My Journey to Now, the Early Years

This is part of my story the way I remember it. The more challenging part. Writing this is and reading it and thinking back to that person, long ago, just makes me want to go back and tell that girl she was loved. 

I was born and raised in Southern California. I was born in Palmdale, lived my elementary through high school years in Anaheim and went to college in San Diego.

My first memory of being fat or gaining weight was 5th grade. I have no idea why 5th grade. I just remember being fat. I was always one of the tallest girls in class. The toughest time of life was Junior High, 7th and 8th grade. I weighed 185 lbs and probably measured 5′ 7″. I had to buy my clothes in large sizes, they were big, drapey, not flattering. I would sit in front of the mirror, in my room and tell myself how fat and ugly I was. I thought this would cause me to want to stop eating so much.

I hated myself.

When I got to high school, I started playing sports. It was not until my sophomore year that I lost some weight. I crash dieted the summer of my freshmen year. I used Slimfast to drop some weight. (Do you remember Slimfast?) I was on the track team (shot-put and discus), the volleyball team (I was tall), the tennis team (doubles) and the JV basketball team (center). I joined a gym my sophomore year and decided that my dream job was to become an aerobic’s instructor.

I crash dieted.

I graduated high school in 1990. I finished my high school sport’s career as the #3 singles tennis player on the team. Our basketball team went to the CIF finals and did really well. I was a captain and power forward. I did not continue track or volleyball. I moved to San Diego the summer of 1990 to get a job and register for my classes at San Diego State. I was not closer to being the weight I wanted to be and I continued to say destructive lies to myself.

Losing weight would make me happy.

It was in 1990 that I got a job as an aerobics instructor. I was THRILLED. I worked for Balley’s Holiday Spa. The aerobic’s instructor’s there had 9 hour shifts. We would teach about 2 classes per shift and pick up a class, if someone called in sick or did not show up. I LOVED teaching. I did not love so much what we had to wear. We wore tights, a leotard and tight shirts,  all accented with colorful socks, hair scrunchies and jazz belts.

9 hours of mirrors, stares and unwanted comments.

I wanted to lose weight. My mom and I signed up for Jenny Craig. Preplanned meals, weigh-ins, a little book that told me the details of every possible thing that could enter my mouth. I would go on to know that book by heart. I would meet with my Jenny Craig counselor, Gretchen (weird how I remember her name) each week, after weigh in. At one session, I told her that I would work from 4 pm-10 pm and I would get home, starving, and have to eat. She told me that eating was okay as long as I exercise afterward. What?! At 10:30 pm? (now, I look back at that me and I just want to hold her.)

I needed a therapist, not a Jenny Craig food counselor.

I lived at home, while I attended college and worked full time at the ‘spa’ to pay for school, car, insurance, etc. I remember comments from my boss. . . “Liz, I have some exercises to work of those thighs”. This was when my body fat was a VERY UNHEALTHY 9% and  my weight fluctuated between 135lbs-139lbs. I would binge on the chocolate pieces in ice cream. I would scrape through the 1/2 gallon, until they were all gone. I would have to buy more at the store so that my family did not know. I would eat all of the raisins out of the box of raisin bran. I would eat the 1/2 of each cookie in a small box and throw the other halves away. I maintained my weight by teaching 2, sometimes 3 hour long aerobic’s classes a day and exercising on my break.

I was out of control, but that seemed like all I COULD control.

I would binge at night, when everyone was asleep. I would shut myself in the pantry, heart beating fast. . .sweating. . . not thinking. . . It became a constant, a comfort, a control.

Something had to change. I could not be scrutinized anymore. I was done being on display. I was done being the epitome of health and strength on the outside and the pit of desperation and sadness on the inside. I was taking an upper level psychology class at the time. I wrote a paper, describing the girl that I am writing about now. The professor wrote a lengthy response on my paper. She knew it was me. She told me that I needed help. I quit my dream job in 1992.

I wanted someone to tell me that I was not okay. I needed help. That it was gonna be alright.

I moved to Tennessee in the fall of 1993. I started seeing a counselor right away, thanks to the strong urging of a friend. LOTS of tears. LOTS of my history being pieced together so that I could understand more why I was compulsively destroying myself with food and exercise. What I thought I was in control of was controlling me.

I needed hope.

In a weird twist of events, I discontinued my relationship with my counsellor and felt more desperate than ever. I remember that I was in the middle of an ice cream binge and I decided that I had had enough. Hysterically crying and searching the phone book for help, I stumbled upon the office of the head of the eating disorders clinic at Vanderbilt. I cannot tell you how comforted and understood and cared about I felt. . .  JUST talking to the nurse. She said she understood (over the phone) and I believed her. In 1995, I began seeing Dr. Michael Ebert, the head of the eating disorders clinic at Vanderbilt. This was the beginning of change, the beginning of healing.

More to come.

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