The Things We Hide: Eating Disorders

The Things We Hide: Eating Disorders

Have you ever looked at another person and thought “wow, I wish I looked like them” or “jeez, I’m glad I don’t look like that.”  Well, today I’m here to tell you that I have.  Today’s topic is something that I’m usually not very open about and have actually kept hidden and buried until the past couple of years.  I’ve been diagnosed with an eating disorder.

I’m sure you’ve all heard how today’s society has impossible standards for beauty in women.  In the past couple of years there have been noticeable efforts from different groups to break these false ideas of beauty.  However, we all know them when we see them.  I mean, have you ever heard what Barbie would look like if she was a human?  The answer is pretty scary, she would look like a terrifying plastic surgery monstrosity.  Anyway, you already know this.  So, I won’t bore you with the long-winded explanations or examples.  Instead I’m going to talk about something a little different and a little more personal.  I’m going to talk about the way we handle eating disorders here in American society.

I was always considered “skinny” as a child.  I wasn’t too short, but I was always thought of as small because of my waist.  In fact, one nickname that I really hated was “spaghetti legs.”  I mean, come on!  Who wants to be called that?  So, then I entered junior high and high school.  Around that age the pressure was on and I thought that I had to look like a supermodel.  Actually, I was so obsessed with the image of supermodels that I was convinced it was my calling to become one.  My grandma even paid for me to attend a modeling school in the 9th grade.  (Click here to read more about her and the influence she had on my life.)  I was a runway wannabe and went to every casting call and agency that I could.  I had professional headshots taken.  What 14 year old does that?  So, after a couple of years of modeling obsession I started to become more aware of my body.  Have you ever heard of “body image distortion?”  Well, essentially it means that how you see your body is different than what it actually looks like.  I started to fall down a dark hole of that distortion.  A very dark hole.

Cut to the summer after my sophomore year of high school.  I was in a dental chair with my dad and grandma, we were waiting for the dentist to come in and check my wisdom teeth out.  My dad made a comment on how skinny I looked (I thought that I looked great) and my grandma replied “I know!  She only weighs 95 pounds!”  After that exclamation, my dad was furious.  I’m not going to get too into my family life or that background.  That’s for a future time and place, but let’s just say that my weight changed everything and had the potential to turn my life upside-down.  So, even though I had my wisdom teeth removed and couldn’t eat solid food, I still had to consume at least 2500 calories a day, according to the Children’s Hospital dietitian that they dragged me to.

This was not a short experience.  I went to that dietitian to be weighed, criticized and told what to eat once a week for the next several months.  They told me that I didn’t have a choice until I was out of the “danger zone.”  Now, every person has a weight “danger zone.”  It’s basically when your weight is so low that not only is it unhealthy, you’re at risk of strokes and other things that can happen when your blood pressure is too low.  Also, for women you can lose your period, which leads to a whole myriad of problems.  I was in the danger zone by a large-ish number.  After months of over-eating, stress and lack of exercise, I was finally out of the danger zone.  Then, I was allowed more time between my hospital visits.  However, I wasn’t fully released from that routine until about 6 months before I graduated high school.  I was watched, observed and analyzed for a year and a half.

Why am I telling you all of this?  Well, I should really break this into a couple of posts and I just might.  But, the reason is that not only do we create a fake ideal for the perfect female body, we also criticize and shame those that go to great lengths to achieve it.  I’m not saying I did anything right.  In fact, I know now how wrong I was to subject myself and my family to everything that happened from my eating disorder.  However, what I’m saying is that when someone needs help, don’t create more pain.  I was treated with anger, shame, and a lot of rage.  It was a horrible time and not only was it normal for me to be shamed on a regular basis by those around me, they made me feel stupid.  I was told that “it was stupid” that I had an eating disorder.  People thought that I chose for it to happen and that it was just a dumb choice that I could easily change.  That’s not what happened.  There are a lot of things that lead to eating disorders and I’ve since talked to my therapist about it.  (Yes, I have a therapist and I think everyone should.)  When I mentioned that was part of my medical history, he told me that he wasn’t surprised.  There are a lot of triggers that cause eating disorders.  None of them are things that a teenage girl can control.  So, what this post is about and the moral of my story is this:  If someone you know or love has an eating disorder, please don’t yell at them or shame them.  Treat them with love and kindness.  Show them support during this time.  Odds are that the effects of the disorder are clouding their thoughts and making it hard for them to change or become healthy.  It isn’t their fault.  I don’t know if there’s such a thing as “a cured eating disorder.”  From my experience, I know that it’s always in the back of your mind.  It’s buried pretty deep and I try to keep it there.  I like my life and don’t want to go down that path again.  In truth though, we don’t always have a choice.  The next time someone asks you “does this make me look fat,” their question may be deeper than just that.

Have you ever been shamed for your body type?

This is my second post in the series, The Things We Hide.  Check out the first one here.

