When Being Thin Isn’t Enough
This post will not have many photos. I only have one photo of myself from that time period, and I hate it. What photos I do post will be from times in my adult life where I’ve grasped the enormity of what I did to my body all those years ago.
This is a part of my past I just don’t talk about very often, for several reasons. A) I’m so much older now that it feels like such a distant past, almost another lifetime. B) It’s a touchy subject. C) It’s embarrassing to me for some reason to admit that this was a part of my life in any capacity, especially with the health-conscious lifestyle I lead now!
I grew up in a very happy household. My parents were high school sweethearts, and are still married to this day! 42 years and counting, which is quite a feat. We never wanted for anything growing up. There were rarely arguments or disagreements….it was honestly such a peaceful home. I am so grateful for my childhood and young adult years, and so grateful to God for my parents!
I’ve always been very social, lots of friends, chatty, goofy, but also introspective and needing of quiet time reading to recharge my social batteries. My freshman year of high school I had all the same friends I’d had through middle school, but discovered an even larger group of newer, older-aged friends in high school. I got very connected very quickly with this older peer group, and really enjoyed these new relationships. (They were seniors and I was a freshman.) I still had my girlfriends from middle school…that was a given! But I can honestly say that my freshman year of high school was the most fun, carefree year of my life by that point!
Half-way through my freshman year, my closest girlfriend moved away. Her family accepted a position at a church just outside of Atlanta, which might as well have been halfway around the world, it felt. This loss was very hard for me. She was literally my #1…same school, same classes, same church, spent the night on school nights, etc. Losing her to another state was quite a blow!
Come May, my new senior friends all graduated and moved off to college. So my sophomore year I grew quite lonely. I still had many acquaintances, but no close friends. I began to withdraw and isolate. Looking back, I’d say I was genuinely depressed. But at the time I just felt sad and missed my friends, and wasn’t good at verbalizing what I was feeling. This went on for some time, and I began to blame myself for my loneliness. I began to pick myself apart, blame my imperfections for having lost all my friends. I know now that this makes no sense, as what took those friends was just a normal moving forward with life. But I still internalized it and blamed myself, which spiraled into a self-hatred of sorts. Somehow, this began to manifest in habits such as calorie counting, starving myself, and staring at myself in the mirror for hours contemplating the parts of my body I hated and how I could change them.
By junior year, I had gone from a normal, healthy 110 pounds down to a sickly 89 pounds. That is 21 pounds off an already petite 5’ 3” frame. Needless to say, I looked (and was) emaciated. Something had to change, but I was helpless to call it what it was.
My mom stepped in and became my hero.
After dinner one night, the other kids ran off to play or read upstairs. She told me to go into the utility room and take off my clothes, but leave on my undergarments. She came in behind me and closed the door. In her hand was a dry erase marker. She told me to step back and put my back against the flat door. She then proceeded to take that marker, and trace the outline of my body all the way around. Then she said, “Now come stand by me and get a good look at that. What do you see?”
While I don’t remember my exact words, the gist was that it looked like an alien.
Talk about a wake-up call! She then proceeded to get me into counseling both with a therapist and a nutritionist. There were anorexia-specific devotionals and stories I devoured in my journey back to health. Food habits were a constant struggle for me, and every meal was laced with guilt and shame and sadness but lined with the need to heal my body and my mind. Slowly, over time, I reached a healthy place. I gained back my weight, but did so with caution. I began to see food as good and not bad. I began to understand that what I’d done was basically starve my body at a critical time of growth and development for way too long. Moving forward, I prayed that it hadn’t harmed my body to the detriment of my future.
In my adult years, I’ve gone on to be diagnosed with infertility, recurrent pregnancy loss, blood clotting disorders and autoimmune issues, as well as weak connective tissue (which is to blame for my spinal leak.) Do I think my years of anorexia caused all of this? I can’t say yes or no. But what I can say is that it sure didn’t help matters.
The photo above was taken at the yoga studio I frequented in 2016, when I was 38 years old. I had made peace with the fact that I’d never give birth. I had made peace with the fact that I squandered good years of youth and health hating my body. I had learned that my body was strong and capable. I had learned to love myself, including the shape of my body. But it doesn’t end there.
I’ve had a few more years beyond that photo to really see food as medicine. To learn how to love my body with nourishing foods. To accept that my love for, or lack of love for, my body ultimately determines the health of my body, especially going into my older years. I’ve made a commitment to myself and my family and my body that I will ultimately always choose health. And in that I find great peace. I know that God doesn’t make mistakes, and that I am one of his creations.