A First-Hand Account From a Normal Gal, Fighting A Scary Disease
I grew up in small-town Estes Park, Colorado with my extremely caring stepfather and my 90-pound mom and sisters. All of us women are about 5’1”, but my build is much more athletic than my stick-thin siblings’ and mom’s. Around the holiday season of my very busy junior year (with honors classes, running track, two church choirs and the school musical), I got really sick from exhaustion and ended up losing about five pounds. I received lots of great compliments and started to think eating less might be a good idea. I thought I would try to lose a little bit more, so I started to limit my calorie intake. On top of the sports I participated in, I exercised obsessively everyday. Within six months my weight dropped from 115 to about 80 pounds.
The following spring, my school performed the musical Carnival and as a dancer in the production I had to wear a skin-tight leotard. On the night of the performance, the entire audience was stunned because under the lights, they could see every bone in my body. Countless calls were made to my parents, expressing concerns about my health. I was in complete denial that I had an eating disorder. No matter how much weight I lost, I thought there was always at least one body part that could be thinner. That summer, my step-father pulled me aside and told me some painful truths about my looks and how my decisions were affecting the rest of the family. I was completely horrified. His statements were harsh, but I needed them to slap me out of my denial. For the first time since my eating disorder started, I realized I was destroying my body, my life and others’ lives.
I’ve finally come to understand that everyone’s body is simply created differently and we’re all beautiful.
From that point on, I began to recover from my unhealthy and potentially fatal habits. I started to eat dinner with my parents and my mom would pack a lunch for me everyday. One of my best girlfriends kept me accountable for eating it. After school, my mom would give me a snack to ensure I got enough calories. At the end of my senior year I gained about 15 pounds. The next fall I attended Bible College in England and Austria. I continued to make positive progress in my health. The following summer, I went to the doctor for a check-up and found out I had Osteopenia, a condition that is similar to Osteoporosis. The condition was a result of not getting enough nutrients in my bones for 2 years. I was prescribed to birth control so I could get more estrogen in my bones. Within a month, I gained 10 more pounds uncontrollably. I was completely mortified at the sight of my body when I tried to put on my jeans. But my mom took me shopping for new clothes and I realized I would just have to get used to my new body.
These days, I’m a junior at the University of Colorado and have been at a normal and consistent weight for 3 years. I still struggle with my body image but I don’t obsess about it anymore. I have healthy, positive people in my life, including a wonderful and encouraging boyfriend. I am a high school youth group leader and I try to encourage the girls in my group because I never want them to experience the struggle I did with my body. I’ve finally come to understand that everyone’s body is simply created differently and we’re all beautiful.
Check out these helpful and heartbreaking books about disordered eating and body image.