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The Startup

How an Eating Disorder Saved My Life

I was running from much more than I realized.

“Color where it hurts,” Mom read.

My mother and I were sitting in a hospital waiting room when a nurse gave us a paper covered with the outline of a human body.

“You mean I have to color here because I fractured my twat?” I asked.

“Your pubic bone,” Mom replied.

Our cackling laughter carried throughout the waiting area.

As I shifted my weight to position the piece of paper, the familiar sting and twinge of my hip reminded me of why we were spending the Friday before Thanksgiving in a hospital in Louisiana rather than my apartment in New York.

I penciled in the appropriate area, and the drawing was sort of comical. I laughed again before we sat in silence.

“I don’t know why you did this to yourself.” Mom said.

We both stared at our hands until the nurse called us back.


It started in college.

“Babe, it’s not a big deal. Me and a few friends want to go watch Amber* in a show in Brooklyn,” Ethan said. “It’s not just me going. Besides, she’s just my scene partner.”

I met Ethan*, my then-boyfriend, on our college’s competitive speech team and placed him on a pedestal from day one. I was a freshman and he was a senior. He was my first real boyfriend, the outlaw who stole my heart and virginity.

To this day, he remains one of the most talented individuals I’ve ever met.

I mean, he was seriously talented. He could memorize entire plays in two days. He was an innovative performer who could study complicated Shakespearean sonnets and say them out loud as if they were part of his everyday vernacular.

I remember feeling so proud of the fact that my boyfriend was studying at one of the most prestigious acting programs in New York City. He had broken the mold and was living every theater kid’s dream. I had planned to follow him years later.

Every time he bragged about his classmates, I reminded myself of his luminous qualities so much that they became a relationship justification mantra. I considered myself lucky enough to be in his periphery. I was in a long-distance relationship with the god himself, and that made me special.

I visited Ethan in New York frequently enough to meet the men (and women) in his acting class. The men were uncommonly handsome, and the women were thin, bohemian waifs who I pictured living in fabulous lofts with a view of the city’s skyline. I heard all about Aoife, the Irish actress who landed all the coveted scenes in class, or Jess, the beautiful Australian who Ethan bragged about all the time.

Most of them had long, lean bodies with legs for days. Ethan bragged on their gigs all the time, including Amber’s. She and Ethan were cast in an off-off-Broadway production together, but she was also in another show.

“She got cast in a role where she has to dance around in her underwear on stage. It’s supposed to be a good time, so we are all going to go.” Ethan told me over the phone. I was out of town at a speech tournament.

I teared up in the back of my speech team’s van that evening, wondering if he ever spoke about my accomplishments with Amber or his classmates. I also couldn’t help but wonder if he fantasized about other women in their underwear… and if they looked better than I did.


Flash forward to my senior year in college. I wanted Ethan to respect me like other actors, so I resolved to achieve something that most of his female classmates had in common: being stick thin. I was going to change my slender but curvy figure to resemble Audrey Hepburn’s. I was going to assume a new body type — the ever-elusive waif. Twiggy was going to eat her heart out.

My senior year of college was busy enough. I successfully competed in a national public relations competition, started an anti-bullying campaign, and achieved my highest GPA yet. I filled my packed schedule during the day, and I spent nights alone watching Gilmore Girls waiting for Ethan’s calls.

Our relationship had taken a dark turn. Ethan got so wrapped up in his acting program that we only called or texted once per day. Still, I would send him gym selfies of my lighter figure, as if the 14 hours I spent in the gym per week were some kind of aphrodisiac that elicited an enthusiastic response.

By the time graduation rolled around, I was unrecognizable from the previous fall. I weighed in at a total of 105 pounds at 5'7. I had nightmares about trips to restaurants where calorie estimates weren’t displayed, and I feared every meal in front of me. My mom frantically kept referencing Karen Carpenter, and I began to feel terrified instead of proud.

You see, no matter how much weight I’d lost, I still looked in the mirror and saw Shrek the ogre.

Ethan came to visit me at my mother’s house. I thought he would appreciate my new body.

“Don’t ever do this to yourself again,” he scolded.

What had I done wrong?

I moved to New York that summer, but things with Ethan worsened. We kept trying to flip the ends of the magnets to force them together; my pointed edges scraped the curves of his hands. We couldn’t last three hours without the urge to fight one another into a pulp.

