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In her own words: Ice cream cone

News | February 27, 2017

Editor’s note: Erin Platt is a marketing and communications professional and St. Paul member.

It all started with a McDonald’s ice cream cone.

You know, those soft-serve-only-cost-a-dollar-170-calorie snacks one grabs at the DeKalb Oasis if so inclined while road-tripping with your high school girlfriends to Chicago for the weekend. Not what one would exactly call a binge or overeating by any means.

But it was the tipping point.

Looking back on it now, it all sounds so stupid. I mean, how can one little snack like that seep into your brain? It’s easy if you’ve been subtly conditioned by society to think less of yourself because of your food choices. Because of how your metabolism processes food. Because you sometimes eat your feelings. Because you can’t express the loneliness of not being invited on a date even though many of your friends have. Because of any number of reasons that leave you feeling sad and vulnerable and imperfect and so very less than on any given day.

Eventually the cacophony of internal insults grows louder and louder until you need to shut it down. And the only way to do so is by sticking your finger down your throat, finding out that it’s much easier than you thought it would be.

Problem solved, right? Calories negated, as though the ice cream cone never existed. Relief floods you like a drug as you gain control again of your life. Gain. Control. Because that’s what this ultimately turns out to be about, really. Control.

Not being skinny. Not being healthy. But being in control when the world around you seems so damn scary and unsure and out of control.

Sure, there’s a little bit of shame for how gross it is to throw up, and you find yourself washing your hands over and over and over just to make sure there’s no telltale smell that will give your secret away. Because part of trying to attain perfection – or its illusion – is masking any part of your life that seems messy or imperfect after all.

And, of course, there are the promises to yourself that you will never do it again. This was a one-time occurrence, you assure yourself naively. Then one day you find that an ice cream cone has become an entire half-gallon of ice cream and once in a while becomes once every day until at the height of your illness you are using more credits on your college food service meal plan than the offensive linemen on the football team and throwing up seven times a day.

Sometimes there’s blood … and it’s scary. Sometimes you feel light-headed … but you push through it. Sometimes your friends and family question you, but you deny, deny, deny.

Look! the voices hiss. You have friends. And popularity. And good grades. And accolades. And talent. And a bright future. You are no longer less than.

But you never believe them.

Because the one thing that always exists is the shame that you no longer have control over something that you thought was giving you control. And the guilt of being so very less than takes over again. It’s a vicious cycle.

That was my life from 1986 through 1993. While I can identify the tipping point that started me down this very dangerous path of an eating disorder, there is no one moment in time that brought me to the other side. It was an accumulation of moments and fresh starts and stumbles and dusting myself off and beginning again that got me there.

There was the college roommate who encouraged me to seek help at the counseling service and even celebrated on a sticker chart on the back of our dorm room door whenever I had a day without throwing up. I think I once had a streak of 19 days straight going, which was quite an accomplishment at the time. I felt like I was 5 years old, but boy did getting a sticker feel good.

There was the dietitian who started teaching me how to read labels and gave me suggested food plans for guidance when I just didn’t have the mental energy to think about what would be a “good” choice.

There was the fellow student who invited me to a local support group where I started to learn some self-acceptance strategies based on the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program.

There was the Serenity Prayer I had written in magic marker on a giant sheet of butcher block paper above my dorm bed where I or fellow floormates could write inspirational or funny sayings as the mood so moved us. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

And most importantly, there was the quiet growth in my own resolve to conquer this inner demon and to admit that feeling so very less than from time to time was but an emotion and not a reality.

I wish I could tell you that it was easy, and I was always moving forward on my recovery. I wasn’t. Sometimes I moved sideways. Sometimes I moved backward. Sometimes I didn’t move at all.

You see, overcoming an eating disorder is one of the hardest addictions to manage because unlike many others – smoking, drinking, drugs, gambling, etc. – your body physically needs your vice to function. One can quit cold turkey with cigarettes, and his or her life will go on. Quitting cold turkey with food is not only unreasonable, it’s another eating disorder in and of itself.

So learning to overcome the distorted relationship you have with food is one of the biggest challenges. You have no concept of what being truly full feels like. For years, I had to literally ask myself if I was full with every bite of food because I had spent years stretching my stomach with massive binges. I didn’t trust myself to answer correctly and had to re-learn the sensation of being physically sated.

The other big hurdle is learning to love yourself no matter what – messy and imperfect as you may be at times. Neither one are easy lessons, and I still struggle with them to this day.

There have been times in my adult life when those whispers of so very less than start stirring.  They usually center around situations where I am feeling unsuccessful and defeated and ashamed of my failures. Couple that with the fact that I now LOVE FOOD; the mere fact that it brings me joy because of how it tastes, not because of how it can stuff down feelings, is a major milestone … even though admittedly I use it for that as well some of the time.

