Typically when I blog, it’s about personal issues I’ve dealt with in the past. I don’t recall ever writing about something I’m currently dealing with. This post is about to change that.
Roughly from the ages 14-18 I dealt with low self-esteem. This was most likely rooted from abuse, hurts, and anger from my past. That low self-esteem eventually turned into self-hatred. I hated the person I was. I hated the type of guys I was attracted to. I hated feeling alone. But more than anything else, I hated what I saw in the mirror. All I wanted was to be someone else.
When I turned 16, one of my most hidden secrets was born. That longing to be someone else and viewing myself as a girl that was less than had caught up to me. Whenever I looked in the mirror, I saw a girl different than the one others saw. I physically saw an overweight and oddly shaped girl. I subconsciously referred to her as “the other girl”. In order to keep the girl I saw in the mirror from becoming obese, I knew I had to do something. What would people think of me if I got any bigger? Would I even be able to stand the sight of myself?
I began cutting back on how much I ate. It started with only eating half a sandwich at lunch. Then I graduated to cutting out a real lunch and only eating chips or crackers. Because I didn’t see results, I researched other ways to lose weight. I tried making myself throw up. That was a one-time deal strictly because vomit destroys the enamel on the teeth (and because I hate the feeling of throwing up). Then I tried taking a bunch of laxatives – that backfired on me… literally.
By the time I was 18, I was eating very small, controlled meals. Occasionally I would eat a “big” breakfast and not eat anything else the rest of the day. (This would have consisted of two eggs, a piece of sausage, and a couple spoons of cheesy grits.) I got to a place where I felt my body was used to not eating as much. I convinced others that the reason I didn’t eat much was because I wasn’t hungry. The sad part about this was I still saw “the other girl” in the mirror looking back at me. At the time I was 10 pounds under weight and was in a size 2. For my height at the time, the absolute smallest size clothing I should have been wearing was a 7.
I started becoming desperate to shake the weight off “the other girl”. After spending a few days only eating a couple cheese sticks, I remember being extremely weak and tired. Because I knew the seriousness of completely cutting out food, I gave in and ate a real meal. But I was angry. Why did I have to eat? Did I have to feed the pig in the mirror? Next time I’ll find a way to have strength and not have to eat like this.
When I graduated high school, I was dating someone I thought was “the one”. In my eyes, he was perfect. Then one day he told me I was fat and should try to lose weight. He would jokingly call me “fatty”. The happiness I thought I was experiencing quickly faded and I blamed myself. “The other girl” haunted me daily, reminding me that no matter what I did, I would always be an obese girl. My boyfriend even confirmed it for me.
Because of family issues I was dealing with, I grew extremely anxious. I internalized my frustrations. I believe this is what caused cysts to develop on my ovaries. I also started experiencing awful stomach pains that would paralyze me from time to time. The anxiety I was facing, the pressure from the boyfriend, and my own terrible idea of what I thought of myself pushed me to a point that I would go days of not eating, not just because of what I saw in the mirror, but because I was so full of anxiety that I had no room for food.
I remember being in my second semester of college, lost, confused, and extremely hurt. I was so thin that my ribs were poking out. I remember standing in front of a mirror and sucking in my stomach as hard as I could. I wrapped a belt around my waist and fastened it as tightly as I could (I ended up having to punch a hole in the belt because I had it tightened way past the last buckle hole). I wanted to keep it tight so I would be able to see what it’s like to be skinny.
Then I got pregnant.
God used me getting pregnant to get my attention in a million different ways. God showed me throughout and after my pregnancy that my size isn’t what defines me. My beauty isn’t formed from my outward appearance. He showed me that when I see myself the way He sees me, I’ll never see “the other girl” again.
After having Isaac, I still struggled with my image. I started counting calories for a period of time. I woke up early every day for a month to work out. I cut back on the amount of food I was eating. It’s all the same, just disguised by different masks. I fully support eating healthy, working out, and cutting back on food portions (if necessary). However, there’s a limit. There’s a difference between trying to be healthy and trying to be skinny. Exercising is good for the body. Eating fruit and salad is an excellent choice for food. Making sure to not over eat is great for making sure the right portions are being consumed. This is all considered being healthy. Now imagine doing that, but to an extent that your body is physically shutting down because it can’t function anymore from all the work outs and under eating. That’s unhealthy. That’s insanity. That’s an eating disorder.
• 20% of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder, including suicide and heart problems
• Almost 50% of people with eating disorders meet the criteria for depression
• Up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder) in the U.S.
• Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness*
• A study by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reported that 5 – 10% of anorexics die within 10 years after contracting the disease; 18-20% of anorexics will be dead after 20 years and only 30 – 40% ever fully recover**
People with eating disorders are often overlooked until after it’s too late. Typically people can’t spot out someone who struggles with their image or someone who refuses to eat. It isn’t until the person is hospitalized that people start to take notice. It’s important to pay attention.
I kept my eating problem a secret; always having the perfect cover story as to why I wasn’t eating. Why didn’t I tell anyone? Why does any girl that deals with an eating disorder keep her secret hidden? I honestly don’t know. Maybe deep down I knew what I saw in the mirror wasn’t real. Maybe I thought people would think I was crazy.
The truth is I still deal with this. It’s not nearly as bad as it used to be. I eat every day now. I can dive into a big bowl of ice cream without feeling guilty (most of the time). But it’s still a battle for me. I have to wake up every day and remind myself that the way God sees me is much better than the way I view myself. I remind myself often of the verse in 1 Peter 3:3-4:
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”
Maybe you aren’t struggling with an eating disorder or an image problem. Maybe you’re struggling with something that you’ve been facing alone and you’re running out of strength to fight. I encourage you to talk. Finally talking to others about my problem allowed me to experience a piece of freedom. Talk and experience it for yourself.
“You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.”
– Song of Solomon 4:7
* Eating Disorder Statistics. (2014). In ANAD. Retrieved from http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/
** Eating Disorder Statistics. (2006). In DMH. Retrieved from http://www.state.sc.us/dmh/anorexia/statistics.htm