I had an eating disorder with severe bulimia for eight years. Four of those years I spent in recovery. It was very hard work but I have been recovered for over 12 years. I earned my M.S. in Counseling and I am now finishing my Ph.D. I am a therapist who works with eating-disordered clients, and I also speak as much as I can to local schools to help people find the courage to ask for help. I would just like to tell people not to be afraid to let someone know how you are feeling and to ask for help in finding a therapist. I was so ashamed to admit that I had bulimia and that I couldn't solve the problem by myself. I know now that no one can do it on her or his own. It is not a weakness, it is a disease. There are reasons people develop their disorders. Allow your disorder to help you find your true self, the self hiding under the mask of perfection and thinness.
Katie from Connecticut
My very first doll was Twiggy. I got her when I was about eight years old, and I never had a doll after that. Later, I remember that I desperately wanted to fit in among my peers and be popular, but coming from a military family, that was virtually impossible because we kept moving. I started my period pretty late, at 14-1/2 and boom, I went from flat-chested to a C-cup, etc. Cheerleaders were all the rage in high school, and I was determined to become one. But they were all thin, pretty, and sooo confident. I spent most of my time fantasizing a life where I was special and that meant being thin. I dieted, even though I wasn't fat at all.
My father was obsessed with body weight. He always asked How much do you weigh? and add that he had to lose 10 lbs. himself, that he was so fat—at 5'11" 165 lbs. (I didn't notice that he was where it started, but I did know that thin was where it was at for him.) My mother smoked to lose weight, even though she was always very thin. There are pictures of her in which she looks totally anorexic: gaunt and skeletal, even though she had had eight children. (You would have never guessed, she was gorgeous!) I started smoking at 16, also to lose weight.
I finally made the cheerleading squad at my high school in Florida, only to be told in July that we were moving again, for the tenth time and my fourth high school. I was really depressed, and I stopped eating, at the same time my brother who was 16 was diagnosed with cancer. We moved to Arizona. I continued to starve and lost a lot of weight fast. I looked great, and I received a lot of praise. I was obsessed. I would get up in the middle of the night and work out, and I would even think of cutting off the excess flesh on my belly and inner thighs. I was nuts! At the same time I would drive my brother to treatment at the University of Arizona Cancer research center and he would come home and vomit (the after effects of chemo). I would start to eat and panic that I would gain weight, and I too would begin to vomit. We were losing weight together. My weight loss was socially life-affirming (or so I thought), while his was clearly a sign of death.
My self-loathing about my weight was so great that I couldn't enjoy a natural sexual experential progression. I hated my breasts because of the stretch marks (which I later found out are hormonal for some women). I was scared. I had been fondled or trespassed on since I was about 14 by teachers, boys, the dean at my high school, and even two fathers of the children I babysat. I didn't know what was going on.
I became an extremely vivacious young woman. My own mother thought I was having sex at 16. I was a virgin until I was raped at the age of 21 in New York City.
I was bulimic from the age of 17 until 25. I want to share with you my recovery. It took from about 23 to 27 to transition into developing normal eating habits, and really good eating habits took longer. The following are the tools that helped me with this process:
First, I was blessed to have a loving friend (who happened to come from another culture) who could show me a different perspective.
Stopped reading magazines
Learned about nutrition
Stopped drinking and taking amphetamines
Finished college and did other estimable acts
Developed a philosophy of acceptance not perfection
You are not how thin you are, absolutely not. Beauty is when your insides match your outsides. That is my goal everyday. Try it!
In our culture, the struggle to accept yourself as you are is endless. I want you to know, whoever you are, wherever you are, you are not alone.
I am a Black woman who was and still is a mentor to young black and Latina girls. To them I project a strong mask of an otherwise insecure weight-obsessed woman. Eating is my drug, and sometimes, at 27, I wonder if my bingeing is a way to reach out to my thin mother so she will intervene and say "stop doing this to yourself." I know she loves me but I can't help thinking she, my dad (a drug addict), and my feelings of inadequacy are at the root of my bingeing.
Hi my name is Nicole. For four years now, I have struggled with bulimia. It all started by me wanting to be perfect and accepted for who I was. I couple of people I knew started calling me fat. I felt that I had to lose weight and starve and throw up to be accepted. I was soon excercising to become thinner and throwing up even more. I needed that perfection in my life. Everything soon began to spin out of control. So many people tried to help me, and I refused it. They warned me and warned, but I didn't seem to listen. I thought that I didn't need anybody's help, that I could do everything on my own. I was wrong. It almost cost me my life. I was hospitalized, and then I thought that that would teach me a lesson about my life, but I still wasn't "perfect." I am still struggling with it, and I hope that one day I will get over it and be happy again.
