We all have different paths in life.
Your path might lie deep in the forest where no one sees it, or it could be on the main drag - out in the open for all to see.
When it comes to any eating disorder, there is no ONE way. No "you become anorexic because of X." Sure there may be some similarities, but the stories are different.
We don't plan it. It's not something most of us strive for. Something "snaps" in our brain...and we stop eating.
Here’s my story.
I grew up in Hawaii and was overweight as a grade schooler. I was surrounded by a variety of different cultures which bred different colors, shapes, and sizes. The popular girls were usually of Asian descent, and therefore, thin and small. My not-so-motherly mother (not Asian) was tall and very thin as well. And here I was, this short, round girl who so desperately yearned to be liked and loved.
This need for acceptance by my peers pulled as hard as the cosmos on our solar system, and it intensified as I moved onto middle school — we all know those are the hardest years. I became a people pleaser, doing anything and everything to feel like I belonged. This stemmed away from school as well. The perpetual audio running in the background of my mother reminding me, “Honey, you better be careful. You don’t want to get too fat. You should try to lose weight,” drove me down even more. Of course, she was saying all this as she smoked on her cigarette and slugged down her cocktail. But that’s another story.
I survived the 6th grade just fine, but emotionally I was full of self-hatred. You remember your first crush? Well, my crush was surrounded with all the cute, thin girls and never once paid attention to me. The desire to be popular was deep in my veins. It was all I could think about. I had a few very wonderful friends, but I always wanted to be POPULAR. To have someone come to ME to be a friend. For someone to take notice and accept me into their group. Sadly, I wasn’t content with what I had. I just wanted more. I wanted middle school FAME.
School became very stressful. In fact, there was a period of time that I faked every illness I could to think of to stay out of school and was seen by my pediatrician so many times, I think he finally caught on. I pretended that I couldn’t see very well and bluffed my way through an eye test so I could get glasses. Maybe THAT would make me more popular.
I obsessed about my body. I would measure the size of my thighs and dream about cutting off parts of my “fat” so I could have thinner legs. This vision resurfaced in PE class, as I compared myself to others and wished desperately to be like them. Remember, I grew up in Hawaii — we didn’t have layers of clothing to hide under. I was unhappy with my body, my acne prone face, my frizzy hair, and my habit of turning to food for comfort.
No, I wasn’t anorexic...yet. I was an emotional eater. And I was completely stressed out for many reasons. My young life was full of chaos and pain, but again, that’s another story.
The summer before I entered the 7th grade, I went to Colorado to spend time with my Grandma. Now, I’m not sure why I was sent there or how long I was there, but what I do know is that the food I ate was criticized and more restricted than at home (mainly because someone was actually around to see what I was eating). I also sprouted up a couple inches that summer and cut my unruly, thick, curly hair to a super short bob.
By the end of the summer, I was a taller, thinner, sleeker looking version of myself.
When I got home, I got COMPLIMENTS.
I got ATTENTION.
I got LOVE.
And that’s all it took.
The praise I craved for so long was finally handed to me. In those few days of returning home, I inadvertently stopped eating. I limited myself to 300 calorie meals and 100 calorie snacks. I dropped more weight. People noticed and praised my efforts. So when that worked, I dropped the calories even more.
I dined on carrots and celery…and, oddly….junk food. Most of the candy that fed my emotional need was around the 100 to 300 calorie range, so I could have a Watchamacallit for lunch and a Twix bar for a snack and still hit my calories.
It was at this time that I decided to be a vegetarian. It was “healthy” and it also meant no fat, oils, or animal products. All in the effort to be thinner, prettier, and more loved.
But despite the compliments I would look in the mirror and see the same girl - except with shorter hair.
I would still despise my thighs when I sat down and the fat squished out to the sides.
I would still dream of being able to cut the fat off with a knife or somehow melt it away.
The boy I liked still didn’t like me back.
I got used to not eating. It didn’t bother me.
But I was getting pestered constantly:
“Why aren’t you eating?"
“You need to eat more.”
And validated on a regular basis:
“You look great!"
“What did you do to loose all that weight?"
“You are getting too thin.” -- Oh, this one! This one just fueled me more!
Too thin? I didn’t see thin, but the confirmation was imprinted on my mind.
My new belief system was formed and would be the truth I lived by for more years than I care to admit:
Thin = Love
The damage was set and a new problem began to brew.
Do you live your life with a certain belief about yourself? When did you learn that truth? Can you relate in any way? You aren’t alone.
Please join us to discuss body image this week over on the Love YOU More Project Facebook group.
You can also dive deeper into this topic by joining the Life Leaders Membership Group. We will be working through self-image and body-image the entire month of July.