Carrie Arnold is now a renowned author who writes about eating disorders, including her own struggles with recovery and how she managed to hide her disease from friends and family for so long. Arnold reminds us that eating disorders aren’t necessarily about how much someone weighs. In fact, she doesn’t even like the focus to be on weight at all. Listen to what she told us about her struggle with anorexia, how it all started and how we can help recognize this disease in a loved one.
You’ve made it public that you struggled with anorexia for over a decade. How did your disordered eating start?
My eating disorder started in college in response to very high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. I thought that eating better and exercising more would make me feel better, which it did. But then I found myself cutting more and more food out of my diet, and within just a few weeks, I had fallen into anorexia.
It’s scary that it happened so quickly. How long did you battle with this?
It’s been a little over 12 years since I first became ill, and it’s only been in the last few months that I’ve developed any sort of confidence in my recovery.
Tell us about your struggles with food and weight. What did most days look like?
Daily life was very monotonous. I did the same exercise in the same order, and I ate the same few foods in an attempt to limit my anxieties both about eating and about life itself. It was very rigid and constrained, and any deviation in my routine made me freak out.
Were there certain triggers that made this disease worse for you?
The disease had almost a life of its own, and just about anything could set me off. Times of high stress or change (a move, a new job, even just a change in plans) were the hardest, though. I found that restricting my food and over-exercising could help reduce my anxiety and depression, and so I seemed to reach for anything that would turn the volume down on those difficult emotions.