 

28 thoughts on “The Things We Hide: Eating Disorders

    1. Thank you! And I’m glad you could share that with me. I’ve been so afraid to tell people about this part of my life as it has such negative connotations. There is such a stigma that makes them almost taboo to talk about. I want to change that as an eating disorder is no different from any other illness, at least in my experience. A person needs to recover not be ridiculed and shamed.

  1. Hi Gina, so brave to share your struggle. I admire your honesty in the hopes that you might positively impact someone else. I do have to say that it struck me that you remember that exact moment when everything changed. As a parent, I really need to be aware of that. Thanks and Hugs, Lynn

    1. Thank you, Lynn. I was pretty scared about sharing this. I’m so happy with all of the positive comments and support I’ve been receiving. 🙂 I hope that the story does help someone else and changes the stigma of eating disorders even just a little bit. It had been going on for so long and I didn’t even realize it. But, that one moment just changed it all. I can even remember what the room looked like and where everyone was sitting. Memories are strange things, aren’t they? <3

  2. You area
    brave girl who is sharing her story with us on this post. You said it very well that “If someone needs help, don’t create pain”. You are really wise to say that you will not go on that path again. Wishing you all the best for future.
    Weight gain is a big problem with us ladies, Few year ago I joined a group and lost 12 kg and now trying hard to maintain.
    Sadhna Grover recently posted…INSTANT NAANMy Profile

    1. Sadhna, thank you. This culture around eating disorders just causes so much pain to everyone involved. I’d like to change that if I can. I don’t know if I’m wise, 😉 but I am glad that I can recognize the warning signs and triggers now. Good luck with your weight journey and congrats on all you’ve accomplished with it.

  3. Wow girl. You’re are extremely brave and courageous to talk about something so deeply personal.
    I was diagnosed with anything when I was younger but I used to restrict calories, exercise 3-5 hours a day, it was sick. Thankfully I broke out of all those bad things. I also went to a modeling school and they certainly don’t help your cause – at least where I went, no one was perfect enough. We were all starving models when we went out to LA for a convention. We were all told it was normal to have no boobs and ribs sticking out galore, looking heroin chic.
    I’m glad that’s all behind me, and I’m happy with how I look right now, but are we really, truly ever completely happy? Or do we just tell ourselves that we are?
    Anyways, I’m going off on my own rant here but I’m sorry that your family wasn’t more supportive or didn’t educate themselves that this wasn’t something you chose to be. You did and you didn’t, you know what I mean? This type of this is so deeply engrained in your brain….
    If you ever need an ear and want to chat, I’m here for you….I used to have a few friends with eating disorders and growing up, I was always curious and read books about eating disorders and CNC.
    I’m glad you’re In a better place but you’re always in recovery, arent you?

    Big hugs girl xo
    Lindsay recently posted…10 Things That Made Me Happy This WeekMy Profile

    1. Thank you so much Lindsay. 🙂 I went for months undiagnosed, but honestly? My diagnosis was eating disorder: not otherwise specified. What does that even mean? I did the same as you, I restricted calories and over exercised. It’s not healthy for our bodies, but at the same time it can be so addictive. I’m so happy that you were able to break out of those habits as I was and that you’re happy with how you look now. I completely agree about modeling schools. The one I went to was pretty small scale, but they just highlight every imperfection and make you hyper-aware of everything about your body. It’s so sad that the culture idolizes the starved look. It really can be life-threatening to achieve that and/or cause long term health problems. I’m so glad that’s behind you like it is me. Modeling can be such an unhealthy environment. I don’t know if I’ll ever be truly happy with how I look but I’ve learned to be okay with it. For me, that’s the best that I can do. I enjoyed your rant, haha! 🙂 You’re so right: I did and I didn’t choose that life. It was something that yes I probably took the first step, but then I lost control and it spiraled. You know? It’s something that’s hard to shake once you get it into your head. I’ve read some books about eating disorders as well and the medical culture around them. We’re always in recovery. As far as I know there is no cure. You’re so sweet! xo

  4. I love your point, “We use thin in the media as the goal to attain, then when someone has worked hard to attain it they are shamed.” That’s amazing. I never thought about it this way, it surely opens my eyes! I have an almost 16 year old daughter and I’m always watching her. I had some issues in college and after college, all stemming from a want to be loved, I didn’t get that thin, but I was too thin. I’m so sorry that you had to go through this, but I knew there was a story in there somewhere, you are an old, loving soul. You’ve taken the bad and molded it into something really wonderful!
    Nikki Frank-Hamilton recently posted…#WAYWOW Social Media Blast #3My Profile

    1. It’s such a crazy process isn’t it? To shame people who aren’t that goal shape and then shame them when they take the drastic measures needed to achieve it. I’ve really become more aware of all the shame in our society. I think that’s great that you watch her. My grandma didn’t make me see a doctor until I’d been doing these unhealthy things for months. I was so good at hiding my problem. I even ate dinner with them every night so that they would think nothing was wrong. If I ate dinner and breakfast, who were they to say I had an eating disorder? At least that was how I was convinced I didn’t have a problem. I’m sorry I went through it too. But, I’ve learned a lot from the experience. There were so many ways it went wrong that I hope I can help someone else go through this problem a little easier. Or that maybe I could even catch the problem before it gets as bad as mine was. I’m sorry you had some issues with this as well and I hope that you’ve learned to live with them like I have. <3

  5. I’m so sorry you had to go through all of that! I was shamed and called “too skinny” as a child. My parents knew that I ate and ate well. but other family member and friends thought I was underweight and made comments. adults do not know the pain that they can cause just by words.

