Lifestyle | September 16th, 2020
TikTok Helped Me Face My Eating Disorder
By: Aiyana Ishmael
I cannot remember a time when food didn’t consume my entire life. Growing up overweight I always assumed my overeating was just something I did because I was fat. Deep into quarantine scrolling through TikTok, I came across user Brittani Lancaster. Her vibrant voice welcoming me by saying, “good morning here’s a ‘what I eat in a day in recovery from two eating disorders.’”
An eating disorder.
I’d never given a second thought into eating disorders truthfully because, well, I was fat. My initial understanding of ED’s was anorexia, which I associated with being extremely thin. Lancaster’s videos highlighted her eating routine in recovery from anorexia and binge eating disorder.
I’d never taken the time to look into BED, but something about her videos pushed me to research the disorder. I decided to take the test to find out for sure.
“Do you feel out of control?”
“Do you feel out of control?” Yes.
The next day after confronting a ghost that’d been hidden deep in my closet, I came across an article on Medium ironically about binge eating disorder. I sat in my college apartment sobbing. Seeing someone outside of myself write about the things I’ve struggled with my entire life hit me hard.
My relationship with food resembles that of a sunken car that’s fallen deep into the abyss. I’ve never felt like I had control over my urges. As a child, I saw my overeating as something to do. It was almost like a race. I’d see how fast and how much I could eat before anyone else. As an adolescent, I spent most of my meals shoving the food down my throat, internally noting that I’d finished my food faster than anyone else.
I’m not sure why I saw eating as a race, but as the years progressed I’d wish nothing more than to be last in that competition.
As I crept towards the pre-teenage years my parents would soon start to question my eating “skills,” wondering why I ate so much and so fast. My mother would sternly tell me to slow down, but I was already so used to scarfing down my food. Now, instead of running to get seconds I’d shove dinner down my throat and run back upstairs to my room.
Eventually, I’d start to sneak and hide snacks in my bedroom. If I kept them there no one could see me eat them. No one could judge me. Nine-year-old me stole a bag of snickers post-Halloween and hid them under my bed. I ate the entire bag in three days. On day four I cried in the bathroom, punching my stomach, wishing I could take it all back.
“Wishing I had some self-control.”
Wishing I had some self-control.
As middle school crept closer I found myself uncomfortable with eating. Eating with my family. Eating with my friends. I didn’t want them to bring up my habit of speed eating, so I tried to mimic my friends’ eating patterns. When they touched their food, I’d touch my food. When they stopped eating to talk, I stopped to talk.
I became a mime of whoever I was eating with. I didn’t want to be different, so I ate how they ate. My system seemed to work until I ate alone. Then I’d be confronted with my demons that I tried so hard to escape.
High school came around and my weight was the biggest topic of debate. I wanted to be skinny. My parents wanted me to be skinny. My friends — secretly — wanted me to be skinny. I spent every waking moment fantasizing about being thin. I changed the way I was eating, started losing weight and feeling better.
I fell deep into a fatphobic mindset all throughout high school. Staying active, only eating with my friends and trying to starve myself. I was skinnier, yes, but mentally I wasn’t in a good place. I’d laugh with friends who made fat jokes, wincing only slightly, but wondering did they think that of me? They’d see my face and interject that I wasn’t fat, just “thick.”
“I held on to the term “thick” for dear life.”
I held on to the term “thick” for dear life because if I was “thick” that meant I wasn’t fat. I hid behind these filler words avoiding my problems and binging in secrecy.
My ruse lasted up until my senior year of high school when my mental health began to deteriorate. Internally my anxiety and emotions got the best of me. Outwardly I became a chameleon. Truthfully, my ability to blend with my surroundings saved me. I could smile, laugh and enjoy high school in public, but once I went home I was trapped inside my mind.
One side of myself saying that I’m a fat b*tch who should stop eating and the other half telling me to eat so I don’t feel anything. Some days food would win, other days my fatphobia would. Every night I’d cry myself to sleep.
Going away to Florida A&M University is a part of the reason I confronted my eating disorder. I no longer could hide behind “good” days. The binging became more constant. I was stressed, feeling overwhelmed and at a breaking point mentally. I’d order a pizza, large and wait for it to arrive at my apartment.
I’d sneak to the front door, hoping my roommates wouldn’t hear, and back to my room all in a few quick strides. Then I’d put on a show I’d already seen before to drown out my thoughts and eat. And eat. And eat. I’d eat all eight slices in one sitting.
Feeling so many emotions I’d rush to the bathroom, push out my stomach and then verbally rip myself to shreds. Fat. Ugly. Whale. Disgusting.
“The worst part about really knowing yourself is knowing how to really hurt yourself.”
The worst part about really knowing yourself is knowing how to really hurt yourself. My harsh words would lead to regret and once again I was back in my childhood bathroom staring at my younger self crying after eating all those snickers.
But now 22-year-old Aiyana purges.
My disorder became an endless cycle. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I couldn’t stop. That feeling after purging all the food I’d just eaten gave me a moment of relief I so desperately needed.
After a stressful week of school, I knew what would come next. Pizza, large, binge and purge. This became almost routine until I finally decided I wanted more for myself.
“This became almost routine until I finally decided I wanted more for myself.”
Funny enough TikTok helped me decide I wanted more for myself. The algorithm filled my feed with a personal community of content creators who specialized in eating disorder videos. The TikToks varied from ‘what I eat in a day’ to body positivity and recovery tips.
Intuitive eating is a self-care eating framework, which integrates instinct, emotion, and rational thought. You actively listen to your body while allowing yourself to eat what you crave. Years of disordered eating have ruined my understanding of hunger, but I’m working every day to fix it.
My entire life has been an assortment of dieting, working out, starving, binging and purging. I no longer want to live confined to my weight. Therapy is allowing me to get to the root of my problem, releasing the years of negativity I directed towards myself.
I can’t say since I’ve started seeking help that I haven’t fallen back into old habits, but I can say I’ve become more aware of my triggers. I’m proud of the small steps I’m taking on this long road towards recovery and I’m focused on being the healthy and happy person nine-year-old me deserves.