The obsession with food and my body is in my past. It does not control the Natalie of today. But it is important for me to share the story of my eating disorder. I am proof that from the depths of despair, you can achieve peace and happiness.
For a very long time, I didn't think I counted. I grew up in the Caribbean, on the island of Trinidad, a plump child. Mine is the classic story, I was always the last one to be chosen for any team. Because of my weight, I overcompensated in other parts of my life. I was the best little girl, did all my chores, and was a straight-A student.
When I was eight years old, our family doctor prescribed diet pills for me. After I fainted in choir practice, my mother enrolled me in a Weight Watchers youth program. From then on into my teens, I tried all kinds of diets- liquid diets, starvation diets, crash diets, diets where I would eat only one type of food. My parents knew that I was always struggling to lose weight, and I got a lot of reinforcement. I began to associate being thin with doing well.
In my teens, I started working out, mainly running, and I lost a lot of weight. To my family and friends this was a major accomplishment. What I didn't tell them was that I also wasn't eating. I would fast for two days at a time. I was also abusing laxatives. You know those chocolate Ex Lax bars? I thought it was genius: I got to eat chocolate and lose weight at the same time.
Every morning lying in bed, I checked to see how far my hip bones stuck out so that I could determine how much I could eat that day, if anything. I usually survived on Coca-Cola and these Trinidadian sweet-and-sour salt prunes, still purging with laxatives. When you're that young, you're not thinking about what you're doing to your body, you just want to look good and be accepted.
Throughout my teens things only got worse.
I migrated to Florida with my family and continued the insanity. I hated food when I ate and my stomach bulged. Then I loved it so much for the comfort it gave me while I binged uncontrollably. I had moments of perceived control while on numerous diets until I started sneaking food. Then as I put on more weight than I lost, my inward and outward 'failure' was confirmed, and I plummeted into despair.
I had this routine with a girlfriend: Together we would starve ourselves Thursday through Saturday so that we would be thin for the boys when we went out drinking in the clubs. Then we'd binge Sunday, Monday and Tuesday-and start the fasting process all over again.
I was feeling out of control. Worse, I felt such hate and disgust for myself. For my high school graduation present, I opted for going to a health spa, where I fasted on only water for 17 days, instead of a trip to Europe.
I continued my laxative addiction well into my twenties. At the height (or depth) of it, I could take nine Correctol pills at one time. Of course, I'd wake the next day completely depleted of electrolytes, unable to go to class.
And let me recount all the diets and programs I tried: Weight Watchers, Optifast, Cambridge Liquid Diet, Protein diet, Dexatrim diet pills. None of them worked for me.
I have now reached a place in my life where I feel accepting and at peace with my body. It is no longer something to battle with. The war is over and I have triumphed. I am no longer afraid to eat or fearful that I can't stop once I have started. How did I get to this level of confidence, when for most of my life I felt as if I did not fit in, that only if I was thin would I be allowed to participate in the world?