“I can eat a little more…I’ll just throw it up later so I don’t gain any weight.”
This is how I used to justify my eating disorder a little over ten years ago. It just made me cringe writing and reading that first sentence, how I thought it was okay to eat anything and make myself bring it back up.
I’ve never considered myself to be overweight, but I was the type to envy and obsess over other women’s (and sometimes even men’s) thinner and leaner bodies. I wasn’t happy with who I was and what my body looked like.
In my late teens, I remember saying that I could never be anorexic because I loved food too much. How could anyone deprive themselves of such goodness? On the other hand, I also would say I could never make myself bulimic and waste all that food (and money), but for a year and a half, I did just that – on a daily basis.
I gained my freshman 20 (not just 15) in college and even after graduation, I continued to feel the pounds adding on in different places. In 2005, I went on a three-month work assignment overseas in Korea and that was when I really started comparing myself to others, especially because the average Korean female weighed a mere 105 pounds and wore size 0-2.
Since it wasn’t considered rude in Korean culture to comment on a stranger’s appearance or weight, I went shopping and sales reps would often say they didn’t have my size (size 6 at the time) and that I was “too big” or “too thick.” (One salon also commented that my skin was too dark, or roughly translated, “dirty.”) Shocked, but still determined, I asked to try on a top and they were right – I couldn’t get the top over my shoulders and felt humiliated as I sadly peeled the shirt back over my head.
I ate and ate in misery that evening, and then when I returned to my apartment, I went to the bathroom and stuck my finger in my mouth. “Ugh, I really don’t want to do this”, I thought to myself, and then tears naturally filled my eyes from gagging as I watched my dinner and self-worth flush down the toilet.
I still hesitated the first couple times after that, hovering over the toilet as I pulled my hair back and mentally prepared myself for what was going to happen next. But then after a week, it became routine after a good meal. Eat, throw up, weigh myself, repeat. My body shape didn’t really change all that much, but I felt better knowing I wasn’t gaining more weight from all the food I was consuming. Every time I purged, it left a bad taste in my mouth (literally and figuratively). I looked at myself in the mirror, and I was always a big mess, from my red eyes, to the deep shame I felt on the inside. It never got easier and I felt myself slipping away.
I knew it wasn’t healthy and I knew I had a real problem, but it wasn’t enough to stop me. I didn’t tell anyone I was battling an eating disorder because I was afraid of judgment. I didn’t want people to look at me differently, or if we went out to eat to think “she’s going to throw this up later,” or that they wouldn’t believe that I needed help. I downplayed the problem so much in my mind, I wasn’t getting stick-skinny so I thought it wasn’t that serious. But a small part of me yearned for someone to notice my eating disorder and reach out to help me.
She Saw Me
I returned to the states after my work assignment and my mom instantly noticed something was off. She has always been the extra observant type. She said I looked sick and my face was discolored. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed that she didn’t comment about how I looked thinner than before. I actually felt like all my effort was wasted, and all she could talk about was how unhealthy I looked! What in the world is she talking about?!
Then the day finally came. I was in the bathroom as usual and she heard me from downstairs. She rushed up and asked if I was okay, if I had eaten something bad.
“No…” I couldn’t fool her. She always saw right through me.
“Then what’s wrong?”
And then I broke down. “I don’t want to gain weight!” and started to bawl into the toilet.
FWAAPPPP!!!! She slapped my back as hard as she could. “ARE YOU CRAZY?!?”
Her “motherly” slap was exactly what I needed to knock some sense into me. I wasn’t doing this right at all. I needed this wake up call. I needed help. I needed to stop hating my body and start taking care of it.
It took about a week of being watched like a hawk before I stopped making bathroom trips for the wrong reason. Color was returning to my face and although I still wasn’t happy with my body, I vowed never to harm it that way ever again. All it took was for someone to know I was struggling, hold me accountable for my actions, and encourage me to get my self-worth back.
Soon after, I met a young man who helped me refocus on my walk with the Lord. He taught me to love God first and then showed me what it meant to love and be loved. He was my biggest fan. He shared the gospel with me, wrote me letters with scripture verses to remind me that:
We were “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14)
“…for we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10), and
We are “…altogether beautiful…” (Song of Songs 4:7).
During the darkest part of the disorder, I remember praying, sometimes calling out to God to help me find a better way to lose weight. But the Lord reaffirmed that He loves me the way I am. I should have been praying about my relationship with God, instead of the end result of losing weight. Reading and hearing these truths reinforced the concepts even more. I finally realized: God’s story is not just about me, it’s about how much God loves His children.
I married that young man, and we had two beautiful boys who are now four and two and a half. Needless to say, I gained and lost weight from the pregnancies and hit my heaviest postpartum. I was too tired from juggling a full-time job and then coming home to take care of the kids, so eating right and exercising was the last thing on my mind. At that point I was very sluggish and snappy, not even wanting to play with the kids.
But after following a few close friends and witnessing their fitness transformations on social media, I decided to stop making excuses and get active. I started small with 7-minute workouts from apps on my phone, then I progressed to following exercises on YouTube videos and eventually joined a gym. I watched what I ate by cutting out a lot of unnecessary carbs and sweets and meal-prepped for the work week. After a few weeks, I was seeing results and felt my energy level skyrocket.
My husband is my gym partner, and now I look forward to going. We talk more when we’re there together; it opened up more lines of communication. He says I have too much energy now! God is so good because it honestly NEVER crossed my mind to return to my bulimic past.
Now I eat what I love (in moderation) and exercise not only to lose weight, but to feel stronger physically, mentally, and spiritually. So many years later, I can honestly and confidently say that I’m exactly where I want to be.
There is Hope
If you are struggling with this disorder today, please listen when I tell you that it’s not worth it. To put yourself through all of this, in the end, being thin is not a real source of happiness. Look inside yourself, focus on the things and people who make you happy. All the mental strain, the pressure you put on yourself or that people may have led you to believe… you are not here for them. In the end, it’s how you feel about yourself. God made you, and He loves you exactly how you are.