Eating Disorders: What No One Wants To Talk About

Hihanni Waste! Mitakuyepi!

I’ll be blogging on eating disorders and this makes me feel very uncomfortable but it needs to be put out there. This may not be a hot topic item in DC concerning Native American affairs, this may not be an issue concerning Native Americans in Indian Country, but this is an issue that I have seen personally affect people in Indian Country, friends, family and around the world. This is a problem that affects any background. It strikes women and men. It strikes those who you may think are the strongest people in the world and from the outside looking in look like they are completely healthy and fine. The purpose of this blog is to have my story out there, because the times I have openly talked about it, I received so much support and so many similar stories of struggles. Those people, who I will not name: some native, some not, some runners, and some that are not runners, have said that they thought they were the only ones. The age range has been from 13 to 42! My story was the first step in them admitting to themselves that they had a problem or that they know someone who is going through the same thing. I have heard so many similar and powerful stories, which I hope they all are continuing on the path to recovery, because an eating disorder can be a tough one to fight.

I am blogging on this topic because this is something that I have been dealing with since my senior of high school. I am writing on this topic because it is an issue that no one talks about but will assume that someone may have an eating problem and not say anything, because it’s hard to bring up. This is an issue that I hold very dear to me, because people can die from this disorder. I have seen it mostly effect runners. In a very competitive world, you want to be faster, and the quick little fix is saying, “I just want to lose a little more weight, gain more muscle.” For me, that’s how it started. And it escalated from there during my senior year, freshman year and the first 2 months of sophomore year.

At first it started out as me eating better. Adding more mileage and not adding in more calories. For some reason, that just didn’t click. I cut out a lot of carbs. Ran twice a day. And I started seeing a difference. I started seeing a change and I honestly, felt good. Indoor and Outdoor went very well and got some personal bests and ended my senior year with a bang. No one knew my secret. During that summer, I got obsessed with running and obsessed with calorie counting. I was aware of it, but I didn’t care, because I thought I had “control.” I kept looking at myself in the mirror and enjoyed so much shopping for clothes because it kept reminding me that I was a size 0. Freshman year began and I was lingering around 100-103 and size zero pants. To me, this didn’t bother me. I still kept with the running, and calorie counting. Then a month into college, I was feeling homesick and struggling with that. I missed my family, who were all living in South Dakota and Colorado at the time. School was stressful and the way to handle that stress was to control what I ate.

Second semester began, and I was feeling very drained, no energy, and barely eating anything. I ate only enough to quiet the hunger pains and to not feel dizzy and still kept with running. Luckily, red shirting freshman year was a blessing in disguise. Still, no one knew or made it aware to my knowledge that they did. What started out as starving myself to stay thin (anorexia) and apparently faster, turned into bulimia. So now, I was allowing myself to eat a little more, thinking I’ll get a little more energy, but then I felt incredibly guilty because I thought it was too much, when in reality, the amount I was eating, was more than likely very below average of what I should have been normally consuming. Freshman year ended, my problem got worse and the summer began.

Summer of 2007, was very straining on my training. This obsession was getting out of control and I had to figure out ways to keep it hidden. Running had its good days and very bad. The fact I didn’t get injured through this at all, was completely mind boggling. My boyfriend at the time came to visit me in South Dakota, and it was then that he noticed this problem. He found ways to bring it up and I would get very hostile and change the subject. I refused to believe that I what I was doing was bad and that I kept saying I had this handled. LIES. LIES. LIES. I didn’t have it under control and I was VERY aware of it but I couldn’t stop it. It consumed my life.

Sophomore year started and I was struggling more and more. Workouts still managed to get accomplished but after every run and workout, I was completely wiped out. Finally by Cross Country conferences, my coach had told me to go to the doctor for a check-up, because I had a feeling he knew. I pushed it off because I know the results would show I was deficient. I finally go, and a day later, the doctor calls me in to go over the results and the first thing he says. “How are you alive? What are you doing, Jordan? How have you not given yourself a heart attack?” I completely broke down. My levels were so low and hearing him say the consequences of what I was doing, finally hit me. My boyfriend came to the trainer’s office and hears him say these things to me. We finally tell my coach and he tells me to take the cautionary measures to beat this and get me back to my fitness that he saw in me my senior year. By this time, it is Thanksgiving break and I go to Halifax, Canada with my boyfriend, where he and his family talked with me, and literally helped me through this. I had told my parents what was going on, and in shock and naturally, they were worried. But them being so far away, they couldn’t do anything. I informed them that I could do this. I could beat this. With the help of the Englehutt’s, they made sure I was eating my meals and basically giving me compliments to get in my mind mentally, that what I was doing was good. Over the next couple months, it was very hard and annoying to have my boyfriend follow me around and linger by the bathroom to make sure I wasn’t in there for too long. However, I was motivated to get back on track with training and my eating. Finally middle of second semester, things were good and stable. Had a breakthrough in my running, competed in outdoors, and gained weight to 120 pounds. I’ll admit, at that time, I struggled knowing that and was still terrified of it. I still carried my eating habits of cutting everything into small pieces to make me think that I was eating a lot and very strict with eating still. To this day, I still have these habits.  People think me playing with my food is cute and funny, but little do they (unless they do) know, that this is just one of the many habits.