Nicole from Arizona
Hello. My name is Trisha and I am 15. For the past couple of years I have been struggling with many eating disorders. I have gone from starving my self for days on and off (anorexia) to protruding my food (bulimia). Not only that, I also went to the extreme with exercising. For about a month I was attending my track practices five days a week running about three miles during practice, then going home each day running another four miles. There is not one minute of the day that I cannot think about losing weight. Many people tell me over and over that I am not overweight, but I do not believe them. I know that I am damaging my body, but it seems to me that I am totally miserable if I am not doing something to lose weight.
Trisha from Maryland
I used to watch my fat intake like a Nazi. I was 5'10" and 110 lbs. Then I learned that I had low-blood sugar. I was told that the only recourse I had to battle my problem was to gain 15-20 lbs. I resisted initially but realized that the more weight I gained, the less "drowsy" I felt. I was often misdiagnosed as having tapeworm (because I followed such a strict low-fat, high-fiber diet). Lo and behold I would take the advice of the doctors and dieticians....
I eventually learned that the more I weighed, the better I felt, initially. Also, I did not realize that I had an issue with scoliosis and whiplash until I had sessions with a chiropractor... I have since gained 40 lbs. and no longer suffer problems with low blood sugar (periods of incoherence), but now my back and neck hurt, and the doctors say that it is due to my excessive weight and lack of excersice. You decide.
My name is Anne. I am a 14-year-old freshman high-school student from Central California. My family and I do not get along very well. I go my seperate ways from them as they do from me. I am the oldest, and my younger brother, to me, seems to receive too much attention. My family does not know it, although some close friends do, but I have bulimia and anorexia. It seems odd to have both disorders, it is true.
Over a year ago I started to starve myself. I did this until I lost only 15 pounds. After that my guy friend found out and forced me to stop. He told me many things that could happen, and my love for him was so strong I decided to do it for him. Less than three months later, I began to starve myself again. This time, I did not lose as much weight as I did the first time. I had weighed in at 120 pounds, with a 5'2" body. I was disgusted.
Soon enough I began to watch movies about eating disorders. More than what I learned that was bad about these complex disorders, I got tips and ideas. In a movie called "Dying To Be Perfect," the woman the story was about was bulimic. Throughout the entire movie they showed her throwing up, running, bingeing, and throwing up even more. I thought that is exactly what I could do to lose weight and have a better, more hidden secret. Instantly I went into the bathroom and purged. The amazing thing was it did not hurt. Most girls say it causes pain in your throat. I felt special because it did not happen. It still hasn't. From that day on I have not stopped or seeked help. I guess it is because in some way I don't want to get better. I want to get worse, thinner, prettier, more perfect. The only thing that scares me is, I know I am dying.
Anne from California
Hello, my name is Jen, and I suffered from anorexia for over eight years. My mission and passion in life is to reach out to others who are also suffering from eating disorders. Thank goodness that we have resources like the Internet, which allows us to connect with so many others who are like us. Although my battle for recovery was the toughest journey of my life, I consider it a blessing. It's a blessing because it has made me realize that one of the most precious gifts in life is to be able to help others and connect with them. For me, having had anorexia, I have been able to meet some wonderfully talented and creative women who shouldn't suffer in their minds as they do. We are all on this journey together, and I pray for all of us to never go it alone.
Jen from California
Last March a new college student started working at my health club. I had noticed how skinny she was and was quite confident she had anorexia. I was concerned for her every time I saw her. She died in July from anorexia. She was a beautiful, intelligent, athletic woman. It's so awful that the desire to be thin can truly kill us.
Nancy from California
I am a 35-year-old mother of three who battled with an eating disorder for 19 years. Through my teenage years, I alternated between bulimia and dieting. In 1997 I finally sought help and was admitted into an eating-disorder clinic. Because I never looked "too thin," my illness was well hidden for many years. While in treatment, others felt I was not a true bulimic because I am of normal weight (132lbs. and 5'8"). This is a myth I haven't see published in statistics. I now suffer from many complications from the binge-and-purge cycle. I have holes in my teeth, incontinence, chronic kidney infections, spastic colon, irritable bowel syndrome and have recently been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. I have not been able to have a bowel movement without the use of excessive laxatives in 10 years. I am also a recovering alcoholic; statistics will show that many alcoholic woman also suffer from untreated eating discorders.
Kim from Illinois
I have been suffering from one type of eating disorder or another since I was nine years old. I am now 32. Right now I am in a treatment program for bulimia and anorexic behaviors. I have to agree that the vomiting and starvation are ways of not feeling, or numbing out. I was physically and emotionally abused at home as well as sexually abused by a friend of the family. All of the secrecy became self hate, self loathing, and the eating disorder became a way of punishment for myself also. A feeling of unworthiness, being dirty, disgusting, fat, ugly, not good enough.
No matter how 'good' or kind and loving everyone else said (or says) I am, I cannot look past my failure at lack of control where food is concerned. The thought of death seems much better than life as being fat, which my reason or logic tells me is absurd. But there is no logic in this disorder. When it rules, it's the only thing that matters.