The pedestal I put Ethan on was crushing me.

We eventually confronted our incompatibility with a dramatic fight that involved me screaming and him leaving. The relationship we spent 4.5 years building was over.


The next morning, I decided to sign up for my first half-marathon. I thought it would be a great way to cleanse myself of the toxins in my past and start over. I had been increasing my running distances for two years, and it was time that I put them to the test.

I ran my first race one week later and met new friends. I was on top of the world.

I signed up for a full marathon after my first race. I developed a routine with Marines, my training partner, while working for a trendy fitness studio. I ran race after race with the New York Roadrunners and became one of the fastest women in my age group.

I felt like Forrest Gump flying down the streets of New York. I was finally able to run from Washington Heights (northern Manhattan) all the way down to Brooklyn and back with ease. While this new lifestyle provided me with endorphins and a sense of accomplishment, it made it easier to mask the feeling that something was missing.

I hushed my doubts. Nothing could stop this girl if her problems couldn’t keep up.


Something did eventually stop me.

I was completing a long run on a treadmill in New York when I felt a pop in my hip.

I didn’t know what was wrong.

I limped off the treadmill, unable to take two steps without excruciating pain radiating down my lower body.

I hobbled down the street to the nearest drugstore to grab something to ease the torture. I called my mom, a physical therapist.

I could barely walk the streets I used to fly on.

“I really hope it’s not what I think it is,” Mom said. “I’ll put you on the next plane down here so that we can be sure.”


While in the waiting room, I researched “eating disorders” and “female runners”.

The results were astounding. According to the National Institutes of Health, up to 47% of elite female athletes have experienced eating disorders, as compared to 21% of women who were not considered elite athletes. Additionally, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) estimated that 30 million people in the United States suffer from an eating disorder at some point. There is also an eating disorder called anorexia athletica, which is when someone over-exercises to maintain or lower body mass.

What the heck have I been doing to myself?

Dr. E, a handsome orthopedic surgeon, called us into his office for an examination. My mom insisted on accompanying us so that she could explain the details of my scoliosis. I was asked to take off my shirt so that he could see the extent of my scoliosis and conduct a pubic exam.

I’m not sure what was more embarrassing — the fact that a hot Puerto Rican doctor saw me in my neon pink panties in front of my mother — or the fact that I had willingly let my body deteriorate before my 24th birthday.

I learned that I had osteopoenia, which meant that my bone density was below the normal range. I was only 23 years old, but I could fracture my hip as easily as a post-menopausal woman.

That night, I looked in the mirror at my thin figure. Was it all worth this? Why did I try to achieve some physical standard that almost killed me? After all, this was my body. It was my job to love it like I would a child or spouse, and I failed.


Something had to change.

Not wanting to worsen my condition, I let my hip and pelvis heal. I still ran on the treadmill for exercise, but I eliminated pavement running and focused on more strength training exercises. I vigorously tried to develop a healthier mindset.

The healing process presented many challenges. I had random temper tantrums about the fact that I couldn’t run as often as I wanted. My mother, father, and friends were the blameless victims.

I realized that my anger came from a place of deeper dissatisfaction.

After much soul-searching, I had an epiphany!

I called my mother.

“Mom, I think I need to do something different with my life, like…law –”

“Law school!” she interrupted. “Oh, thank God.”

Sometimes our parents know us better than we know ourselves.

I’d spent years writing and speaking before moving to New York, and I realized that I wanted a different challenge. I moved back to Louisiana, began and graduated from law school, and my life looks way different now. My focus is on my work, but I dedicate a fixed amount of time toward exercise and being healthy every day.

It’s okay to change your dreams.

But please don’t assume that law school was the ultimate solution to my problems. In fact, I honestly wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Nonetheless, it challenged me in ways I never expected, and it enabled me to work toward things that cut deeper than physical beauty. It empowered me to pursue a career that has transformed me.

It all started with an eating disorder.

My journey began in the depths of my self-hatred. If I can pull myself out of the near-grave I dug, so can anyone else.

Many things (and people) who are broken can be fixed.

*Names were changed for privacy.


If you or anyone you know is suffering with an eating disorder, please call the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) hotline at (800) 931–2237, or visit



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I am the Brand Manager for Zinda Law Group and a content writer who loves fitness, family, and God. Views are my own.