Sarah Ramadan is a Myprotein athlete and owner of the awesome Instagram account, @fightforgrowth. Here she tells her story, from her relationship with Ed – the personification of Sarah’s eating disorder – to beginning weight training, which has made her into the strong woman she is today. Though Sarah’s story may be triggering for some, her fight for growth is inspiring, and shows that life and strength is possible after hitting rock bottom.
As a child, I believed in the veracity of perfection. Whether it be in school, sport, or simple everyday tasks, I was always striving for insurmountable standards. And in consequence, I always fell short.
While I bared smiles, they were never bright enough. While I engaged with others, my presence was never bold enough. My perfectionism only intensified as years went on. My expectations excelled, yet my capacities never sufficed.
Rather than recognizing the flaws in the standards themselves, I started to believe my shortcomings were intrinsic in nature. It was as if I was my life barricaded its very own wellbeing. In my unease stemmed the feeling of inadequacy. I was lost, and grew desperate for a home I didn’t know how to build.
That was, until I met Ed.
I was 14 years old when I met Ed for the first time. Ed seemed to understand my state of desperation. He sympathized with my need for security, control, and validation. He reaffirmed my disciplined character and offered an end to my self-reproach. He promised happiness and he promised a state of peace; all I had to do was follow his lead.
When I was 14, Ed suggested I lose some weight. He reasoned that losing weight would serve as numerical evidence for my strong-will, discipline, and self-control.
Losing weight would suggest simplicity, negating the chaotic complexity of the outside world. Losing weight would incite a personal mission, aims that were solely based on my own capacities and self-relying will power. Losing weight would be a way to measure my worth, a number that served to indicate and validate my “perfect persona”.
With this, I was enticed – I started to lose weight. I stepped on the scale a week later, beaming with anticipation. The number was lower.
I did it!
But Ed objected with haste. “You can do way better than that. Where’s your self-control?”
I looked back to the number I celebrated moments ago, and then back to my body. Ed was right. My flaws were evident. My imperfections were glaring. How could I take pride in a body so blemished?
I continued to lose weight in hopes of someday meeting Ed’s expectations. I listened with conformity and I followed with adherence. I skipped meals and social interactions. I walked for hours everyday and weathered the draining consequences. But no matter the pounds my body shed, or the food I refused to eat, the scale screamed louder each day – when gaining meant losing and losing meant winning, I was stuck in an ongoing defeat.
No number was small enough, no shape ever slender enough. I starved my sanity away, and grew numb in a promise I yearned to someday reap.
But this day never came.
In 2011, I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, and was rushed to the hospital for medical interventions.
I spent over 7 months in an intensive treatment facility. I developed a risk of cardiac arrest as the muscles of my heart withered and starved, and my lungs constantly heaved by the shortness of my breath. I spent summers in wheelchairs for my legs no longer supported my skeletal frame and I spent weeks on bed rest, wired to machines and fed with force. I fought against the support from loved ones and I undermined the concerns from my medical team.
I was dying, but I was too numb to care.
I knew nothing but obedience in my strides and concealment in my speech. I was fabricated by statures and strained by scales. I was convinced that smaller thighs and an empty stomach would equate to a greater sense of worth and wellbeing. I was convinced that will power was harnessed to starvation, and that suffering facilitated strength.
And like a marionette on strings, I was dancing in deceit.
In January of 2014, I hit rock bottom. My weight plummeted to the lowest it has ever been, and I was immediately removed from university for medical interventions.
I could no longer walk without the aid of my mother’s arm. My hair thinned and fell in clumps and I woke to aches and bruises, as there was no flesh to cushion my body. My cheeks were sunken and hallow, and my skin ghastly and gray.
I was empty from the inside out, but Ed wouldn’t rest; as long as breath filled my lungs, there was always more to lose. There was simply no way to gratify what was so illusive in nature. I couldn’t fulfill expectations that were fostered by deceptions. I couldn’t satisfy insensible measures that were based on dichotomous regimes.
Sick and tired of being sick and tired
The game would be over when I died, and I refused to bare this level of injustice any longer — Either Ed dies or I die. I made the choice, and I replaced Ed’s broken promises with my own.
I promised to dedicate my actions to values that encompass genuine promise for my life. I promised to embrace my state, and to practice unconditional self-love every single day. I promised to initiate my healing with responsibility and agency, and to seek change by the notions of growth and strength.
I began my road to recovery in January of 2014. In that time, I worked alongside my physician to regain medical stability. Once I was stable, I continued to recover, but with an approach I never attempted before. Rather than admitting myself into treatment, I decided to recover at home, surrounded by my family and loved ones. In this decision, I supported by those that knew me past the disorder and past my diagnoses. I gravitated to this care, and slowly but surely, I started to thaw.
I had to gain an immense amount of weight that winter, but I had no clue where to start. However, like anything I ever did, I naturally sought guidance from my mentor—my brother.
Discovering Strength Training
Aladdin was a bodybuilder, and his devotion to health and fitness was key to my recovery. His life was captivating, empowered by a pursuit for strength that he both practiced and shared. Aladdin wanted to share this with me.
He looked past the wheelchair, the tubes, and the machines I constantly had to rely on. He looked beyond the diagnoses and the medical complications Ed imposed on my health. He looked not at my skeletal stature, but at my eyes instead.
For in Aladdin’s eyes, I wasn’t anorexic. I was his sister – I was Sarah.
Through diligent and undeterred efforts, Aladdin and I established a meal plan together, where he monitored my weight gain every week. Outside of my dietary goals, Aladdin further extended his passions by introducing me to the gym – this time, with goals surrounding the notion of health, while negating the goal of adhering to Ed’s expectations.
In training for strength, I fell in love. I began to feel strong in my body, and rather than slimming intentions, I started experiencing a captivating sense of growth.