“The best feeling in the whole world is watching things finally fall into place after watching them fall apart for so long.” – unknown
Like most people growing up was tough, when going through so many awkward changes and challenges. It would take me til now, today, to say that my life is far from perfect and you know what, I’m okay with it!
Let’s start from the beginning. 25 years ago, I was born in Southern California. I have two older siblings and a younger brother. I always enjoyed being apart of a big family.
My parents raised us to be open-minded and adventurous. My parents encourage us to go for creative and athletic outlets.
At my preschool, my mom would teach us how to cook and bake. (I guess you can say that’s when I started my love for baking and cooking).
Before I started kindergarten, I was about 5 years old, my family moved for better schools outside of the Los Angeles area. I started making new friends in the neighborhood that I went to school with. About a year later, I began to be teased by other kids and my mom could see it hurting me in carpool.
I was really shy, sometimes painfully shy and super sensitive. I was the girl who cried over spilled milk (literally). I don’t know why, but that is me, wearing all my emotions on my sleeve. So because of that I was quiet.
I was being bullied and made fun of through elementary school for no real reasons that I understood. From what I guessed, it was that I wasn’t popular. I couldn’t read out loud. I don’t know, I was treated differently.
I couldn’t comprehend what I was reading or decode words on my own. It was a learning disability. I was embarrassed because of it. Being shy and having to read aloud in front of the class was my worst nightmare. I would get so anxious and feel like I had to throw up. I wanted so badly to be perfect.
My younger brother was born with autism. Knowing my brother now you couldn’t tell but in the early years it was a tough. During that time, it was difficult– it couldn’t be about me, it was about him. (Side note: my brother is a successful jazz trombonist, living on his own, just graduated college and having the time of his life. Yes it can happen! I’m so proud of him!)
So for me I developed the sense that being the good child, never getting into trouble, helping around the house being perfect is what my parents wanted and needed. I didn’t want to give my parents more to do or to worry about.
At 10, my mom went back to school to get her teachers degree and many masters degrees in Special Education.
That’s when I started cooking, packing lunches, cleaning and doing laundry; being independent and picking up the slack (well in my mind slack). I always felt a sense of responsibility that it was up to me to take on more chores around the house.
I know it wasn’t forced on me by my parents but internally I put the pressure on myself to do everything I could. I wanted everyone to like me so much, I gave them the perfect image of me.
Instead of watching the newest TV show all my friends were watching, you would find me with a notepad taking notes watching Food Network and interior design shows.
I would quickly be writing down new recipes so I could make them for my family’s dinner. I use to know what program was next and I’d get so excited for Sunday nights Food Network challenges where the best pastry chefs and cake decorators would compete and make these huge unbelievable cakes.
Both my mom and my dad would ask “don’t you get hungry watching all this food.” I’d respond with “no, I’m getting recipe ideas that I want to try.”
Throughout elementary, middle and high school, I had a close group of friends and we did everything together. We didn’t really talk to other kids. We just stuck together (until we didn’t have anything in common towards the end of high school). We all had our roles in the group, like most friends do.
I was the mother of the group and it was a natural fit for me. I would always worry if someone was going to get hurt or listen to their problems and try to help. I always felt a need to go out of my way to make someone else feel loved. Giving everything to them and not ask for anything in return.
I did participate in sports, fall I played soccer, spring gymnastics and dance, even summertime playing baseball with my dad at the park. Even being apart of so many activities I was still a pretty shy kid.
I had a natural thicker build than most girls my age. I was bigger but definitely not overweight. I was starting to develop breasts really early. Wearing training bars way before my friends were.
I felt even more uncomfortable and out-of-place. My mom would try to talk to me about my body and try to comfort me sometimes.
I didn’t look anything like my mom, I took after my dad’s side. So everything she would say to me about what’s suppose to happen I couldn’t relate to. My best friend looked more like my mom than I did. When we would go shopping the sales person would assume the two of them were mother/daughter and I was the friend they brought along. It was heartbreaking but I would stand there and smile and laugh it off. I learned to protect myself.
Smile through the pain and cry when no one was looking.
Every year I would get a medical physical around my birthday. The day before my 12th birthday, I went in for my appointment. Sitting there with my mom talking about my party the next day. Then the doctor comes in to check my blood pressure, reflexes, etc., does all the normal physical visit as well as my height and weight.
