Teen triumphs over eating disorder

Lying on my bed, I stare intently at the glow in the dark star stickers attached to my ceiling. My stomach clenches and twists into knots. I think back to what I ate today. I had an 80 calorie apple for breakfast. For lunch I had eleven carrots, which are 35 calories per serving. I ate pork and peas for dinner and they were … they were …I don’t know how many calories they were.

I don’t know. I don’t know.

I grope aimlessly, trying to squeeze and stretch my soft skin, pushing it back into my stomach. I just want all it to disappear. “GO AWAY!” I yell, tears spilling onto my cheeks.

“You’ve gained weight,” it screams back at me.

I rush to the bathroom and turn on the light. My face is tear streaked, and my limbs are purple and blotchy. I pull up my night shirt and examine myself in the mirror. I don’t know what I expected to see. My stomach is still a lumpy and misshapen pale blob. I examine the rest of my body: my eyes are sunken in, my hip bones jut out and my hair is a dull blondish grey. All I see is fat. All I see is pork and peas.

I slump to the floor and put my head against the cool bathroom tile. One apple, eleven carrots, and pork and peas. The stupid pork and peas. Why did I have to eat pork and peas?

Every year in the United States, millions of people suffer from eating disorders. Four years ago, I was one of those people.

For me, it all started with a compliment.

It’s crazy how words of encouragement can make you feel bad about yourself, but that’s how it ended up working for me. After slimming down over the course of my seventh grade cross country season, I received a lot of compliments on my physical appearance.

However, the words that were meant to flatter me did nothing but make me question myself. The praises I received for my physical appearance felt like insults to what I had looked like before.

I started following a strict workout regimen and completely cut sweets out of my diet in order to avoid reverting back to the way I had previously looked. I soon became obsessed with my diet, weight and physical appearance.

The following few months were some of the worst that I’d ever experienced. I lost close to 30 pounds. I was constantly cold, tired and hungry. I lashed out at my friends and family on a regular basis, and everything in my life revolved around food. It was utterly awful.

While I did eventually get help, recovery was a long and difficult journey too. Once I started eating food again, my hair began to fall out, my fingernails grew brittle and I felt bloated all of the time. I had to go to countless doctors appointments and therapy sessions, and there were many times where I simply felt like giving up. People would ask me why I was hurting myself, and I honestly never had a valid answer for them. I didn’t know why I was beating myself up. I think in some twisted way I knew that I would never be “skinny” enough, and I was OK with that. I was just going to keep starving myself until there was nothing left to starve.

I’m not really sure what it was that eventually changed my mindset. I didn’t have this instant moment of clarity. All I know is that one day I made the decision to recover, and because of that decision, I am the happy, healthy girl that I am today.

I still struggle with self image at times, but in all reality, I’ve realized that life is so much more than body ideals. Being 30 pounds lighter did nothing to make me happier. If anything, it made me more miserable. I’ve never been more happy than I am right now, and it’s not because of my physical appearance; it’s because of my friends, family and faith.

So if you’re going to strive for anything, don’t bother striving for body ideals. Strive instead to build up your relationships and be a part of new experiences because those are the things that are truly going to make you happy.

Apple. 80 calories. Carrots. 35 calories. Pork and Peas. I don’t know.

And I’m OK with that.

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