    Erica

    1. I agree, adults really don’t know the pain they’re causing. Teasing can be so much more than that and cause permanent damage. I’m sorry you had to go through a similar experience. 🙁

  6. Social media and all the other types of media we are bombarded with often give us a distorted view of ourselves. It’s so important to find your true worth in more than your appearance – and for us to reinforce that for our children to save them having to face issues like you did. Thanks for sharing your story Gina 🙂
    Leanne@crestingthehill recently posted…slowing down a littleMy Profile

    1. It’s true. I think the media contributes a lot to body image distortion. Some don’t realize what a problem it can be and the consequences that come from it. You’re so right about finding your true worth. It can be hard to do that when you’re young and not even sure who you are. It’s great to reinforce to your kids why they’re so amazing. 🙂

  7. Gina, I’m sorry to hear what you’ve been through. You are so courageous to tell your story! Its so true and just incredible shocking that everything in the media has to be about looking great and being thin. I hate it. And then, like you say above, whoever achieves that or is like that, gets shamed. I have an almost 11 year old daughter and the other day she asked me: mommy do you think I’m fat? And I was a bit shocked that she is already paying attention to that. Of course I told her no, not at all. Someone had called her fat in school, that’s why she thought about it. Thank you for sharing your struggle Gina! I’m glad you’ve learned to live with them!

    1. Thanks, Katrin. It’s a crazy world we live in with this parody of beauty and the true hypocritical nature of achieving it. That’s horrible that someone said that to your daughter! It’s great that you reassured her she is in fact not fat. However, you should definitely pay attention to her eating and exercising habits if others are forcing the societal ideal of beauty. I’m glad that my family did step in, even if it wasn’t in a loving way. I hope that I can prevent another girl from going through the tough and long ordeal that I did.

  8. Thanks so much for sharing! it still happens now and with body image being a hot topic for celebrities and models, sometimes it is hard to remember that there are real everyday girls/women going through this struggle and hiding and feeling alone through it all. I have been body shamed when I was overweight and I was shamed when I lost the weight !
    Charlotte recently posted…The #YumTum Linky – #1 – 14/01/16My Profile

    1. You’re right, it’s so easy to feel alone in this. A lot of times it can seem like everyone else looks perfect while we’re the ones that need to be better. In fact, that’s not true at all. It’s like Leanne said, we need to find our true worth outside of physical beauty. Also, finding a community or supportive environment to help is amazing. I’m sorry that you were body shamed as well! It’s such a horrible thing to go through. I wish that things could change and there wasn’t such a focus on dieting and being skinny. When will it be enough? When will people realize that it’s just not healthy? I wonder about these things.

    1. Thanks, Ilka! I was scared to share the story at first. It is so hard to make yourself vulnerable. But, I’m glad that I did. 😀

  9. Thank you for sharing your story, and for sharing what you needed that you weren’t getting from your family during that time. As a mom of three girls, it terrifies me to think that they might someday have the unhealthy body image that I had growing up. (They called me “Moo’Cow” in elementary school).
    Jessica recently posted…Five Things Friday #4My Profile

    1. I’m glad that you found the story helpful. It is really scary to be in that situation, there’s only so much you can protect them from. I hope that I’ve help shed some light on what can happen. I think I’ll write another post soon on recognizing the warning signs and how to positively change the disorder. That’s horrible what they called you in elementary school! Children can be so cruel.

  10. Gina thank you for sharing your story with us. I also have two girls and fight hard to knock down all the sterotypes th emedia is always pushing at us. I always tell them they should be healthy not skinny. We need to be vigilant to see what the fashion houses and media are doing in projecting these ridiculoue standards and asking us to conform. Thank you again for your story and the c ourage you have displayed. I hope you are now at peace and have found support.
    Mary-the boondocks blog recently posted…The Accidental Tri-Colored Table – Το Κατά Λάθος Τρίχρωμο ΤραπεζάκιMy Profile

    1. I’m glad that my story could help. It’s a hard battle to fight the body image that the media promotes. It’s so important to be healthy, not skinny. I think it’s great that you share that with your daughters. Now I’m much able to handle it much better and I’ve learned from the experience. It also helps that I’ve found support. 🙂

  11. Thank you for sharing your message. It can’t be easy to open up like this but I know that in doing so you are helping others. I am so sorry you were made to feel shamed and awful for something out of your control. That breaks my heart for you!

    1. Thanks, Anne. I’m just happy that I can try to help others who might be going through or have gone through something similar. It is hard to open up about something like this, especially because I was shamed for it and made to feel stupid. But, I’m glad that I did. I’ve received so much support and so many caring comments through this experience. It was something that I just had to write. Thank you so much for your kind words!

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