National Eating Disorder Helpline: Call 1-800-931-2237 or text ‘NEDA’ to 74174

Izak Zeller, Staff Writer

TW: Eating Disorder

I want to start by saying that I don’t judge people based on their bodies. I think anyone can be beautiful in any body type. You shouldn’t judge yourself based on how much you weigh. I think it’s important to be relatively balanced and healthy with your lifestyle and diet. I want people to learn from my struggles, not use them as a blueprint on how to lose weight. All of the things I am about to mention are extremely unhealthy and detrimental to your body. 

So, here I go.

A very big part of my personality is that I like to fix things. I like taking things and molding them into something better. It’s mostly a positive trait. Sometimes though, I try to fix things in the wrong way. Something a lot of people already know is I have always struggled with my body. Ever since fourth grade I have slowly started to gain more and more weight. Before the mess I’m about to share with you, my doctors theorized that my Generalized Anxiety Disorder was raising my cortisol levels which made my body retain fat.

Sometimes though, I try to fix things in the wrong way.”

— Izak Zeller

The doctor’s visit that started it all was on July 27, 2021. As per normal procedure, I was weighed. The number generated was the highest weight I had ever been. I was particularly busy that summer, so I was told my cortisol levels may have increased again.

I often felt the need to binge after stressful situations. A few days after my doctor’s appointment, I thought about my weight. It stressed me out so much that I just started eating. Eating hot dogs, chips, toast and whatever else I could get my hands on. But something was different about this binge. Normally I always feel guilty after a binge, but I never did anything about them. This time though, I wanted to fix it. I wanted to fix myself. I walked to my bathroom, slowly slid a finger down my throat and did the only thing I could think of that would get the food out of me the quickest, I forced myself to vomit.

A door had been opened that could never be closed. It was addicting, like a cigarette. One time was all it took for me to become completely dependent. It started with me eating a normal amount of food everyday, then just trying to throw up after meals. But it progressed to starving myself, eating massive amounts of food at the end of the day and then forcibly making the food come out of me. Everyday was the same cycle: starve, binge, purge repeat. 

When I would wake up in the morning, I always felt cold. I participated in a ridiculously restrictive calorie intake everyday. I wouldn’t eat anything for breakfast or lunch, always feeling obsessed about having control over my body. I would usually eat as little as I could get away with for dinner. But the feeling of even that little bit of food entering my stomach would cause hunger, which caused me so much pain. I would lose control. I needed to numb the pain of hunger. I would binge.

I would eat until I hurt. I remember becoming so preoccupied with gaining weight, it felt like my life was over. 

I would immediately run to the bathroom to throw it all back up. I always made sure my purging time was longer than my binge time. Usually, I would spend about an hour with my head over the toilet. I would then use the only energy I had left to weigh myself one final time for the night before I collapsed on my bed. Always making sure some part of me was hurting before I let myself sleep. Those were my rules. That was my life, my way of breathing.

But then the side effects started. I would always have an ache in my stomach. My teeth hurt when I chewed and my throat was constantly sore from making myself throw up everyday. My headaches were persistent from severe dehydration, although I couldn’t take any pain relievers for them on my consistently empty stomach. My hair started to fall out slowly and all of my joints jumped with pain everytime I moved. I started to forget things, including people’s names. People who I had known for years. I de-realized so much I didn’t even comprehend what was going on around me a lot of the time. It was a constant, living nightmare. Throughout it all though, I didn’t stop.

I could barely think. It felt like I was stuck in quicksand and nobody would help me. Every second of every day I was thinking about calories, my future binges and my future purges. I felt like as long as I didn’t fit the stereotypical image of an eating disorder, nobody would care, and it wasn’t seen as a big deal. The constant body checking was exhausting. I couldn’t see my skin sinking into the crevices in between my bones. AlI I could see was how much of a ‘fatty’ I was.

It started to severely affect my grades. I couldn’t think clearly enough due to my lack of nutrients. I even had to be excused from school on an occasion or two due to being extremely exhausted. I started to become irrational and make mistakes within my various groups and organizations which just made me partake in larger binges and larger purges. I started to withdraw myself in some groups and overexert myself in others. I remember one weekend I was assigned to read a few chapters of a book for English class. I didn’t even have the energy to hold the book to read. Needless to say I did not do well on that review quiz. Math, physics, and all of my other classes and activities suffered.

What a lot of people don’t understand about eating disorders is that it’s not as simple as ‘just stopping’. Your thoughts become so backward and twisted, with that little part of you always telling you what to do. It’s comforting. Feeling my fingers jam into the back of my throat, coaxing my undigested food up my esophagus and out of my mouth. The feeling of everything I ate coming out of me. It was euphoric.

The scale was all that mattered to me. The number that popped up was the center of my universe. I even began to develop a fear of drinking liquids to avoid water weight. If throwing up wasn’t enough to lower the number after a binge, I would abuse laxatives. I remember, once, taking 3 times the dosage and completely cramping up in bed that night and at school the next morning.

I often used music as a coping mechanism. Late 2000s songs specifically helped me escape from the prison I had created for myself. I decided to spread awareness about eating disorders through my social media, often posting about triggers and symptoms.  Although I never revealed my own struggles with food. I thought maybe helping others would be best for me, as I wasn’t interested in helping myself. 

If you are struggling with an eating disorder or any mental health issues, reach out to somebody. Don’t make the mistake I made. It’s not embarrassing nor something you need to hide from people. Let people know you’re struggling. Don’t wait because soon, it may be too late. If you can’t or don’t want to help yourself, help someone else. Be the lifeboat that prevents someone else from drowning in their disorder. Be there for them. Let them lean on you. Let them vent. Help pull them out of their hopelessness. Be their lifesaver.

And to the person who helps me, the person who lets me text them almost every day, the only person who gave me useful advice when no one else would, the person who I lean on, I have one thing to say to you:

Thank you for being my Lifeboat.

Contact the NEDA Helpline for support, resources, and treatment options for yourself or a loved one who is struggling with an eating disorder at 1-800-931-2237 or text ‘NEDA’ to 74174.