I have the thought that nothing bad will ever happen to me physically, that I will stop this just before something devastating happens. But will I??? How will I really know when that will be??? Who is to say??? I know that my behaviors could kill me in an instant, my heart could stop, a number of things can go wrong, and I am frightened, but it still does not stop.
The doctor at the treatment center I am attending several times a week, for both group and one-on-one therapy, as well as the nutritionist believe that I need more intense treatment, possibly even a residential home for awhile, with hospital treatment, where I can learn to eat, and that it is okay to eat, and it's okay to actually keep the food.
This all frightens me very much, but for the sake of my family, friends, myself even, maybe this is what I need to relearn to feel, and not use food and vomiting as ways out of feeling or for self-punishment. I think that it is very important to educate people about eating disorders, to help them understand. This is a very lonely place to be, very vulnerable to talk about and admit, but when you hear of others who suffer also, it makes you feel a little less insane at times. So thank you for this information. Sincerely,
Angel from British Columbia, Canada
I have had anorexia on and off for the last four years, ever since I was 14. For a time I turned to bulimia but found that it wasn't as fulfilling. I think that no matter how smart you are or how aware you are of the repercussions of this disorder, once you turn to it you can never look at food in the same way. I now hate food and will never see it in the same way I used to. And I feel as though I don't need it at all to live, although I know that is not true. The best way to treat this disease is to prevent it, because once you get anorexia, you will never look at life in the same way again.
Hi, I am 31 years old and recovering from bulimia. It all started with a contest to see who could lose the most weight in a month. I was 18 years old and not really overweight. I won the contest by throwing up everything I put into my mouth. I honestly thought it was just a weight-control issue and nothing else, but realized later that it was more than that, it was a way to make my self feel better. I stopped going out, and if I did I was always worried that I might not meet up to people's standards. If I was feeling sad, throwing up always made me feel just a little bit better. I wasted many years of my life living in secret, and at the age of 29, I decided it was a time to put a stop to it. At the age of 31, I can honestly say that food doesn't control my life (thank God). I still have moments when I do revert back to my old ways, but they are getting fewer and far between. I still have days when I don't feel good enough or pretty enough, but I have learned to realize that who I am is good enough!
Leanne from British Columbia, Canada
Hi, my name is Niya, and I have been struggiling with anorexia for a year and a half. I was overweight for most of my childhood, and when I entered high school I cracked. I suffered from Major Depressive disorder and my hatred towards myself led into anorexia. I can't remember a time that I was comfortable with my body. People used to make jokes about my weight all the time.
Last November is when I got really bad. I lost 45 lbs., I was only eating half an apple a day and drinking nothing but diet pop and water. Oftentimes at night I would binge and than spend hours in the bathroom throwing up. Sometimes I would get large amounts of food and chew it up and then spit it out.
I started getting chest pains, and that's when I knew I had to get help, otherwise I was going to die. I told my mom, and she took me to the hospital. For the next three months I was hospitalized off and on. I had several relapses, but somehow I made it through. I found my inner strength.
I'm 18 and a senior in high school now, and I am in recovery. I have reached my healthy weight and have maintained it. I never thought I would ever be this happy. It is a constant struggle that I'm sure I'm going to have to deal with for a long time, but I know I can overcome. I have the strength. I will beat this.
To anyone out there who is suffering, get help as soon as possible. It's not worth it. It's hell. I wouldn't wish this on anyone. Thank you :)
Niya from Iowa
I am 42 now, but I can remember with clarity the summer my eating disorder began. It was the summer I turned 14 and would be entering ninth grade. I remember I weighed 114 pounds at the time and was 5'2" or so. I remember thinking that if I weighed less and looked better, my life would be better.
We had moved the year before from Illinois to Washington State, and I was still adjusting from the move. I had gone back that summer to Illinois to visit relatives and friends, and I really did not want to come back to Washington.
My eating disorder continued all through my freshman, sophomore, and junior years of high school. My lowest weight was 93 pounds. At that point I remember my father telling me that if I lost any more weight, he would take me to the hospital. I think at that point something clicked in my brain and by the time I graduated from high school I weighed 120 pounds. I was not starving myself any longer, but I was bingeing. I remember I was never able to throw up on demand. Another girl told me about syrup of Iepitac, which induced vomiting. That is what I used to vomit.
I remember dragging myself through school because I had no energy. I remember never feeling thin enough (good enough), and my periods ceased for 10 or 11 months. My mother took me to the doctor at one point because I was cold and tired all the time. The docter told her I was underweight and needed to gain weight, but that nothing was wrong with me.
Feeling like I did not belong, feeling lost—being thin was my way of being successful at something. A way of not dealing with my feelings and not knowing how to deal with my feelings and having no one to express those feeling to.
Only recently do I feel comfortable admitting to having had an eating disorder if the subject comes up. As always, I am uncomfortable admitting that "I am not perfect." I was always striving to appear perfect and in control at all times. I am trying to enjoy and learn from my mistakes in life. To realize I am entitled to mistakes, it is part of life, and it's a learning process.