This week’s What I Ate Wednesday is a bit different. I would like to dedicate this post to National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, for it is something that I hold heavy on my heart. Intertwined with my daily eats is a very personal story I’ve never shared until now.
Anorexia. Ha. I thought my doctor was joking. I scoffed and, with an ounce of irritation in my voice, replied “…no. I love food. I eat. A LOT. I LOVE food.”
About a year ago, I was diagnosed with a special form of anorexia. My immediate reaction was a hard “no.” Stuff like that doesn’t happen to me. Kendall King isn’t one of those weird girls with crazy mental issues who starves herself to the bone for no good reason. Kendall King is strong, successful, smart, creative, and driven. Kendall King does not get eating disorders. The thing is though, girls with eating disorders aren’t weird girls with crazy mental issues who starve themselves to the bone for no good reason. They’re my peers, my friends. They are good, compassionate women. They are me.
My anorexia didn’t take the normal form of what most people think of as “not eating.” The fact is I ate regularly. I always ate breakfast within a half hour of waking up, a lunch, a dinner, and snacks. I initially took the visit to my doctor because I had been feeling fatigued and getting sick constantly for months. Before, my body rarely ever got sick, but it seemed like every time a doctor put me on strong antibiotics I was sick again within days of completing the course of meds.
After a lot of blood tests and multiple discussions with different specialists, my doctor had come to the very real conclusion that it wasn’t the fact that I was restricting in the amount of food, I was restricting in the form of nutrients. It was explained to me that the type of food I was eating did not compensate with the amount of exercise and daily activity I was doing. They also discovered that I was anemic, and my prolonged eating habits had whacked-out my hormone levels. A perfect storm. Within a span of three days and four medical appointments, I had become one of the thousands of strong, successful, smart, creative, driven girls who suffered from an eating disorder.
I decided, with the help of my parents, that in order to take care of myself I needed to leave the last few weeks of spring semester. I was able to complete all of my courses remotely (OSU Student Advocacy, you’re a bunch of beautiful people) and start tackling my issues. During this time I talked to multiple ED specialists as well as many other people my age suffering from their own disorders. The experiences they shared I will carry with me always.
My freshman year of college was rough. I was attending a university that I wasn’t enjoying, questioning my sense of belonging, and on top of it all going through a huge, messy breakup. This made type-A, perfectionist me extremely uncomfortable. To me, I had gone from the badass golden girl who everyone loved, who had the perfect test scores, who played all of the sports, who had been accepted by one of the best private violin professors in Cleveland at age 13, to a girl who was alone and a complete mess. While my academic life, social life, and love life felt out of control, I found control in food.
I had always been passionate about whole food and healthy living. My mom taught me to keep my body healthy not with chemicals and medications, but with natural and nutritional foods. Unfortunately, in a time of high stress and feelings of vulnerability, I turned my passion for eating delicious, wholesome food into a strict measure of success and slowly started imposing unrealistic food rules and guidelines on myself.
Over the course of a year and a half, I had labeled multiple food groups as “unhealthy.” I started eating less grains, less dairy, less amazing fruits because of sugar levels, no eggs because of cholesterol, or no peanut butter because of fats. If I broke a food rule, say had an extra piece of cake, the next few days would be stricter in the types of foods I would allow myself to eat in order to “make up for my mistake.” As absolutely ridiculous actually talking about this sounds, if I couldn’t be perfect in other aspects of my life, I could be perfect in my meal plan. Unknowingly, these food guidelines weren’t giving me the vitamins, nutrients, or enough calories that my body needed, and my body fell into a restrict-binge cycle where these seemingly random binges gave me more stress and anxiety than I have ever felt
Within a couple months of working with ED specialists to realign my food values, reintroduce great foods I had labeled “bad” (hello, pizza!!!), and working tooth and nail on myself, my sick symptoms started to leave, and I started to feel ALIVE again. I was happier, my skin brighter, my hair stronger, and the stress that had been consuming me for a year and a half was actually melting away.
Anorexia opened my eyes to a huge issue. Eating disorders are real and orthorexia, an obsession with eating only healthy foods, is real. Being a college-aged woman, I look around me and see too many eating disorders. And if it’s not necessarily an eating disorder, there sure is a hell of a lot of disordered eating. People are under so much pressure. We’re constantly comparing ourselves to others, and these comparisons make us feel like no matter what we do we’re never enough—that we could somehow be more. It’s these types of notions that feed eating disorders.
It doesn’t help that other successful and “healthy” women on social media are constantly posting photos of their meals. Don’t get me wrong…I love social media, especially Instagram. I think it can be a great way to show creativity, be spunky, and share ideas. Where we get in trouble is when, too often, these photos come with an unsaid, underlying promise. A promise being that if you act, dress, and eat like them, then you can also be successful, healthy, have a boss-ass job, a beautiful husband who loves playing with your Gerber baby, and spend your free time taking beautiful photos of your pristine apartments and creamy lattes (dairy-free, of course) like them.
I’m so freaking sick of seeing pictures of small bowls of steamed vegetables, a few chunks of tofu, or chicken, and a “treat” in the form of a small veganpaleoglutenfreegrainfreenogmonoaddedsugar no-bake cookie being sprawled across my insta feed every day. That is not eating, not enjoying, and not a life I want to live.
Girls with eating disorders aren’t weirdos. They’re girls like me: a girl who, in a time of high stress and feelings of vulnerability, turned her passion for eating delicious, wholesome food into a strict measure of success. I have come out on the other side. The fact that I had an eating disorder does not define me or make me less of a treasure. I know now what it means for me to be healthy. I have felt strength come back to my body that I haven’t felt for three years. I still work out regularly, and I’m busier than I have ever been. The difference is I am fueling and nourishing my body, not simply sustaining it. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t have a whole damn avocado, a bunch of grains, chocolate, and HELLA peanut butter. And it’s frickin awesome.
Do what feels good. Move your body regularly and fill it with delicious, wholesome food. Eat your veggies and eat your pizza. Eat your veggies ON your pizza, and for the love of God enjoy your extra piece of cake. Like our fearless Hummusapien leader said in a post last week, we are (way way way) more than our meal plan.
Finally, to quote a beautiful illustration I saw today, “eat what you want. If anyone lectures you about it, eat them too.” I think that is important.
P.S. Those dreamy cookies are these Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies except with dark chocolate chips since I always crave chocolate. Literally the best things I’ve popped in my mouth like ever. + Photo of us fan-girling a smoothie bowl at Alchemy by the ever talented Summer Cartwright.