When the doctor started to look over my chart, the doctor pauses and looks from her chart to my mom. The doctor proceeds to tell her that I am too “fat” for my age and height.
The word FAT just repeated in my mind. I didn’t hear anything else but I started to cry. Fat, Fat, Fat. I just kept hearing it. I was shocked. I was crying out of confusion and disappointment because I let my mom down, I’m not perfect.
Disappointment that my mom was there to hear it. Hearing the word fat from a doctor, a medical professional, gave the voice of insecurities in my head a valid reason to say horrible body shaming thoughts to myself, like it was okay to do so.
It also confirmed why I thought other kids were making fun of me. I thought if a doctor thinks I’m overweight than it must really be true. I also felt that it gave power to my mom to “help” me get into shape. Trying to help the situation my mom responds with “she doesn’t eat bad foods, she just eats a lot of healthy foods.”
This started a road of comforting (protecting) myself even more than I ever had before. A road consisting of new diet after diet and emotional pains for years.
I was embarrassed to eat in front of others, especially my mom. I didn’t have a gauge on my hunger or fullness like most. The dinner table was tough for me.
Directly in front of me was my younger brother who has the gift of when he is full he stops eating. I would see my dad next to me eating a full plate of spaghetti and meatballs with a side salad. Then I’d see my mom, across the table, eating a full plate of salad with some pasta sauce on the side. It’s what she wanted to eat and I couldn’t get myself to eat her way. So I would mimic my dad.
When no one was looking, I would sneak food. I didn’t quite know what I was doing but it quickly became a way for me to shove any uncomfortable feelings down, stuffing them away. I was struggling. I would get so full sometimes I would make myself sick. I would sometimes have 2 or 3 dinners before the nights end without anyone looking.
I would hide in the bathroom before dinner with a bowl of rice I just skimmed off the top of the cooling pot. Quickly eating a bowl of rice and walking out like nothing happened. I knew it wasn’t good for me but I couldn’t stop and I didn’t want to. For those few minutes of sneak eating, my mind would be quiet. I would be numb. I finally had some control back in my life. This happened for years.
I controlled my world for a second. School stress didn’t matter. Friend drama didn’t matter. Being perfect didn’t matter. This was my secret.
Over the next year, I was steadily gaining weight. My parents noticed, didn’t say much until they would catch me crying in my closet because of how big I got. I felt like I was being judge ever since the doctor pointed out my weight.
My mom took me to see a nutritionist. I don’t really remember much from that first session except I was crying the entire time. The nutritionist sent me home with a food diary packet, so I could write everything down that I was eating and take it with me to the next week’s session. I saw this as a punishment and embarrassing for being too “fat.” I couldn’t actually write down what I was eating. No way! She’ll laugh at me or worst tell my mom that I wasn’t perfect. I hated it.
Someone wanted to know the real me. I couldn’t let that happen. I couldn’t show it.
So the night before the second session, I would stay up late to write down the “ideal” food diary. The stuff I was supposed to eat not the stuff I was actually eating. The best serving sizes and portions were written down.
So on paper I looked great. But after weeks of pulling this game, she quickly noticed I wasn’t losing any weight. I should be according to my food diary. So I panicked and I told my mom that I didn’t want to go anymore.
Doing her best to help, my mom came up with a new diet plan for me. She had charts and weekly weigh in dates and a schedule for me to follow. I lost 12 pounds. The weight loss was great but no one else was dieting, why should I.
Being 12, counting calories was okay for like a few week then I quickly cheated on my diet. I remember going to a girl scout camp out and I wasn’t allowed to eat anything on the camp out except what my mom had packed for me. I began to sneak food once again. I wanted to feel normal. The weight quickly came back over the next few months.
At school, I would buy lunches with my allowance/chore money and throw away the lunch my mom made for me. I wanted to feel like everyone else and buy lunch or get something from the vending machines. I would eat terrible at school and eat healthier at home. I was playing a game and I thought I had it figured out.
My 13th birthday was coming up quickly and I was terrified because I had another annual check up coming up. The idea of the appointment gave me so much anxiety. I was scared. I was scared because I knew I gained more weight than last year. And if I was fat then I must be obese this year.
Once again all the usual: height, weight, blood pressure, reflexes, lungs were all checked and instead of saying anything about how much weight I gained, the doctor asked for my family history and ordered blood tests.
Since there is a history of hyper and hypo thyroid on both sides of my family, the doctor ordered blood tests to make sure I didn’t have anything causing my weight gain. I just couldn’t say it’s because I’m lying to everyone and eating way more than I let on to be.
