Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Me and Ana - The Struggle

I am that girl, and I never thought I'd be the one who would struggle with it.  My name is Alyson Roth, and I have an eating disorder that started within days of me becoming paralyzed in 2000.

I don't know how it all started, and there's specific moments I can remember when I restricted my diet, but coming out of a major surgery in July 2000 with multiple issues going on at the same time doesn't leave one with much of an appetite.  It continued from there, I suppose.

I've always enjoyed food and the camaraderie it brings between friends and family.  I never had a problem eating growing up as a little girl and into my teens.  I didn't over-indulge, but I never really paid attention to the scale, either.  I did (and still) love sweets.  It's a downfall.  I have had close family members tease me about my weight and say I'm "big boned."  Not the thing any woman let alone a teenager wants to hear.  I specifically remember wanting to try on a jean mini-skirt back during those pre-teen days.  With a smirk, my Mom allowed me to go into the dressing room to try it on.  I was afraid to come out of the dressing room because I knew I'd be criticized.  And I was.  I know she probably didn't mean to say what came out, but what came out has haunted me to this day.  "It's like trying to put an elephant into what a mouse would wear," were her words.  Dear God....

I lost a lot of weight my Junior year of high school when I joined the Track Team.  My parents were gone for a week during the beginning of the season.  When they came back, it was immediately expressed how much weight I had lost and how good I looked.  This was such an encouragement, and I continued to run Track through my Senior year and into college (though not collegiately, just on my own.)  I guess I had found what I liked doing - running, hiking, riding a bike, etc.  It was a good and healthy outlet for me.

Six months after my paralysis, I went back to college to finish my Senior year.  I clearly remember many days where all I would eat were three saltine crackers.  It wasn't something I was purposefully doing, but more subconsciously.  Looking back, I see now it was a coping mechanism for me to control something when I had lost control of just about everything!  Three saltine crackers....

And here I am, almost 15 years later struggling with the same issue.  I don't eat.  And I'm not proud of my body (never really have been since my paralysis.)  There are times that I feel my stomach gurgle to tell me it's hungry, but I brush it off and tell myself just to wait.  "It will pass," I tell myself. The hunger pains don't bother me anymore.

My last relationship hurt me in many ways, and on top of that, I had broken my tibia/fibula.  This bone break was an extremely hard break to heal from compared to everything else I've broken in the past.  Five months later, I finally feel like I am back to being independent.  But a seriously damaging thing one of my ex's family members told me that he said was that if he were to marry me, he was concerned I'd get fat.  *enter huge, bug-eyes, blank stare, jaw drop here*  I don't know why this surprises me since he has complained about all his other exes and how fat they have become (his words.)  But to someone with a now self-acknowledged eating disorder, these words are not at all loving.  (This is just one of many reasons he is now an ex.)

For the past three months, I have been doing the 21 Day Fix - and let me just say it is more food than I've ever eaten!  It is all clean eating with no sugar or preservative type foods.  I've done a lot of "weight loss" programs and gimmick diets, and this is by far the first that has actually helped me see a difference and been the most teachable program about how to eat healthy and eat within proportion.  The one thing I wasn't able to do throughout these months is the cardio exercise part of the program because of my leg break.

And then this past month, I honestly just resorted to "just get used to the hunger pains" again.  I felt like giving up.

Being a paraplegic and having to work five times as hard as the average person to lose weight is so discouraging.  Yes, it's doable from what I've seen in others, but it seems impossible for me.  There was one time - one time ONLY - that I felt awesome about my body and that was when I was working with a fabulous trainer, Rick Noda, in Encinitas, CA.  He was so adaptable to the needs of my paralyzed body and helped me with that extra little nudge I needed to do an exercise properly.  I spitefully challenged him after a hellish day of him making me push up and down hills for 20 minutes to try doing these exercises from my perspective and in a wheelchair.  Then, maybe he'd see how difficult it is to do what I do every single day just to live.  He took me up on it!  The next time we met, he got in one of my extra wheelchairs and did all of the exercises with me in a wheelchair.  Yes, he gained a whole new perspective, and our synergy got even greater because of that day.  I was finally becoming confident in my body, happy with life, and enjoying the new-found positive body image.

