According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), there has been a rise in the number of young women aged 15-19 suffering from anorexia in each decade since 1930. And the female-to-male ratio was at 3-to-1.
My bout with eating disorders began when I was 18 years old. I decided to remove meat and rice from my diet—food items I convinced myself were unnecessary and unappetizing. Then, I started cutting down portions, counting my calorie intake per serving and nitpicking on food choices. What first started as a change in diet soon snowballed into an obsession to eat less. I became afraid of eating, but ironically, food is the only thing I thought about the whole day. Eat less. No meat. No rice. My routine would typically involve recording my weight and food and calorie intake. If I thought I had too much to eat, I would either exercise, drink laxatives, or throw up. As disgusting as it sounds, purging became a sort of comfort and a punishment for me—comfort that I’ve flushed out the food from my body and punishment for eating in the first place. At the time, I felt in control because I could manipulate my weight as I’d like but what I didn’t realize was that it was my eating disorder that was controlling me.
The goal was to lose weight, and boy did I succeed in shedding the pounds. I stand 5’6” and weighing 110lbs still didn’t seem enough for me. My self-esteem hit rock-bottom. I would look in the mirror and only see my flaws, but the sight of my rib cage and collar bone was euphoric to me. Hearing people tell me that I was thin only pushed me to go further.
I also got “thinspiration” ideas from “pro-ana” websites, a community of girls suffering from eating disorders. While the virtual sisterhood encourage recovery from the disorders, there are also a lot of websites that promote anorexia and bulimia as a lifestyle. These websites post photos of emaciated girls as #thinspiration and #bodygoals. It encourage self-destruction. Looking back now, I can only think about how such websites destroy the lives of thousands of people. There are so many girls suffering from this terrible disorder, most of whom live in the shadows for fear of the stigma.
Protruding bones, dry hair, cracked nails, sallow skin, and yellow teeth—these aren’t exactly the most attractive features, but to a girl suffering from anorexia or bulimia, these are all just part of becoming beautiful.Protruding bones, dry hair, cracked nails, sallow skin, and yellow teeth—these aren’t exactly the most attractive features, but to a girl suffering from anorexia or bulimia, these are all just part of becoming beautiful. It didn’t matter how unhealthy I looked as long as I was thin. My diet usually consisted diet soda and crackers or granola bars. Hunger pangs were typical for me and I would usually just sleep it off. I would dread eating out with my family and if I was forced to eat, I would sneak to the nearest bathroom to throw up. This went on for a few years before I finally decided it was enough.
Fortunately, I snapped out of it one day. The realization came to me a few years after, when I got sick often and people started noticing that I looked drastically different. I knew something had to be done. Gradually, I started eating normal again, slowly gaining back the lost weight. Although I would still feel insecure sometimes, I eventually became more at peace with myself knowing that I can make better life choices. I can still be in control.
Now that I am much healthier in mind and body, I look back at my experience and can’t help but feel sad for the girl who felt she wasn’t enough. But like all other experiences in life, I know that it was necessary for me to get to where I am now. I feel like it taught me to treat my body better and helped me become more self-aware.
I feel like it taught me to treat my body better and helped me become more self-aware.
A few pounds heavier, I am now happy and eating healthy. I would be lying if I said I didn’t care about my weight anymore, but I no longer feel the need to starve myself. I realized that there is so much more to me than my weight.
Although we live in a time that body positivity is encouraged, there are still a lot of women who struggle with body image and self-love. It’s a problem not talked about enough, and opening a conversation about it will hopefully urge us to put an end to the unrealistic standards of beauty we constantly pressure ourselves with. We have to remember that every body is different but all are beautiful. Embrace your imperfections and treat your body well. Most importantly, be kind to yourself.
If you're struggling with self-love, eating disorders, or other health issues, seek the help of a professional.
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