In middle school we had a lesson about eating disorders in science. We talked about how many different disorders there are and how a lot of it can be influenced through a traumatic event or the pressure from society and just daily life.
When I brought the work home from school to discuss it with my mom, she sat me down to tell me about how when she was my age she struggled with Bulimia. She told me stories of how her parents didn’t know what to do. She would continue to talk about how she survived through it. I guess that’s why she always ate differently from the rest of the family. She ate what she wanted, that worked for her but it didn’t work for me.
My mom was very open about her struggles and how she overcame them. I guess my mom always wanted to help me so I wouldn’t end up like her and be in so much pain like what she went through.
I mentioned my mom’s story to my teacher privately after class. My teacher then asked my mom if she would like to come in and speak with all of her students about eating disorders and how peer pressure and outside influences can greatly affect someone. That we shouldn’t judge someone for how they looked.
I remember students coming up to me after asking if I was just like my mom. I said “no, I had no idea she had an eating disorder.” I guess I was a lot more alike my mom than I thought.
I slowly became depressed. School was not easy for me. I was clumsy and always getting hurt from gymnastics. Constantly spraining, twisting my ankle. I had glasses transitioning to contacts, top and bottom braces with neck gear that I had to wear at night so sleep overs were rough and nasal spray because I had terrible sinus headaches that would send me home from school.
It was physically rough. There were also times where I would break out into rashes from stress.
It became even harder to meet new people because I had no self-esteem, no confidence. All the other kids in my class looked like they had it all figured out already.
Before middle school ended, I tried out for the cheer team for the high school. I was also in gymnastics for a while and it was the only thing close enough to it and I went for it because I knew my best friend was trying out as well. And to be honest, I thought it could help change me. Make me into the person I wanted to be.
That first summer was intense, I was in cheer camp at school 4 days a week outside in the sun. We even had an intensive cheer camp week at UCLA that summer. I felt I could walk into high school different and new, but it was the same. Yeah I was in a cheer uniform some days because we had a game later. But what I quickly figured out is that the uniform, being a cheerleader was a job. When I was in it I was outgoing and care free but once I was in my clothes the weight of my world was back on my shoulders.
Being on the team was a good reason I felt even more pressure to get good grades. I felt all the other girls were so smart and in AP classes, I was not. After working on my reading skills, reading to the class was still a nightmare.
I looked forward to game days, it was when we wore our uniforms all day. It was also a tradition that the girls would be assigned football players and we would have to bake something sweet for them and they would bring us flowers to school. I never understood the purpose but I didn’t care. I got to bake brownies, cookies, cakes every week. I enjoyed it.
I loved cheering for football games, it was a blast. My dad taught me how to understand the game so I would know what was going on.
I was also in fine art classes and working on my painting and sketching skills that I started doing when I was much younger. I was so focused on cheer and art my first year of high school I didn’t think about my problems, I mean every once in a while an issue would come up like a bad test score and I would binge. I thought I was finally normal just like everyone else.
I was just surviving. Staying under the radar.
Until I got my report cards back first semester of sophomore year and I saw that I failed 2 classes Spanish and geometry. I didn’t know what to do. I tried to hide my report cards from my parents for as long as I could but another notice was sent to my house to alert my parents that I needed to do something about it. Like switching classes or signing up for summer school. That’s when my parents saw it.
I kept it a secret that I was doing so poorly and not asking for help. I thought I could fix it myself but I couldn’t. I failed. My dad rarely got upset at me for anything. So the fact that I let my grades go so much and I didn’t ask for help, he was very upset with me that I let my future go.
I put myself into a box that I couldn’t get out of, it was going to stick with me forever. He was upset because I told him I was doing well and I had everything under control, clearly I didn’t. He was disappointed. I felt miserable. I would binge later that night.
Sometimes when I wasn’t in cheer, I would eat out of boredom. It felt like I ate everything in the house. I would feel safe for those few moments.
I noticed my uniform was fitting tighter and tighter, so my mom took me to Weight Watchers to lose weight. I was 15 in a room of women all different ages, I was clearly the youngest one. I was out-of-place.
I freaked out when I saw the scale, it reminded me of the doctor’s scale where I got the terrible news.
