he basically wants me to be anorexic but I don't have the self-control" (With hindsight, I know how awful that was to say, I'M SORRY). In the thirteen years since then, I've come to realize that my director tells a whole class that to avoid having more personalized and potentially traumatic conversations with students who are on the heavier side. Those words I didn't take seriously were not really meant for me anyway. (I'm not even getting into the issues with this approach.) However, that aside, I definitely grew up knowing dancers who were struggling with anorexia. 

Anyway, my title as picky eater of the family warped my food relationship earlier on. My mother valiantly tried to get me to eat green beans and meat and soup but the end result was always me literally asleep in my food. So I was a taste-based vegetarian that loved carbs, fruits, dairy and three vegetables. Because it was obvious that my diet was lacking nutrients (specifically protein since ew meat), I regularly drank meal replacement/high protein shakes for breakfast and snacked on protein bars, etc. 

Because I ate protein bars and brought weird food for lunch, my freshman health teacher was CONVINCED I was anorexic and tried to get me to go to the school counselor so many times that I lost count. But I wasn't! I was just a naturally-slim, very active, picky eater. Being accused of suffering from anorexia when you're not, AT ALL, is a weird thing. Sometimes my sister and I would call each other fat at ballet and I'd feel pudgy or bloated but I never took the word fat seriously enough to what to do anything about it, 

I existed that way, until just a few years ago when for the first time, I think, I might have experienced something like an eating disorder, although it was never diagnosed. I was 24, in a rocky, long-distance relationship, working my brains out on a high school musical at my alma mater, and living at home. I felt hemmed in by every aspect of my existence. Everything felt out of my control. I didn't feel fat when I stopped eating, I felt too exhausted and sick to eat. So I didn't. No one said anything. My director didn't comment on it like she did my choreography, my boyfriend didn't tell me I was too picky to take anywhere, my mother didn't urge me to do it like cleaning my room.  

I got a weird high out of not eating. It was only semi-conscious, if I'm perfectly honest. I wasn't like "I should not eat because it's the only thing in my life I can control." It was more like "I feel crazy and out of control but it's better when I don't eat."  I let my stress guide my eating choices and started dropping weight like crazy. The next time I saw my boyfriend he commented on the way my spine protruded from my back. I thought it was kind of gross too so I ate. At home, I went back to mostly not eating. 

This went on for roughly 3 months. Then, at the end of the musical season, I went shopping and the size zero in misses fell right off. My thighs didn't even remotely touch. My bras were so big it was laughable that I was wearing them at all. It was a serious wake up call and I realized how destructive my behavior was. I started myself on a high protein diet and started dancing again and slowly - and healthily - but the weight back on. 

Fast forward a year. I was 25 and in pretty much exactly the same situation. Except minus the boyfriend and plus more responsibility for the musical, plus grad school. When I got stressed and people started telling me what to do, I found myself living on KitKats, Dorritos, and Cherry 7UP. The weight started to fall off again. I tried to eat other things, but nothing tasted good, everything hurt my stomach. This time I was conscious of my shitty decisions but I couldn't stop myself until the stress let up. I returned to normal at the of the musical season.

This winter, at 26, I had my stress level more under control and my weight fluctuation were way less drastic, It is still a struggle for me to be aware of how I am feeling and thus how I am eating. With my new job making me crazy, my debut and launch party looming, and everything else going on, I've noticed my appetite shrinking again and it is so hard to combat.  I'm trying to "keep my chill" as my students say but it is getting harder everyday.

To all my fellow stressed out, anxiety-plagued, food-sensitive lovelies, I feel you. I'm here for you. Let's support each other and try to stay in control.

<3 LSM  

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