The following story contains a young women’s experiences with her own body image and anorexia. We understand that the topic in itself is confronting and while we don’t want to present her as the expert on what every person goes through we wanted to let her tell her story, in her words.
You’re a young fourteen year old girl who doesn’t enjoy high school. In fact, you don’t like much of anything. Even though you have good parents, you don’t like your home life. You don’t have many friends. No, seriously, most at that age would say ‘I hAve nO FRiEndS I’M sO rElAtabLe’ but you weren’t like most people your age and you really had no friends. But most of all, you don’t like your body.
It’s a sick sad world out there which is a lesson you wouldn’t think you’d have learned by fourteen. Too young to be an adult and too old to be called a child leaves you in a weird place. What do you do in this situation? Again, most at your age would take to social media which is what you do. It’s an escape but honestly, it’s not a very good one. Most of the time on Instagram you see the ‘insta bods’ on girls with pretty faces you wish you had. The girls also have frames smaller than your thighs. AND they have that perfect boob to bum ratio that you haven’t developed yet because… puberty, you’re only fourteen. But you wanted to have a bottom and be skinny at the same time. And that’s what you think boys like. So because of that sick sad loneliness, your new-found body goals and, wanting to be the girl boys like; you slowly develop an eating disorder.
This may seem a little confronting, and it’s hard to write, even now. No one wants to write an article on their past and how they struggled with an eating disorder but it’s one worth mentioning. It’s not just a girls issue either. Though I personally never encountered a male who has spoken about their struggles and for a while it made me wonder if males are just as insecure about their bodies as females? Is that why you see more males at the gym? That is one of the joys of a post-eating-disorder mind, I can’t help but question whether others are going through what I did. That is another reason why I’m writing to you, because it isn’t something we talk about so hopefully I can give you a perspective on what having an eating disorder can be like.
The desire didn’t start overnight. I was always an athletic child and dedicated many hours to sports. When I decided to stop the sports altogether that’s when it began. I noticed my body changing shape and gaining size which I didn’t like. Waking up every morning the first thing I’d do was check if my stomach looked any different. Smaller or bigger. I didn’t question that morning routine though I should’ve. My eyes would then follow from my stomach to my face. I didn’t like how I looked. It sounds silly but I hated my eyebrows, one was always raised higher than the other. My lips were too close together and overall my face was too long. Those insecurities made me want to eat less. To achieve something unachievable was exciting.
I started eating only an apple for breakfast. Which was a good thing, I thought, because apples were (and still are) my favourite food. So eating less started with a morning reward. It then went to having only a protein bar for lunch. Sometimes only half. And then maybe an egg for dinner if I was feeling spontaneous.
For a while, I didn’t notice any change. I didn’t take any ‘progress photos’ either because I hated seeing any photo or video of my face. Instead, what began to change was my lack of energy. I felt faint and sick most of the time. It would get to my second or third class in school and I’d fade away. And I’d sit around the walls of my class and look at everyone else. They didn’t notice me looking at them. They also didn’t notice that each day my face got paler. At the time that confirmed me to push forward in my goals of achieving a nicer body.
I always liked to go to the gym too. For the right reasons this time, for my health. You don’t see many 14-year-olds at the gym either so it gave me a little superiority boost. I’d do 15-20 minutes on the cardio machine then do abs. What a workout. I wanted a little bit of a perky butt too so I’d clench my bum every now and then and hope for the best.
What a shocker that after a while I still wasn’t happy with how I looked. I thought being small would’ve made me feel better but it didn’t. It wasn’t sustainable or satisfactory and I felt the same at the end as I did in the start. There is a sourness that comes with hating your appearance. It affects the way you view and respect yourself as it does with how you view others. It’s true what they say about treating yourself with kindness, a sort of ‘you are what you think’ motto. And that’s where I am today. A past sourness with a regaining sweetness.
If you have or currently struggle with an eating disorder or body image I wish I could give more advice. I got through mine over time by myself which is something health professionals wouldn’t advise. I know others have stories more intense and tragic than mine. Eating disorders can’t be thought of in black and white. It is not limited to size, shape, age, or gender. It happens to anyone. Food isn’t the enemy here (especially carbs, they’re great) and wanting a better body than the one you have isn’t bad. But when you obsess about how you look, it’s a problem.
There is a reason you hear more about body positivity nowadays and it’s probably because we need to hear it. You shouldn’t buy into the ‘one body type is the only body’ mentality because that is simply not true. And the sooner you realise that could mean the more accepting you are of yourself. At the end of the day you live in your body, so you may as well choose the sweetness over the sour to make it all the better.