Just like before with the nutritionist, I had to document what I was eating. I took the first month seriously, lost a some weight, but I couldn’t tell anyone that I went to Weight Watchers. I didn’t want to go but my mom would tell me it was for the best. She wanted to help me because I was so sad and depressed all the time when I was home.
One week when I didn’t make that week’s goal weight I hated that feeling I wasn’t seeing any progress so I gave up. I couldn’t take anymore disappointment. I was trying and nothing was working so I found my mom’s laxative pills. The night before a weigh in I would take them one sometimes two, and I would be up all night with stomach pains trying to get rid of this extra weight. This lasted for several months.
I couldn’t tell my mom again that I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to let her down. I was sick. I was getting terrible headaches and stomach aches. I was going home all the time from school. Once the contract was up I didn’t go back. I blamed it on being the only one my age, I couldn’t relate to anyone (which was true) and I didn’t want my friends finding out.
I was so depressed I then went to a therapist. I felt completely humiliated. I felt like a failure again. Like I must really have problems. I went once a week for the rest of high school. Of course I didn’t mention my eating binge nights because that was still my secret and I also didn’t think that was my major issue. I would talk about everything else but that. School, cheer, and my family were the top choices. My binge nights were the one thing that calmed me down, it was mine.
My 16th birthday came around and I didn’t do anything except my parents totally surprised me and I got a car. I didn’t get it at first. My mom gave me a toy car as my gift with little printed signs on the plates said, “My Car” (or something). It took awhile but I was so excited and so grateful.
The arrangement was that since I did get the car, I had to pay for the gas and also go to a community college since it was paid with my college fund. In my mind it seemed great since I was terrible at school and there was no way I was getting into a 4 year. This also meant I had to get a job besides babysitting the neighborhoods kids to pay for gas and repair/services for it.
I got a job as a gymnastics instructor at a local kids gym. I went there when I was younger and the owner remembered me during the interview and I got the job. I worked with the mommy & me class as well as the 2-9 year olds. I loved that job! It was right after school and a few days a week. I always have the patience to work with the little kids, I still enjoy working with them now.
The car was great! I got a white VW Jetta, which it seemed like every 16-year-old girl at my school had as well. I went to a wealthier high school, where everything was about your status and what brands you were wearing. I felt like I couldn’t compete.
When I starting driving, it opened up so much for me to explore. Also getting food that wasn’t allowed in my house just became a lot easier to get. After games I would go through drive thrus and eat so much in the car. I would be sick to my stomach. This went on and on. I became more depressed, anxious even to the point of having panic attacks in the car after going through a drive thru because I felt so horrible and ashamed.
I would pull up to my house and before going inside I would go to the large trash cans and throw my evidence away before walking into the house. I would try to cover the smell. But I’m sure til this day my parents had an idea, but they didn’t know what to do.
One day during my spring break where I had literally nothing planned, no family trips, no cheer plans nothing I didn’t do anything for that week. All my friends were gone; I felt like I had no one.
I was alone. I had no distractions. I was left with myself. Eating all day all night. Just me. The little voice in my head wouldn’t stop. I was so incredibly depressed. I hated myself. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror and know one knew what I was doing. I would stuff and stuff myself to stop these thoughts. Taking laxatives to make me feel thinner and get rid of weight (or so I thought).
By week’s end of this non-stop binge cycle, I was laying on the couch and my mom asked if I was okay. I immediately burst into tears. I couldn’t take the loneliness anymore and after an hour of crying. I told her it was bad, that I don’t want to live anymore. I couldn’t go back and fix anything, I was so down that I could see my world slowly crumble around me and I was drowning in it. No one knew how bad it was. She stayed in my room that night.
The next day my mom called an emergency session with my therapist and I had to sign a contact that I wasn’t going to harm myself or else I was going to have to stay overnight somewhere to be in suicide watch. My psychiatrist also raised my anti-depressant since I was so depressed.
Telling my mom about my thoughts and fears was my way of asking for help. But no one else knew, my best friends had no idea. I was still alone in a crowd of people. I put my shame back into the food, the only thing that hasn’t let me down.
I changed my schedule at school for easier classes, nothing like college prep, just enough so I could graduate. I survived another year but I wasn’t living. Cheer and art were the only good things I had to look forward too.
I would smile everyday but it wasn’t real. I felt trapped by my own making. I couldn’t get out. The summer before my senior year, I went on another crazy diet.
I was determined to look good for my senior year. I lost over 40 pounds in 10 weeks. It was a crazy shake and bars only kind of diet. It was easy to stick to when I wasn’t in school.