Sophomore year ended better than I thought and had a great summer. Only a couple people knew, but they were the right people to know because I was finally beating this. Junior, Senior, and my Super Senior year all went great, getting my PR’s and really flourishing in my academics. I changed my eating habits, although still very strict, but at this time, I was obsessed with getting faster, and that meant to me, eating the right food, and not cutting anything out. Things were going great, graduated in 2011 and starting my early adulthood life with jobs and running. The rest of 2011 goes great.

By March 2012, running was going well, work was going well, but my personal life was in shambles. Stress brought back my eating disorder. When I felt I had no control of anything else, I had control of what I ate. So from March 2012-December 2012, I relapsed with my eating disorder. I was making myself throw up. It was a craving I had to cave to because it made me feel better. However, a couple of my friends, some since freshman year of college, and my boyfriend all helped me through this. Some of them had informed me that they knew, but just didn’t know how to approach me on the issue. I then realized that despite how I was feeling, I couldn’t imagine being in their shoes, watching someone they love and care about, intentionally hurting them self. This gave me the motivation to see a nutritionist and to openly talk to them about it whenever I was struggling or asked them to join me in going to the bathroom, to make sure I didn’t make myself throw up, to make sure I didn’t cave into this temptation. I was finally feeling like I was beating this and felt proud of myself.

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Spring of 2013 started off great and the summer was even better. By the fall, I had made the choice to follow my dreams (since I was in middle school) to go to Washington, DC and advocate for Native Americans on health issues and to help elevate our voice. That was the dream. I made it happen by leaving the best comfort bubble ever and adapted very well. I took a job with the National Indian Health Board and my life took off! I involved myself in everything I could, was still training, long hours, and networking like crazy. After about a year, I took time off from running. I wanted to focus on work, and keeping up with training was stressing me out more. By this time, it’s March of 2015. After finishing working on the Hill with Congresswoman Pingree’s office and working in retail at City Sports, I was feeling almost defeated. I felt like I wasn’t living my dream anymore. Along with this, a relationship I was in, was very toxic and mentally draining. Then, the habits started creeping back in, and BAM….. I was making myself sick again. Now it’s May and I landed a job where I help ensure federal funding goes to Tribes/Tribal affiliations with grants to help their projects. I felt I was making a difference and really loving the tribal outreach. I was involving myself in more projects and volunteering more in Native youth issues and events. Running was only happening when I wanted it to but my eating disorder had gone away. Just as I announced in June that I was struggling with this and felt like I had it under control, then in July, it came back. Faster than ever. The toxic relationship I was in but not in anymore since June was at its worst. I poured myself into my friends, my work, my advocacy, but I started to make myself sick again. This was a control and body image issue for me. It wasn’t until October I admitted to myself that I was struggling and this was wrong. So I started to get control of it myself, as usual. However, over the next coming months, felt that to really beat this, I needed more help than just myself. By January of 2016, I sought out a therapist, who has been truly wonderful and I am happy to say that I am on the right track again and motivated more than ever after I started a blog (Native In DC), got a promotion and now training for the Boston Marathon. I’ve started to open up to people (major trust issues), including my parents, and they have been so supportive during this. I only wished I had opened up to them a lot sooner during the summer when hardly anyone knew what I was going through.

It’s February 2016, and this time, it feels different. I am attacking my problem pro-actively and relying on those who have been there for me. This issue isn’t just about being skinny and staying in a size 0, which I am in a size 2 now and at 111 pounds, but it’s a mental struggle, which the therapist is hugely helpful in making me realize. I’m making those connections and feeling like I am attacking the route of this disorder. I feel silly and ashamed that I am still struggling with this at 28 but recently I have had people reach out to me much older, telling me their struggles, and in a sense, makes me feel better knowing that they are still fighting it, but also, BEATING it. They are my role models. If they can beat it, so can I. As I said before, this time it feels different. Things are really falling into place and some exciting things are happening and about to happen. Will the habits completely go away? Maybe not, I hope so, but I can overcome it.

For those who are struggling with this issue or have in the past, just know you are strong, keep those who care about you close and confide in them. Don’t be afraid to ask for help which was my BIGGEST mistake, because I am very independent, and I always know I can rely on myself and only be disappointed in myself. But the more I opened up, the better I felt. My running is going very well despite a 7 day set back spent pool running but now getting back into the swing of things, my eating disorder is non-existent but that doesn’t mean that I am 100% recovered, but I do feel like I am overcoming it. I am feeling proud of myself.  And I’m praying and hoping, that more posts like this and a relapse doesn’t occur again.  It’s still a struggle.  I may be able to have fun and go out to eat, but I am still very aware of what I order or still get those urges, which so far, I’ve managed to not cave into, even when things have been stressful.   I have changed my diet, which I have so much energy from, but also, caving into my cravings of “If I want a Twix candy bar, I’m going to go for it,” “If I want one more slice of pizza, I’m going to go for it,” or “I am not going to feel guilty about eating Speculoos Cookie Butter with a spoon right out of the jar.”  Family and friends are everything! I give so much thanks to them!

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To end this story,  I am on the path to recovery.  I hope this helps for anyone out there!  Like before, feel free to reach out to me as some people have. I really hope this breaks the social stigma on this topic and to not have it be looked at as a taboo but something that we can safely talk about while being encouraging and supportive.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me at nativeindc@gmail.com or on my Facebook Page ( Native in DC ).

Love you guys! Mitakuye Oyasin!

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