What My Friend Didn't Know When He Said I Was 'One of the Healthiest People' He Knew
Contrary to my typical school days, I had several good guy friends while in college. These enthusiastic guys were genuinely smart, humorous, truthful and tended to make certain group gatherings more fun. They were a lively asset to football-watching parties, board game playing potlucks and recreational sporting scrimmages on campus. They were pros at crafting a clever joke, willingly contributed to thought-provoking conversations and were never dramatic. Needless to say, I greatly valued their friendship, encouragement and personal opinions.
One afternoon after a routine ultimate frisbee session, one of my guy friends, Ken, mentioned that he had seen me running around campus earlier that week – a daily activity for which I quickly became known. Attempting to compliment my physically active lifestyle, he said: “Amanda, you’re one of the healthiest people I know.”
Conflicted by his politely intended comment, I remember thinking sadly to myself, If only you knew, Ken…if only you knew the truth.
The truth was that back in college I did know — I knew all about my history and knew I was still regretfully hanging on to painful pieces of my past. With my academic major of choice being Exercise Science, I had acquired a substantial amount of insight on how the magnificent human body operates. From my own experience and educational influences, I knew all about the foundational idiosyncrasies of my specific condition and was highly aware of what I should be doing to combat it. I knew about many intensive biological processes and detailed components pertaining to anatomy and physiology. I was well versed in the guidelines for exercise testing and prescription, and was well trained on how to properly lead others towards adapting healthy choices and developing a balanced lifestyle.
I knew all of these concepts like the back of my hand… I just frankly wasn’t applying them to myself. On the outside I may have appeared fit and healthy, but on the inside, I was deniably still struggling beneath my protective fitness persona.
But my ignorant 13-year-old self didn’t know. I didn’t know the difference between carbs, fats and proteins. I didn’t know there was such a thing as too much exercise or nutritional control. I didn’t know how foods were broken down in our bodies or that words like “calories” and “metabolism” even existed. I didn’t know anything about nutrient timing or hormones. And of course I didn’t know at the time that all of my intentional efforts to improve my athletic ability and conscious focus on physical enhancement were unintentionally eating up my body. Literally.
Yet instead of translating this lack of knowledge into a prime teaching opportunity, the majority of what I absorbed went to labeling foods and habits as either “good” or “bad.” Despite my attempts to facilitate healthy living, everything suddenly added on to my pre-existing set of rules.
This observant, reserved, intuitive young girl only wanted to become the best all-star athlete out there and instead accidentally took her competitive, perfectionist personality overboard. I “learned” by my own observation and perceived judgment that I was losing the very control I set out to attain in the beginning.
I wanted to get things right. I didn’t mean to cause my body harm, but at the same time I also wanted to understand why I was suddenly being forced by doctors into a new strict and monitored lifestyle. In spite of my inner will to improve myself, I was constantly overpowered by the regulations of my treatment team and my own eating disorder voice telling me everyone else was wrong.
Thankfully now, I know. I now know the severity of the disease that consistently won the battle for nearly 10 years of my life. I know the mental and emotional toll that tags alongside the obvious physical toll. I know the meaning behind terms like “triggers” and “tendencies,” and how to monitor them.
I know now if I want to be able to continue the physical activities that bring me so much joy, I have to strategically fuel my body with the right sources. I know that food is my muscle’s best friend because it provides substance, energy and natural healing remedies.
I know truthfully just how vital it is to have loving moral support during dark times. Additionally, I have no doubt that with my passion for learning, this large knowledge base will only continue to grow. And with this knowledge, I know deep down that recovery is possible.
I can now live a life of vibrancy, contentment and peace.
In times of confusion, discouragement and affliction, I remind myself of the gift of the present. In all circumstances, it helps to know there is someone right there on your side. Someone rooting for you each step of the way. Someone who will walk with you, cry with you and stand strong with you. Someone who values you, admires you and cares deeply for you. Someone who would drop everything just to sit quietly with you, to patiently wait in silence with you, aspiring to bring comfort and assurance in reminding you to simply:
”be still and know.”
Be still, be calm and be brave. Be still and know that there is such a thing as hope. Be still and know that it can indeed get better. I know, because I’ve been there. I know, because I’m here.
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If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.