The We Shall Overcome Series is a collection of stories from women who have faced hardship with courage.  We hope these stories inspire and encourage you as much as they have us.

Meet Chelsea and her victory over eating disorders.   
Chelsea Gordon
I remember exactly when my eating disorder started to take over my life. Sure, I had been conscious of how much I ate or how much I exercised from approximately the age of 10, my parents made sure of that. However, I can honestly say it wasn’t until I was 15 that I began to act on all my impulses to not eat that I had been experiencing for so long.

It was just an instinct to eat less, you know? I didn’t start out with the intention to develop EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) I just wanted to lose some weight so that boys would like me like my Mom had suggested. I wanted to like myself, to look like all the cheerleaders who everyone said had the best bodies. For my parents to get off my case for a change. So as a sophomore in high school, I started taking Slim Fast for lunch. I started to exercise more. I started to wish I would get the stomach flu because if you told your friends that the reason you were taking Jello for lunch was because you didn’t feel so good, no one questioned it. Oh wait….that’s not a normal thought, is it? Well, I know that now. But those years in high school were just the beginning of what would ultimately spiral out of control once I reached the age of 22.
  

"I just wanted to lose some weight so that boys would like me like my Mom had suggested."

  The worst I did to myself in high school was intentionally starved myself a little during the day but exercise more. I was going to the gym a lot and eating a few pieces of grilled chicken and some bell peppers for lunch. I was beginning to enjoy the “skinny” feeling that came with not eating for long periods. Nothing extremely serious (I mean, I wasn’t a skeleton), but it did lay the groundwork for everything I would later use to abuse my body. It really wasn’t until I college that things got worse.

In high school, I had lost weight due to my eating less, exercising, and living in my parents’ house where I could only eat the healthy food they gave me. That all changed my freshman year in college. All of a sudden, I had the freedom to eat Poptarts, and I was EXTREMELY depressed. I think a lot of my friends would be surprised to hear that, but I was. And as many Americans do, I started eating more in an attempt to placate myself. And when I gained weight, I panicked. So I kept eating like crap trying to make myself feel better, but I was only eating once a day. I wasn’t exercising anymore, and I was taking about 4 diet pills a day. I hated myself so much that whole year, it affected me to the point that I actually asked my parents what to do. I wanted to lose weight so bad and I didn’t know how to do it anymore. My parents’ answer: Weight Watchers.
 

"I started eating more in an attempt to placate myself. And when I gained weight, I panicked. So I kept eating like crap trying to make myself feel better.."

Now, I’m not trying to dog on Weight Watchers, because their method works if you do it right. Just like counting calories works. If you do it right. Well, I didn’t know how to measure food and was still deathly afraid of eating during the day.  At first, despite eating healthier and trying to exercise more, I lost no weight. And then it dawned on me. I would just eat packaged foods that I absolutely knew the calories of. Then I wouldn’t have to measure and get it wrong! Seems smart right? Well, it was to the extent that I started to lose weight and understand calorie content of food. BUT. I wouldn’t eat out. I would not eat a single thing unless I knew EXACTLY how many calories were in it. My friends actually ribbed me a lot about going with them to restaurants to hang out, eating nothing and drinking a diet coke. And it happened over and over again. I was hardly eating at all.
  

"My friends actually ribbed me a lot about going with them to restaurants to hang out, eating nothing and drinking a diet coke. And it happened over and over again. I was hardly eating at all.."

​It was during this time that my tendency to eat when depressed became a tendency to avoid food altogether. That summer, I had my first two boyfriends break up with me and felt like I lost my friends in the divorce. And though I wasn’t doing weight watchers anymore, I still counted in my head like I was. I looked at the calories on anything and converted them to points in my head. But I was depressed, so on top of the counting, I ate less and less as the new school year went on. I got to the point where my employers were concerned and I was concerned with myself. So I started to consciously eat more. Just a little bit. But I was eating more. And I was trying to eat things that were actually good for me. And for the first time in a long time, I was happy. Happy with myself and with what I was eating. Sadly, it didn’t last long.
 