With losing the weight I felt new. I felt like I overcame my issues and I was fine. I was at my goal and I should’ve been happy. I was getting attention everyone said I look great. The next year was way more fun than the others, I took the senior year head on.
Besides my high school team, I joined an all year round all-star competition cheer team. It definitely opened my eyes and got my excited about something again. I had pretty easy classes. I managed to get passing grades so I graduated but barely. Again I just survived.
Over the summer after I graduated, all my classmates and friends moved away to the new colleges. I felt like I was the only one to stay behind. I didn’t have the grades to get in anywhere. I felt stupid and I was envious that everyone I knew was starting these great journeys and I wasn’t.
Then my best friend left for school. It was also the same time my mom went away to China for 3 weeks on a vacation and I was left with my brother and my dad. I wasn’t close to my dad during this time especially after the failing grades argument.
I felt completely alone. I felt abandoned. I started binge eating again. I couldn’t take it the dark places my mind would wonder, the rejection I felt from not having my mom there when everyone I know was leaving me behind. My mom was best friend. She was all I had but she wasn’t there.
My mom got back from her trip and I started community college classes. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was at home going to the local junior college. All I knew was I hated school. I started skipping classes (which I have never done before college). I was taking all general ed classes since my transcripts were so poor from high school.
I eating like crazy again, my weight came back plus much more. I wasn’t as active as I once was since most of it came from high school. Now I was just eating and doing nothing. I was eating when I was happy, sad, bored, depressed, and sometimes as a reward for going to class that day.
Food became my best friend. Instead of being my secret it was becoming my blanket that I would wear all the time. I didn’t care if my family knew how much I was eating. I was on a downward slope. I was eating my way to rock bottom.
I didn’t want help but I hated the weight that was consuming me. I went to another nutritionist to help me out. Another diet was put into place. By this time I had been on diets plans on and off for the last 6 years.
The nutritionist recommended to me that I should see a specialized therapist for eating disorders. Since I wasn’t going to one anymore.”Food and depression were like my best friends” I told her, “I am miserable.”
Then I met with Dawn, an eating disorder therapist.
After several sessions with Dawn, she asked me questions:
- Do I eat when I’m not hungry, or not eat when my body needs nourishment?
- Do I go on eating binges for no apparent reason, sometimes eating until I’m stuffed or even feel sick?
- Do I have feelings of guilt, shame, or embarrassment about my weight or the way I eat?
- Do I eat sensibly in front of others and then make up for it when I am alone?
- When my emotions are intense — whether positive or negative — do I find myself reaching for food?
- Do my eating behaviors make me or others unhappy?
- Have I ever used laxatives, vomiting, diuretics, excessive exercise, diet pills, shots or other medical interventions (including surgery) to try to control my weight?
- Have I lost weight with a diet or “period of control” only to be followed by bouts of uncontrolled eating and/or weight gain?
- Is my eating affecting my health or the way I live my life?
My answer was yes to every question. Dawn then proceeded to tell me that since my behaviors have been going on for the last 6 years, that this was a pattern, it was consistent with Compulsive Overeating or Binge Eating Disorder. When she broke it down for me to understand I knew I couldn’t hide anymore and I needed to start to accept help to get better.
“People suffering with Compulsive Overeating have what is characterized as an “addiction” to food, using food and eating as a way to hide from their emotions, to fill a void they feel inside, and to cope with daily stresses and problems in their lives.”
It was 2 weeks before Christmas when I met with Dawn and by January 4th, 2010 I was enrolled in an eating disorder clinic. I trusted Dawn and I was ready to start talking it out with her. I wanted to start to get out of this hole I dug for myself.
The clinic had apartments available to rent for patients to live in. I moved into one to get me out of my house and really focus on my new work. This was an outpatient clinic in LA. I had roommates who were in treatment as well.
The other thing with the apartments, is that one of the clinics nutritionists comes to the apartment once a week and go grocery shopping with us. We also would cook with her once a week.
I have never been apart of something like this before. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t even know I had an eating disorder until Dawn pointed it out.
The eating disorder clinic was intense. The schedule was all day long 6 days a week, on Sundays we had a free time to ourselves but I was usually so exhausted from all week therapy and groups I just wanted to be alone.
We also had all of our meals prepared for us from breakfast to lunch and dinner. Each meal was based on our charts and per our needs.
