As a teenager, I watched my best friend go from a size 8 to a size 0 in a matter of a few short months. I never thought anything of it. After all, the majority of our female friend group was skinny girls. There was no such thing as normal or healthy, only pretty and ugly. In my perception, she looked good, because skinny was pretty. For the same reason, I never ate in front of anyone, and purposefully starved myself to fit that “pretty” image.
Four years later, she confessed that she had bulimia. What started as wanting to be beautiful quickly turned into an obsession for perfection. I already knew she had an eating disorder. She developed bone loss and her hair was brittle. Her skin pale and cracked. She weighed 80lbs and whenever she stepped on that scale she always wanted to loose more. “More” she would say to herself, “I have to be better than this.” How she saw herself? In control, when the rest of her world wasn’t. It took her four years to admit that, because she was finally ready to change. She decided she wanted to get better before college. She began going to a nutritionist and became obsessed with calorie counting. This only encouraged her mind by justifying “If I’m eating healthy I will stay skinny and not have to purge.” It was already too late for that. She would do well for a month, and then cave. When a stressful situation enveloped her life she would compensate by controlling what she could, her intake and output.
As she started college, she realized it did not get any easier. She was out of the house but the habit already formed. She would binge, purge, then cry. The reality hit hard when she was told if she ever had a baby, it would be a miracle. When your body doesn’t go through the proper functions that it was made to do, such as eating and digesting, it begins to shut down. When you binge and purge for 10 years, the effects hurt you and those around you permanently. What started as fitting in had turned into a false sense of control, when she was really beyond any control. Only through the grace of God did my beautiful best friend find a way to pull herself together.
Here are some tips to avoid my friend’s fight, and to live a healthier lifestyle with higher esteem…
- Good-Influence Friend Support System: She said goodbye to the girls she compared herself to, and was able to lean on those who would help her. She used her voice to express her hurt, and found consolation in the stronger support system around her.
- Don’t buy the smaller size clothing item thinking you’ll “shrink”. This only reinforces a negative self image when, surprisingly, the clothing item does not fit.
- Understand you feel out of control, and that’s normal.
- Pray and give it up to God. Do this every half hour, if needed. When giving your life to God, you feel a sense of relief and burden off your shoulders. The burdens often come back sooner than expected, though, and you have to give it up to God all over again.
- Cry. It is normal and healthy to cry! This is the best way to let out emotion when feeling out of control. We are given tear ducts to use them.
- Don’t go vegan. It will reinforce justification and negative habits.
- Don’t weigh yourself. Get rid of the scale you own and focus on being healthy.
- Sing in the shower, if that is a place you will feel tempted. It is a good distraction.