02/07/2014 12:58 EST | Updated 04/09/2014 05:59 EDT

Don't Judge an Eating Disorder By Its Cover

"DAY 1 - 1.5 hours running. 1 hour weights. 1 hour walking. 5 hours standing. 4836 calories burned. 3 small meals. 6 hours slept."

"DAY 2 - 1 hour running. 1 hour weights. 1.5 hour walking. 3 hours standing. 4520 calories burned. 2 small meals, 1 massive meal. Purge. 5 Hours slept."

"DAY 3 - 1.5 hours walker. 4 hours standing. 2750 calories burned. 2 small meals. 6.5 hours slept."

Four years ago, these were the documents of which I marked my life. These numbers were what mattered most to me. In looking them over, I could acknowledge all that I had done. They were my proof that I had "what it took". At the time, I tried to convince myself that these practices were healthy, but as the word "purge" became more and more present, I could no longer convince myself that it was. My bones felt heavy, my joints felt sore, and my muscles ached. Emotionally, I was disconnected at best, and exhausted at worse. I sought out help, and after several effortful months, I began to climb up the rock wall of recovery.

A question that I seemed to punish myself constantly with during recovery was "How the hell did I get here?" I was raised by two loving parents who could not have put more time in to their children. I had many friends throughout high school and university. My grades were great and my social life was even better. I was not someone who prided himself on his vanity. I was driven, and I was successful. Although I did have to admit that I had dealt with some traumatic events it was hard to acknowledge that hidden from the majority of people in my life, I did happen have an eating disorder. These facts did not line up for me. I was frustrated with my state of having an illness, as I saw no reason for it to have happened.

The image of what often comes to mind, and what is often publicized for people with eating disorders is a younger female who is skeletal in frame. In my case, I was a young man who was albeit thin, also quite muscular. I worked in health in fitness. I helped people get fit. I was supposed to be the voice of healthy living. I was definitely not, in my eyes, the face of someone with an eating disorder. At the time, it just did not match up.

The thing is, there is no definitive face of a person with an eating disorder. The heavy focus on our bodies within media not only promotes body types that very few people have, but it also promotes a certain look to fit the bill of an eating disorder. The actual body types associated with eating disorders, just like our population, vary to all and any extremes. Skinny, fat, short, tall, lean, muscular, curvy, boney, plump, thick, thin, tough, soft, or any other description we may throw out there, have the possibility of fitting into the factual description. In reality, you cannot visually detect an eating disorder within a person. Body image and eating disorder issues are dictated by a wide set of behaviours, not by a look or body type. The unfortunate reality is that anyone is eligible to develop an eating disorder.

These issues can occur within all ethic backgrounds, gender identities, sexual orientations and ages. No one unfortunately, is exempt. Four years later, at present day, the only documents I write are articles about promoting healthy lifestyle, my work invoices, and a few nonsensical text messages to a couple close friends. I have explored getting help to overcome the traumatic events in my life. Exercise is something I do now because I love to, and because I want to live a long healthy life. I have a full time life, career and partner. My weight, which I currently do not know, means nothing to me. I cannot remember the last time I actually counted a calorie, and food is something I enjoy while I am eating, as well as something that I don't think much about after I am full.

I began speaking up about my experience with an eating disorder because I knew that there were thousands of others out there that were not at all like me, but who might happen to share one thing in common; an unhealthy relationship with their body. I speak up in the hope that anyone who reads this who believes they may have eating disorder behaviours will seek out help, and that those close to them will offer support. I speak up because I have completely recovered, and although it took a lot of time and work, a life without an eating disorder is just so completely worth having.


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