I was nervous, scared and so over whelmed. Everyday we had group and discussed our thoughts and temptations. Saturdays were family groups where my parents would come and we would talk about that week’s work. It was a lot!
I also saw a psychiatrist for my depression and not sleeping well. I was put on different medications, up to 4 everyday. It seemed to help. It allowed me to move through my day without getting trapped in my own thoughts and sink into a dark hole, not see the light in anything.
The more and more I talked the more relief I felt but also the more shame would wash over me. I was finally being honest aloud.
How could I let myself get this bad? How could I go from the good child to a complete disaster? These thoughts and many others kept me up at night. I felt numb after a while.
I was in a safe place but constantly overwhelmed by my own emotions. For the first time in a long time I was feeling everything I stuffed down for so long.
Most of my friends didn’t know I was in treatment. It was something I never talked about til I was out.
The word treatment has this stigma that you are so messed up and have so many problems that it is a last resort. The truth is you can’t take on an eating disorder or ED by yourself; the disorder controls your every thought until you’re completely alone. You feel helpless.
I met so many fantastic women (and also some men) who are amazing individuals, who are smart and caring and understanding. I was in a room of strangers when I first started but by the end of the hour, we all were connected by our stories and our struggles. I felt like someone finally understood me.
I went to treatment twice that year for 4 months each cycle.
When I wasn’t in treatment for 4 months I went to classes at a mom and pop shop for cake decorating. I know it must sound crazy that I turned back to food right after treatment but this time was different.
First, I needed something to do, to get me out of the house. I saw cake decorating as a way to escape my thoughts, I found peace when I was decorating. One of my first cakes was a yellow cake that I cut into a flower and I painted with food coloring. I saw cakes as a canvas that needed to be painted like I did with art in the past.
I started to bake everyday. It became my happy place in the kitchen again.
During this time, I had a friend pay me for a baby shower cake. I realized I enjoyed making people happy with my cakes. I wanted to keep learning and expanding my skills. I looked into the local occupational center baking and cooking classes.
I signed up for the summer classes to get a certificate. It was great, I was getting out of the house again and I had a new goal and I was actually really excited for the first time in a while. I met new people became apart of a community again.
It was an experience I needed to see if I wanted to work in an industry kitchen (which is a lot different from baking at home).
I was remembering my dreams when I was younger of working with cakes like how the professionals were on the Food Network. I was on my way to being a real baker.
With all the stress I put on myself to do well in school, I started losing myself again. Old habit came back with a vengeance. It started with one trip to a drive thru and then the next day again and the day after. I opened up a door I couldn’t shut again.
I needed the continued support when I moved back home. I was feeling triggered every step in my house. I felt trapped again and the old behaviors came back without consciously knowing it.
I started to not sleep again and sneak food. I finally gave myself back up and reached out to my therapist, Dawn for help. I wanted to live free from this disorder. I didn’t want to be controlled by it anymore. I was done. I wanted out. I got a taste of what my life can look like without it and I was happy for that time!
I needed to be there a second time.
I also grew closer to my dad at the time and further away from my mom. I saw her as a trigger, I would watch her eat and get annoyed that she was so tiny and I would just look at food and gain weight. Which helped the downward spiral. It was hard on our relationship. I didn’t see her as a positive support during my treatment.
During my second treatment stay, I met a man, who changed my life. He was a positive light in my new life. He supported me and loved me dearly. We started our relationship slowly and it was scary because I had never been in a relationship before. But I took it day by day.
After four months, he left for New Hampshire because his father had passed away and left him his house back east. We continued to talk everyday and night. He became the only thing I looked forward to. I was upfront and honest with him throughout my treatment. It was easy to open up to him. I loved him.
I felt stronger leaving treatment the second time. I felt like I had the tools and the confidence to face my fears of being around food. Instead of being afraid that I would slip. I learned that I won’t be perfect and its okay. I wanted to start my own cake business, I loved the world of baking and I wasn’t going to allow my ED to stop me anymore.
One night, I was watching the movie “Julie & Julia,” a story where a culinary legend provides a frustrated office worker with a new recipe for life in this movie, the true stories of how Julia Child’s (Meryl Streep) life and cookbook inspired fledgling writer Julie Powell (Amy Adams) to whip up 524 recipes in 365 days and introduce a new generation to the magic of French cooking. I got inspired. I got excited about what I could do with my life!
