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“Do it for yourself”: Overcoming Anorexia

April 16, 2009

Approximately seven million American women and one million American men suffer from an eating disorder. Ninety-five percent of these people are between the ages of 12 and 25. In this guest post, a Carleton woman tells her story and offers some thoughts about an issue that affects so many young men and women.

I am recovering from anorexia. I am writing this post anonymously because, ultimately, this post is not about me. It’s about me sharing a perverse logic that many women buy into in order to feel better about themselves by complying with societal standards.

I was the “nice, but not so pretty” friend. You know, the one guys went to for advice to snag the hot girl. I accepted my lot in life and didn’t think much of it, mostly because I didn’t think much of myself. My dad would tell me I was fat and boys ignored me. However, I lost some weight by cutting out junk food and got a boyfriend in high school, which made it easier to suppress my painful memories. I went to college, put on some weight by eating too many cookies, and I flipped out. I was so ashamed. I was disgusted with myself because I was fat and ugly again. Boys were never interested in me for being a good person, for accepting people as they were without judgment, for my sharp wit. No, that was nothing. My body was the only thing they wanted, and I wouldn’t get attention for being less than perfect.

I counted calories, and it worked. I got down to my normal weight, and I felt pretty again. However, why stop? Maybe, if I were thin enough, someone would put in the effort to get to know me for me, because I would be pretty enough. I saw love and my weight as having an inverse relationship: as weight decreases, love increases. Right?

After a year and a half, I had lost 30 pounds. I was so proud. I weighed 100 pounds. My hair was stringy, my skin was dry, I was always freezing, I couldn’t play sports because I was so tired, and I was dizzy and weak. And still, my equation was wrong. Love did not increase. In fact, I got attention from all the wrong places. Strangers would flirt with me, and all I could think about was how shallow they were, because they didn’t know what real beauty looked like. I swore that if I put on the 30 pounds again, they wouldn’t talk to me. How dare they be interested in me, since they don’t know a thing about my soul?

In this equation, there are limits. There is only so much weight to lose. I could feel the bones in my hips jutting out, and it was painful to bump into things. I could count the ribs above my breasts (what was left of them). I had to safety-pin my bikini on. Lying on my side to sleep was excruciating because there was no fat to keep the bones in my knees from clacking. And still, I was proud. Bones were beautiful, and I received great satisfaction in rubbing my fingers down my chest to feel each one. I nearly passed out and was hospitalized, and then I finally realized that things had to change.

I’m now in a healthy weight range, eat normal meals (or at least really try to), and have dessert at least every other day. That’s not to say I don’t cheat sometimes. “Oh, I had too much fat yesterday, I’ll cut back all this week to compensate.” I go overboard because I can, because I’ve trained myself.

Don’t do this to yourself. I will get stronger, and I’ll be able to let my body go to its normal state. Women in the media are only that thin because they smoke or starve themselves. They don’t have time to dedicate to things that most people enjoy because they are constantly going against their bodies, desperately denying their nature in order to fulfill someone else’s expectations.

I’ve been particularly inspired by classical art. Look at the nude statues and elaborate portraits. See any women who are skinny like those in the media? Aren’t these images from the past beautiful? I’m not saying to avoid working out or eating healthily or even avoid trying to lose weight, but do it within reason. Do it for yourself. Know your boundaries. Accept your boundaries. Nourish your soul, because that is the most beautiful part of you. And don’t forget to have dessert. Hell, I never do.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jill permalink
    April 16, 2009 5:46 PM

    Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  2. Lisa permalink
    April 16, 2009 10:12 PM

    Thank you for sharing that. And don’t forget that I love you and I’m always here for you!

  3. Nikoleta permalink
    April 17, 2009 1:15 AM

    Thank you.

  4. Emily permalink
    April 17, 2009 1:39 AM

    Thanks so much. This is an intensely personal issue and one that is somewhat taboo to talk about, so it’s really powerful to hear that it is indeed something that affects people we know and love.

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