That summer, eating became like a competition where I was the only competitor. I was introduced to calorie counting and started to play this insane game to see how little I could eat. Luckily, it didn’t last too long. But it was something I remembered when I gave into the pressure from my dad to start limiting carbs. My father had a way of ribbing me for what I was eating and how many carbs were in it, especially because he was limiting carbs. So, in a twisted mental game to try to lose more weight and to appease my father I started eating fewer and fewer carbs, and less and less food. It got to the point where I wouldn’t even eat apples and carrots because of their carb content. I am not going to get into numbers (as I am sure you’ve noticed already) as I don’t want to trigger anyone, but just know I was in BAD shape. I was purging whatever I ate through exercise and laxatives, and drinking water when I got hungry. All I did was think of food. I dreamt of food. I woke up wanting food but wouldn’t eat it. I started to have issues breathing and even standing for long periods of time.
  
  

"Eating became like a competition where I was the only competitor. I was introduced to calorie counting and started to play this insane game to see how little I could eat."

I suppose I am writing this is to shed some light on eating disorders. My eating disorder was much more complicated than just deciding that I was going to not eat or throw up. It wasn’t ‘anorexia’ or ‘bulimia.’ Mine was some strange combination of both and more.  I slowly slipped into my eating becoming disordered. I never became so skinny I had to be hospitalized, although I think I narrowly missed that happening. But I looked healthy. Everyone told me that I looked great. I had an amazing body. My BMI was healthy for someone of my size and age, but I was SO sick.  And it took years for me to get better.

My recovering started because of a screening test on the National Eating Disorder Association’s website. Something clicked when I got a result that told me I might have an eating disorder and to seek help. So I did. Recovery was extremely hard, and I had multiple relapses before I even came close to okay. Ironically enough, it was when I signed up for my first half marathon, (when I was still so early in recovery that I couldn’t run 5 miles without getting tired) that I really discovered how much I needed food. I had initially thought the half marathon would be a good opportunity for a relapse, to kinda go back to old ways. But I quickly realized that as much as I wanted to relapse, I wanted to finish that race more. And I couldn’t finish that race if I didn’t eat the best food I possibly could. And that changed my life. I took recovery seriously after that. I got into therapy, I started eating very healthy and I made a vow to never put anything in my body that wasn’t good for it, or do anything to harm it that way again.

Now, I am vegan (because I choose to be, I fully advocate eating HOWEVER makes you happy) and I love to lift, cycle and do CrossFit. I have run six half marathons, two 15Ks, four 10Ks, three 5Ks, and a full marathon. I’m active now because I want to be not because I feel like I need to be, although those feelings are still there, along with a lot of guilt for eating. I don’t know if those thoughts will ever go away, but at least I can manage them and my depression and anxiety.
  

"I got into therapy, I started eating very healthy and I made a vow to never put anything in my body that wasn’t good for it, or do anything to harm it that way again."

  To anyone out there that may be overweight, underweight, or even a normal weight but struggling, know that you deserve help too. Even if you aren’t the typical white blonde girl that looks like skin and bones, you deserve help. Because no one should live their life trapped inside their brain criticizing themselves. And it’s not just undereating. Overeating is also a disorder that can be treated.  There is a life after eating disorders. And it’s an amazing one. It’s a life where you can do whatever you want and not have your thoughts always be about food or how much you hate yourself.

It’s a life where you can run marathons without your shirt and still post the picture on Instagram. And while the anxious, hateful thoughts of the disorder may never leave, you can at least learn that it doesn’t matter and you deserve love no matter what you or society or anyone thinks you should look like or eat like.
    

Chelsea grew up in San Antonio, TX and after about 6 years living and working in Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky; is now living and working in Dallas, TX with her dog Tizzy. She is a Claims Adjuster for Travelers Insurance after leaving the entertainment industry as an audio engineer and master electrician. In her free time she loves to work out and train for marathons and is currently training for one of the world’s toughest half marathons. She also enjoys reading and listening to records, watching movies, hiking, and eating as much sushi as she can.