I was fed up with ED. I had set up goals and was determined to go for them. I had great support. I was losing weight healthfully and slowly but most importantly I was happy. Actually happy!
I researched and toured around the LA culinary schools. I landed at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, CA. Which is actually the school that Julia Child herself help start, although it was a different name at the time.
They offered an associate degree for Patisserie and Baking program and it was exactly what I wanted. Regular college just wasn’t for me but culinary school gave me the excitement for life again.
Classes started on Valentines Day, 2011. A year after treatment started. I loved school, I couldn’t get enough. Yes I was around food all day but since it was like a job, I took it very seriously. I would be taking in culinary foundations, baking 101, breads, pastries, cakes, candy making and many more.
Since I was taking the degree program, I would also be taking general education classes. Each class I took was tailored to the culinary world, so when I took speech for my final I had to demo my favorite recipe in front of the class (kind of like how they do on food network). I love it!
I turned what was my worst security blanket into the thing I was good at. I had the continued support of my family and my long distance boyfriend. I met new people who I still love and are friends with today. I thrived in the kitchen.
I was gaining weight from school not from binging but from tasting delicious food all the time, everything we made I ate some of it. Also just being stressed about tests and driving in LA’s terrible traffic all the time was exhausting. The last thing I wanted to do was eat healthy all the time.
I wasn’t the only one! Each one of my friends gained 10-20 pounds but I was the only one with a history of an ED. I was still going to therapy and I would talk about my concerns that I would lose control and fall into bad habits again.
I did have the support from my boyfriend but since I was so busy, he felt like I didn’t have any time for him. He began to be jealous and would suspect me of cheating on him, especially emotionally cheating with other classmates. It wasn’t true and we fought a lot because of it.
I was swamped in school, so I didn’t understand how he could think that way. He wanted my attention all the time. We would argue but I still loved him.
Half way through school I found out my boyfriend had a tumor in his frontal lobe of his brain. It was discovered when he was hit on the head by some heavy appliances, when he was remodeling the New Hampshire house. He went to the ER and they took a Cat Scan and found it, tested it and it was cancerous.
I remember the phone call. It was right before I had a math test. I was a mess. He told me not to worry but when anyone I love is in pain I want to be there for them. I couldn’t concentrate. I was ready to drop everything and fly back east. He didn’t want me to give up on school and insisted on it. So I stayed and tried to focus.
I continued on with school, taking everything to heart and really learning. I was confident in my reading and writing for the first time ever. I was actually getting straight A’s making the honor roll and I had 100% attendance. I was walking taller and holding my head high. I found my passion.
I always had my boyfriend’s health in the back of my mind.
It was 15 crazy months of school. I learned so much and I had developed a great foundation for everything. I thought I found a balance between everything in my life and then the stress of juggling everything would hit me. And I was struggling for a short time. I would go through these low and high periods. I needed to remind myself that I need to be nice to myself and take my time. I’ll be okay.
One thing I will never forget is my therapist saying is, “you don’t need ED to define who you are. Who are you?” I stopped to think about it and for a long time I didn’t know who I was. But I know who I am not, an eating disorder!
I graduated school in the spring of 2012. It was a huge achievement for me. I felt like a found a huge piece of myself. I was ready to start my life with my new passion.
At the beginning, my boyfriend would fly out to LA to visit and I tried to fly back but he always told me to stay focus on school because that was gonna get me to go places.
He continued to live in New Hampshire to fix up his late dad’s house and later go to Boston’s best cancer treatment facility for chemo therapy. I wanted to fly back to see him now that school was finally over.
One fathers day, 2 days before I was supposed to fly out, he said he wasn’t feeling well and the chemo treatments were taking a toll on him. He didn’t want me to fly out and see him in such poor condition. I was crushed, I felt rejected by someone I loved.
About a month later, I was crying in the car over him. I pulled over and called my mom. She knew how much of a roller coaster this relationship had become. She stepped up and arranged for both of us to fly to Boston and drive to New Hampshire to surprise him.
My mom never turns down a chance to travel. So when I told her I didn’t want to be there alone just in case it wasn’t good, I had her there for me. After everything my mom and I had been through together we put that aside for this trip.
When we flew back to see him, I was excited just to be with him again. When I pulled up to his house and rang the doorbell, he rejected me. He refused to see me because I didn’t tell him I was coming.
I was outside of his house and he won’t let me in. He was angry because he asked me not to come and respect his wishes but I finally had the time to see him and he wouldn’t let me. It was soul crushing.
