This post is long overdue, and I’ve gone back and forth – trying to decide if/when I should post it, how I should say it, etc. My friends and family know the story, and others have seen it in pictures. Maybe you guys have, too. But I’ll tell you the whole story because Hungry Haley would not be here if this story had never been written.
About two and a half years ago, I was diagnosed with an eating disorder. I never went to the hospital or had any serious health concerns, thankfully. But between July and August of 2012, I started losing weight. Sure, the compliments were great – “Wow, you look thin!” and “What have you been up to, girl? You’re so toned!” – things like that. Fitness Magazines piled up on my desk, and my parents made room in the kitchen for me to experiment with new healthy recipes I’d found. I was even performing well in school – I was studying constantly and rewarded with several A’s. My faith was strong, too. I read my bible, connected with my bible-study leader at the time, Jessica, and spent time in God’s word.
But things headed downhill when I lost some control. My friends would all go out for dinner and a movie and I’d politely decline. I convinced all of us (myself, my friends, and my parents) that it was because I had homework and wanted to save money, but I knew that, honestly, it was because I was afraid to eat unhealthy food.
That was strike 1.
After school everyday, (yes, every single day) I’d head over to the gym for a good, sweaty 45 minutes on the stair-climber and then some mileage on the treadmill. Everyday. Afterwards, I’d shower, steam some veggies and pair it with lean meat like chicken, turkey, or pork, and hit the books for the rest of the night, forgetting about family dinners and unintentionally lighting the match that would begin to char away the thick ropes that tied our relationship together.
That was strike 2.
Soon enough, my breakfast was one egg and a few whites scrambled with spinach, and a banana with peanut butter. My lunch bag held nothing but half a turkey sandwich, carrots, and an apple. And my eating habits only became more and more strict from there. I wasn’t quite aware of it, but something was grabbing a hold of the reigns in my life.
And there is strike 3.
February of 2013 was the first turning point of many. My heart pounded with fear when my mom told me she scheduled a doctor’s appointment for me. Our family doctor is one of the sweetest, most genuine, caring women I’ve ever met, yet I dreaded this appointment more than anything. I think she knew what was going on before the appointment, even though I thought it was just a check-up. First, she told me I was underweight by almost 10 pounds. Then, she began asking personal questions like why I stayed at home so often, why my grades were so high all of a sudden, why I wasn’t on the track team, etc. And then she and my mom brain-stormed answers they assumed (and read to be) true to all those questions – answers I knew were true, but didn’t want to admit. Tears filled my eyes and everything my doctor said after “You have an eating disorder” was a blur. I remember hearing something about needing therapy, too.
And the next 5 or 6 months didn’t get any better. And yes, I actually did go to therapy sessions. I sat through (on a surprisingly comfortable couch) the 45-minute periods once or twice a week after school, answering the therapist’s stereotypical questions in all honesty, only reinforcing the fact that I didn’t need this kind of help.
When my parents realized these sessions were only taking money out of their wallet, time out of our schedules, and the energy, life, and parent-child-trust out of our relationship, we discontinued them. Instead, I came home one day to a book from my mom on my bed about recovering from an ED. Never read it. Not a single page. I’m sorry, Mom, but I couldn’t.
Next came the nutritionist. She was one of my favorite people out of all this, actually. Why? Well, she made me feel normal. She made all of it – the whole eating disorder thing (which I never admitted to until a few months ago) – seem insignificant, as if I just needed to gain a little weight. Thank you, Lindsey, for that. She designed weekly meal plans for me to follow, with enough flexibility for me to mix and match breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. If I had to pick my favorite part of this 6-month period, this is it. Lindsey proved to me that my body could handle – and needed – all of these calories and nutrients. She introduced me to a variety of foods and recipes, some of which inspired the ones you’ll find on my site. And I’ve never given her credit for that. So, Lindsey, thank you, thank you, thank you for helping to pull me out of the nutrient-deficient hole I was digging myself into - Hungry Haley would not be who she is today without your help. You were one of the strongest pieces of advice I needed in that time. You’re one of the answers God was giving me, and you’re a blessing :)
After a few weeks, I loved the meal plan. Combining different foods and recipe-ideas everyday made this journey feel like an adventure. I’d wake up excited to choose between oatmeal, pancakes, eggs, or smoothies for breakfast, and then create something yummy and nourishing for lunch and dinner, too.
I wish I could say that this is where everything ends – that I gained enough weight, that I rebuilt my parents’ trust in my eating habits and mended our relationship, but I can’t say I did. Every night, while I did homework, my parents would come upstairs and ask me to step on the scale in my bathroom. I’ve seen my parents stressed, tired, angry, and scared, but I’d never seen them with this look on their faces. They looked somewhat hurt, like someone had taken a little bit of their excitement away. I’d step on the scale and wait for the electronic numbers to show up in the same order as they had the night before. The numbers may as well have said, “You didn’t gain any weight. Just get off.” I’d step off, eyes not leaving the floor for fear of disappointing my parents and letting their hopes down. Following this came more concern from my parents. And rightfully so. Even I wondered how, on an almost-3000-calorie-diet, none of those extra calories were staying. This is where I felt the most like I had no control over anything. I’d lie in bed and ask God where the heck He was, and what He thought He was doing in all of this, but I couldn’t hear an answer.
When summer came, my stomach wasn’t happy with this hefty eating plan anymore. By noon everyday, I’d lie on the couch, too stuffed to do anything. The ease with which my parents agreed to let me break from the 3000 calories a day surprised me, but I asked no questions. They saw my effort, and they saw the ED symptoms disappearing. Spending time by the pool, cooking dinner together, and enjoying the dishes we prepared mended the ties that had been almost fried between my parents and I.
About a month later, I talked to the new track and field coach at school about joining the team for the remainder of the summer and my senior year. When she realized I was the one she’d seen running the same hill-repeats as the team throughout the summer, she didn’t hesitate. The smell of the hot, rubber track and even the weight room, the bonds I immediately formed with my teammates, and the excitement, fulfillment, and self-worth I found on that track were blessings that came at exactly the right time. My parents saw my re-ignited passion for something other than working out, and our relationship became stronger and more joyful.
I don’t think I can put God’s answer into words exactly, but I know He answered my call for help. He always has, always does, and always will. He provided a learning experience, and an opportunity to strengthen my faith throughout this journey.
So here I am, two (and almost a half) years later, finishing up this post, seriously considering shortening the distance between my mouth and an ice-cream-cookie sandwich from the coffee shop on the corner. Can you tell things have changed?
But before any of that scrumptiousness happens, I want to thank you for taking the time to read this – I sincerely appreciate it. If my story helped you with something you’re going through, then that’s all I need to hear. Tell me or tell someone else, but just share it. Use it to help someone else, too. Our stories make differences, no matter how insignificant we may think we are.
My parents were the biggest support system I've had, and I wouldn't have recovered if they hadn't been by my side. Love you, Mom and Dad, more than you'll ever understand,
and thank you, more times than I'll ever be able to speak.
I just wanted to be honest with everyone. Hungry Haley’s 1st birthday is about a month away, and I needed to make sure her whole story has been told.
That story is nowhere near over. In fact, more and more is added to it everyday. A little part of me hesitates to admit that I had an eating disorder, but I would never wish it hadn’t happened. God showed me that He can be weird, and often misunderstood, but He can never be wrong. He will never allow anything, anyone, or any trial tear you down. I’m trusting Him and learning more and more about Him, this life He’s blessed me with, and the food that comes with it every single day. Best kind of school ever.
Thank you again for reading. Love, blessings, and appreciation sent your way :)