They say that one never really is cured from having an eating disorder; one just learns strategies to manage the disease. Every day can be like waiting for someone to strike a match to throw on the kerosene poured all around me. Fortunately, I have had a fire extinguisher nearby to put out the fire before it becomes an inferno.

As a result there are days when my 46-year-old self desperately wishes I could have a talk with my 16-year-old self.

I want to tell her that living by a mantra of all things in moderation is a wonderful way to strike a balance. I love ice cream, steak, and red wine. But I also love grilled fish, roasted cauliflower, and sparkling water. I take a walk almost every day of the week. But there are some days when the thought of doing so just doesn’t appeal to me. And that’s OK. Because there are also days when I feel like trying to jog. Just do the best you can.

I want to tell her that comparing how you’re feeling on the inside to how someone else looks on the outside is a recipe for disaster. (And not to mention, most likely they’re doing the same thing with you.)

I want to tell her that there will be good days and there will be bad days, but how she reacts to both is what matters.

I want to tell her that control is an illusion.

I want to tell her that she has unique gifts and abilities of which she should feel so very proud.

I want to tell her that her special brand of messy imperfection is actually perfection personified because it means she’s human.

But most importantly, I want to tell her to love herself. It will be the single, biggest influencer of self-worth she will ever have.

And in doing so, the 46-year-old self will look in the mirror as well. And smile.

NOTE: If you need help, please visit www.nedawareness.org or call 1-800-931-2237.

4 Comments on “In her own words: Ice cream cone”

  • Jana Baltimore

    March 4, 2017 at 10:10 am

    Honest and powerful message! Thank you.

  • Vicki Felger

    March 3, 2017 at 9:46 pm

    Oh Erin, your honesty and courage are so powerful and moving! Thank you so much! I’m so proud of you and know i will always benefit from your story.

  • Elizabeth and Bonnie Fox

    March 2, 2017 at 8:11 pm

    Thank you for sharing your personal story. You beautifully express the way you grew closer to God through the Serenity Prayer and through unconditional love.

  • Jeff Carroll

    March 2, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    Thank you so much Erin for sharing such a courageous story. There is a NEDA walk coming up 4/29 in Iowa City. I participated last year with a group of my co-workers.

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Daniel 12:1-3

The Time of the End

1“Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.2“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.3“Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

Psalm 16

1Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You.

2I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord;

I have no good besides You.”

3As for the saints who are in the earth,

They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.

4The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied;

I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood,

Nor will I take their names upon my lips.

5The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;

You support my lot.

6The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;

Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.

7I will bless the LORD who has counseled me;

Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.

8I have set the LORD continually before me;

Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

9Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;

My flesh also will dwell securely.

10For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;

Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.

11You will make known to me the path of life;

In Your presence is fullness of joy;

In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Hebrews 10:11-25

11Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins;12but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD,13waiting from that time onward UNTIL HISENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET.14For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.15And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,

16“THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM

AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD:

I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART,

AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM,”

He then says,

17“AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS

I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.”

18Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.

A New and Living Way

19Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,20by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh,21and since we have a great priest over the house of God,22let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;24and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,25not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Christ or Judgment

Mark 13:1-8

Things to Come

1As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples *said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”2And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.”

3As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately,4“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?”5And Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one misleads you.6“Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many.7“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end.8“For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

Daniel 7:9-14

9“I kept looking

Until thrones were set up,

And the Ancient of Days took His seat;

His vesture was like white snow

And the hair of His head like pure wool.

His throne was ablaze with flames,

Its wheels were a burning fire.

10“A river of fire was flowing

And coming out from before Him;

Thousands upon thousands were attending Him,

And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him;

The court sat,

And the books were opened.

11“Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire.12“As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time.

The Son of Man Presented

13“I kept looking in the night visions,

And behold, with the clouds of heaven

One like a Son of Man was coming,

And He came up to the Ancient of Days

And was presented before Him.

14“And to Him was given dominion,

Glory and a kingdom,

That all the peoples, nations and men of every language

Might serve Him.

His dominion is an everlasting dominion

Which will not pass away;

And His kingdom is one

Which will not be destroyed.

The Vision Interpreted

Psalm 93

1The LORD reigns, He is clothed with majesty;

The LORD has clothed and girded Himself with strength;

Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.

2Your throne is established from of old;

You are from everlasting.

3The floods have lifted up, O LORD,

The floods have lifted up their voice,

The floods lift up their pounding waves.

4More than the sounds of many waters,

Than the mighty breakers of the sea,

The LORD on high is mighty.

5Your testimonies are fully confirmed;

Holiness befits Your house,

O LORD, forevermore.

Revelation 1:-4-8

John 18:33-37

33Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”34Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?”35Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?”36Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”37Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”