The cancer had spread to his lungs and he was trying to prevent me from seeing him in that way. I can understand why he felt that way but in my heart I knew I loved him and it didn’t matter. I just wanted to be with him.
I’m so grateful I had my mom there. She helped me through it. I knew it must have bad but he never told me until later.
After a terrible night, we returned back to Boston where we stayed for a few days. I don’t remember much besides crying my eyes out and feeling like I did something wrong and it was all my fault.
When we returned back to LA, I started working full-time. I put my job first, I used my job to numb the pain of rejection. I couldn’t believe that he turned me away. I got apologizes from him and nothing made me feel better.
I felt ED starting to take control again when I was vulnerable. The thoughts started to turn, it was me not him, he turned me away because of my body because I gained weight. He doesn’t love me like this. In my mind it became ugly.
We slowly began talking again. I couldn’t just stop talking to him completely but I had to separate my feelings, he still was my best friend. We tried to fix our relationship.
On September 5th, 2012, on my way home from work, I called him and there was no answer. I waited 10 minutes and called again. The phone was answered by his neighbor who drives him to his treatments, Alice. She answered the phone and spoke very softly, all I heard was “Katie, I’m so sorry.” I dropped the phone and my heart sank. My best friend was gone.
He was napping on the couch and passed in his sleep. I was on the freeway and pulled over. I was in shock. My eyes started to well and the tears were flying out. I immediately called my family and no one answered. I started to have a full panic attack. I was alone. Finally, my mom calls me back and I tell her what had happened. I rushed home to both my parents waiting for me to arrive. I collapsed at the front door. My heart was broken and I couldn’t see straight.
In a blink of an eye my life was changed again. My friends and my family were there for me 100%. All I wanted to do was binge and eat until I couldn’t breathe, but I didn’t. I sat there with my feelings, I let my feelings be there in full view. I let it out instead of pushing it down. I felt everything: the anger, the sadness, the depression, the guilt (I should have stayed with him) and the pain. It was the first time in my life I had ever lost someone so close and dear to my heart.
After a month of grieving and being a complete shut in, I started to get up and get out. I would go over to my cousin’s house and sit with her daughter who was born the previous year. My cousin kept me busy having me help her and babysit my little cousin. The baby would just sleep on me for hours.
In the silence I would think about how all the arguments and the negatives fell away. All I could see was the good times I had with him and how without him I wouldn’t have finished school. He helped me to believe in myself. So I pushed on.
Over the next few months, I slowly gathered my life back together, I started a new job. I was a cake decorator in a Pasadena bakery. I loved it and my love for cakes was back, filled me back up. My passion was there.
For the next 2 years I just focused on my work. And even though I still get upset and sad, I don’t let it stop me. I’ve learned so much about myself that I really can get through anything and be okay.
I focused on my career and worked in some great places. Like working the last 5 years, as an on-camera baking assistant on Food Network shows like Cake Wars, Cupcakes Wars, Halloween Wars and Christmas Cake Wars. I love it! I get to work with different bakers and food artists from all over the country. My skills have improved and my artistic talent as well.
I have worked in several Mom & Pop start-ups and til last year in Beverly Hills as a pastry chef. I left to run my Katherine’s business full-time.
I have a fully licensed and permitted home based business. I get to be my own boss at 25. I get to go to food shows, competitions, new restaurant openings, and wine tastings whenever I want. (oh and Disneyland just for fun! lol)
I am no longer defined as Katie with an eating disorder. I have been through a roller coaster recovery and I am on my way to a healthy 5 years.
I am Katie Rosario, honest, open, pastry chef, cake artist, food stylist, teacher, friend, daughter, sister and new aunt! I wouldn’t change a single thing!
If you have made it this far I commend you. You are amazing for reading this. I know it’s a lot and by far my longest post ever. There is no short cut, no quick blink to how I got here. I hope this gives you some insight into my life and how I got here to share my story to you today.
I went from a shy and insecure girl to a confident assured women who knows what she wants in her life. I have turned my fears into goals and I am going for them head on. If you have a similar story I’d love to hear about it.
We all have different paths but I feel I went through these dark times so I can share my story and let others know it will be okay. You are not alone no matter how much it feels that way. You aren’t! It’s not all sunshine and roses but the times that are should always stay in focus!
When life gives you lemons make lemonade and add some vodka and make it a party!