When I was a teenager, I battled a body image disorder and an eating disorder. Today, I still battle with my body image, and I have disordered eating. I am proud to say I do not have an eating disorder anymore, but that does not mean it is not a daily struggle.
I grew up in a home where I was taught about addiction. I knew all about drugs and alcohol, my dad is 27 years sober and has worked in drug and alcohol treatment centers since before I was born.He actually met my mother while they were both in recovery. My mom did not stay clean, and left when I was young. My young mind saw this, and understood in the simplest way, drugs and alcohol are bad. I never saw any type of alcohol in my house. In fact, if I ever saw anyone drinking a beer at a BBQ or when we were out to dinner, I thought, “OMG! An alcoholic!” (Being raised Christian, I also thought, “Oh no, they are going to Hell.”) I remember seeing an open bottle of wine on my best friend’s parents dinner table, and I thought, “Oh no! They are gonna be in so much trouble if the church finds out!” To be clear, the church had no problem with people drinking, since I was saturated in AA meetings, Big Book lingo, and my dad and step mom did not drink, I thought it was bad for anyone.
No one ever talked about addictions beyond substance abuse. My dad, also is a talented chef, so I grew up loving flavors, eating spicy food, enjoying healthy food, and not realizing it. At 2 years old I would order salads at restaurants. MY 3 year old does this now. When I was 7, a little girl told me that my thighs were chunky, and she had never realized before because I always wore pants. Those words affected me years later. In fact, From 8th grade until I turned 23 I did not wear shorts. I would always cover myself if I was in a bathing suit. I hated my legs. It’s funny now because I almost always wear shorts, and I actually like my legs!! In fact, that’s the number one compliment I get! Nevertheless, for about 10 years I was too insecure to wear shorts.
I remember discovering anorexia. I was 15 or 16, I had been sick for 5 days, my throat was swollen and I couldn’t swallow. I don’t know how many pounds I lost, but I dropped from a size 5 to a size 1. I looked in the mirror after a shower and liked what I saw. A very rare reaction for me. I knew I had lost weight because I had not eaten anything, so I decided to continue not eating. For months I restricted. I got paranoid, so I started to only eat if someone was there, to prove that I was eating, and then I would purge. At night I would inspect my body, feel my bones, make sure they were sticking out more than yesterday. A part of me knew it was wrong, but I felt so strong and successful. I became obsessed with thin models and actresses. I would make collages of all of these “perfect” women. I loved collar bones, hip bones and wrists. It was not so much that I thought they were so hot, I just wanted to look like that.
I went into treatment a few weeks into junior year. I learned that I had an addiction. I was addicted to the high I felt when I was hungry, the high I felt after purging, the high I felt knowing no one could force me. I controlled myself. It really was about control for me. My life was so dictated and protected. More so by the church, the church that controlled my family, and in turn, me. I learned coping skills, nutrition and began the long journey to self love.
About a year after treatment, I relapsed. It was unintentional, I had stopped working my recovery program, and I was so busy. (I had gained weight because I threw my nutrition out the window… I sort of went the opposite direction,and looked in the mirror, was disgusted, and turned my mirror around. Within months I was weighing in a 95 pounds, I remember wearing two pairs of jeans at once so no one would know how small I was.) At this point I worked in a gym, I woke up at 3:30am, got ready and walked to the gym, I opened it at 5:30am and was the receptionist, at noon I ran the child care center, at about 1:00pm I walked up the street, and was a nanny until 5:00pm. On weekends I was a lifeguard in Malibu. I really did not have time to eat anyway. I yoyoed for the next few years.
Having my daughter put health into perspective for me. I realized that I did not want my baby girl to grow up feeling the way I do about myself, so I needed t learn to love myself. Which meant taking care of myself. It was a slow process, it still is. I am understanding that bodies need nourishment from nutrients, and from self acceptance. I will always see flaws in myself, you will always see flaws in yourself. The trick is to work with what you’ve got. Today I look around and can see beauty in every body… and everybody.