And then.... I broke my femur three months into our training.  It was totally my fault and had nothing to do with him training me or things we were doing.  I had fallen and landed the wrong way during a transfer about a week prior, went to the doctor to get it X-rayed, nothing was found but indeed there was a hairline fracture.  So, throughout the week my leg was acting different and finally while stretching on my own one morning, it snapped.  The cycle of not eating began once again.

I was inspired to openly blog about this disease because of the struggle that former Miss America 2011 and current Miss Nebraska World 2015, Teresa Scanlan has openly shared about on a personal level.  I do not share any of this out of pity for myself.  I met Teresa back in 2011 and can honestly say she is who you see... a genuine, transparent, intelligent, down to earth, strong, Jesus-loving woman who cares about people.  There's nothing fake about her personality or her heart.  I had a conversation with her yesterday evening about my struggles, and she was very understanding and encouraging.  It brought me to tears because I really want a "before and after" picture like she and so many others I have seen have of themselves.  I want to be that person who is proportionally healthy.  But this disease takes over ones mind and it is hard to push past some days.  I struggle with it every day with some days being better than others.

Contrary to popular belief, eating less does not make you skinny fast.  It just eats away at your muscles and stores fat because your body goes into survival mode.  So to look at me, you would probably say, "There's no way you have an eating disorder!"  In the long ago past, I can say that I have honestly researched on how to be anorexic, been in chat rooms, and read blogs about "Ana."  That is the "nickname" for those who are unaware.  I would read and read, watch YouTube video's and try to gain as much information as I could on how to do this whole thing.  (Throwing up (bulimia) was not an option because I hate throwing up.)  I tried to do the things some of these girls suggested, but like I said, I like food to much so I was never able to restrict myself to the precise details that these people have it down to.  I honestly believe it stems from the lack of control I had regarding my car accident, and having the power to choose whether or not I want to eat is a coping mechanism.  How to break away from that mentality?  I do not know.  I have never been a size 4 and never will be.  But my heart desperately wants to not have to deal with the daily struggles of paralysis at times, so on those days, I seem to not make wise eating decisions.  It's not full-blown like it was when I first became injured, but eating is something I struggle with.  Who would think someone would have a problem with eating??  I just want to be healthy.

The devil has always used my physical body as a way to try to "tear me away from Jesus."  Always.  And this is just another form of trying to break me down.  To be honest, it's probably the hardest of all battles because when bones break or a sickness occurs, one just has to wait for it to heal while staying mentally positive.  There isn't much one can physically do to make a bone heal faster.  With an eating disorder, it's a mental battle and a physical battle, and unknowingly people can say something that will trigger a seemingly detrimental response. Yesterday, the disease was winning, but today is a new day.  I really hope to be someone who can be encouraging to others in this department, because the struggle is real and having a disability does not help in any way.  I don't feel encouraging, but maybe by putting this out there, others who are struggling with this mentality can know they are not alone.

Life is full of hills and valleys.  I was told by a very wise friend after I became paralyzed and knew of my love for Yosemite and hiking that, "God doesn't care how many mountains you can climb (in the physical sense.)  He cares more about your heart and how you handle the journey ahead of you."  I'm trying, I really am.  I try every day to have a heart like Jesus' so that I can push the devil aside.  I believe the more people that talk about their issues, the easier it becomes to overcome the battle, if not to at least improve from where I am today.  Not eating is not something I purposefully do.  It's subconsciously done until I realize what I'm doing, and then I try to change it so that I'm healthy.  The 21 Day Fix has been a big help in forcing me to not just eat healthy, clean foods, but to simply eat!

I now add to my list for Celebrate Recovery.  My name is Alyson Roth.  I am a believer in Jesus Christ, and I struggle with an eating disorder (... among other things that are personal to me and those I choose to share them with.)

"See, I have engraved you on the palm of my hands; your walls are ever before me." Isaiah 49:16

* This blog was written as a personal experience and in no way endorses or condones anorexic behavior.  If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, please seek professional help.  Please visit or and do not hesitate to call the help line.

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Blogger Jeffery said...

What you said about an eating disorder taking over your mind is so true; it's impossible at times to make good choices concerning eating when how much you eat is all feel that you can control. You're an inspiration to other women who struggle with an eating disorder, along with another significant challenge in their life.

September 9, 2016 at 2:11 AM  

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