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My Eating Disorder Made Me Feel Beautiful

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I thought I was happy with who I became, but the repercussions didn’t agree


I grew up in a small town located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The school I attended was K-12, with all of us located in one building. The entirety of my graduating class was 20 people, each of whom I had known and grown up with since 2nd grade. The drawback to this lifestyle was how cruel my fellow peers could be if you weren’t considered “beautiful.”

In my first year of high school, I was slightly overweight for my height. Unfortunately, having this physical appearance made me a target for harassment and bullying. My peers didn’t hold back their insults when it came to reminding me almost daily how I was considered incredibly unattractive. A memory that remains vivid to this day was when one of the boys in my class knocked me to the ground in the parking lot behind the school when it was raining. I landed in the mud, covered head to toe with brown sludge. He proceeded to laugh hysterically with his three other friends who accompanied him, yelling, “Oh look! We get to see her true colors, a pig! Oink, Oink!”

At that moment, I felt something crack inside my mind. Any ounce of self-respect and confidence I had started to fall away. I went home sobbing that night, remembering the feeling of utter defeat weighing heavily on my body. I remember desperately wanting to change the way I appeared to others. That very same night, as I laid in bed watching YouTube videos, I discovered someone talking about caloric intake and how lowering it could help you lose weight.

The Shatter

I think that was the starting point. As the days rolled by, I learned more and more about counting and reducing the calories I consumed. In the following months, that’s exactly what I did. Little by little, I slowly dropped my intake to 500 calories a day. In the moments when I felt hunger pains, I would chug gallons of water as a substitute. I quickly started to see the results I longed for. In a matter of a year, I managed to drop almost 50 pounds.

On the first day of my senior year, I walked into the school, the feeling of anticipation enveloping my chest. I had no idea how they were going to react. To my utter surprise, the acceptance and praise were almost overwhelming. Suddenly everyone was kind to me, treating me with a form of respect I had never known before. I discovered a small voice in my mind that day: It’s because you lost so much weight.

From then on, it would whisper harsh, degrading insults every time I felt a hunger pain or suddenly had an urge to go over my caloric intake schedule. In fact, it pushed me even further, to consuming no more than 500 calories every other day. That way, I could stay at the appearance everybody appreciated. The guys suddenly wanted my attention, and the girls wanted to spend time with me. I felt like I was finally happy. I didn’t know at the time that the happiness I felt was manipulation, a form of protection that prevented me from seeing just how shattered my mind really was.

Acknowledging the Broken Pieces

My mother was the first to notice something had gone array inside my mind. She disapproved of the rapid way I lost weight, and as a result, she found me a therapist. At first, I refused to talk to her. I thought the sessions were pointless and that I wasn’t going to change who I was for a woman who didn’t even know me. After all, the opinions of my new “friends” were the ones that really mattered. It was hard initially, but I couldn’t help engaging with her after only a few sessions. She was just so easy to talk to.

The sessions started off casually, talking about our days and what was new. Then the therapist gradually started asking what I had eaten during that day. I would lie, just as I did to everyone else. After all, I had a handle on my eating, so I didn’t see the need to talk about it.

She saw right through the lie.

One afternoon, she ordered food for both of us from Subway. She had asked my mother about my favorite sub and laid before me was a footlong helping of meatballs and melted cheese. I felt the hunger pains, knowing that all I had consumed before our session was a measly granola bar. No one likes a pig. There it was, right on schedule. My little reminder, so I politely declined the sandwich, accepting I could go without it.

“It’s wrong, you know.”

I remember feeling shocked. She looked at me as if she knew what was going on inside my shattered mind. I didn’t know what to say. A lump formed in my throat that wouldn’t let words flow out. All it took was that one sentence for tears to well up in my eyes and to feel as though I could finally let out all of the things I wanted to say. I poured all of the negative, hateful feelings that were inside me onto her and confided about the residing voice so loud within my mind. I didn’t realize how much her presence in my life would help with my self-imaging, but it definitely makes a difference when you have the right therapist.

Putting the Pieces Back Together

Finally, the voice had a name, anorexia nervosa. Once I knew its name, I began to work with my therapist to understand how it was wrong. My eating disorder (ED) had become a part of who I was. It made me feel beautiful but in all the wrong ways. My “friends” who only came to accept me after my unhealthy weight loss were part of the manipulation, unknowingly helping my ED strengthen its hold over me. Through an extensive health and mental health treatment regime created by my therapist, I slowly regained control over who I was.

It’s not as if my ED is suddenly “cured.” It remains in the back of my mind to this day. The difference being I was able to discover my self-worth and build confidence in who I was again with the help of others. I found true, honest friends who came to appreciate me for who I am, and even someone who loves me unconditionally.

Once I’m old, I feel that I’ll look back at this stage of my life with contentment. It will be a moment of empowerment, of overcoming an impossible obstacle despite how hard the journey of recovery was.

If you or someone you know is suffering from a situation similar to mine, please reach out to a qualified professional. The right therapist can help guide you to the path of recovery, providing you with helping hands and comfort you may have never known before.

If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.

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About the Author: Kaitlin Ambuehl is a student who is passionate about bringing awareness to mental health. Having her own personal battle with anorexia nervosa, Kaitlin aims to help inspire other individuals who may be struggling to reach out and get the appropriate help.

Photo by Elisa Ph. on Unsplash

The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.

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1 thoughts on “My Eating Disorder Made Me Feel Beautiful

  1. Lori says:

    It was touching to read this story. 50 years ago when I had ED there was neither a name (nor an acronym!) for that amd Bulliama. I ended up with both, starting in my teens and finally ending one night when I was 31. The night was so specific it has never left me. Yes, there are insecurities and emotional hangups. But one other thing no one still ever really mentions (and it’s been about 34 years since my last incident – was my menstrual cycle! My menses cycle also played a CRUCIAL part in my inability to control my body. My periods were so dang heavy I couldn’t stand vertically on my first day. So my eating before them was just a response to my body screaming more iron and sugar-rich food, please! Because I didn’t eat I had no reserves. And then my body DEMANDED the food, I would have to later throw up. I was lucky I didn’t kill myself. At 31 I had a baby and my periods lightened immediately. One night before my period I had the WORST need to eat sweets. I reached for an orange. Then one more. One more…..and finally one more. I felt SO differently during this episode. Like I couldn’t control IT (the urge) but I could control what I chose to eat. So before periods I consumed eggs and oranges and I honestly never looked back. I freed myself from that horrible phase of my life. I don’t think I ever resolved my issues of wanting to be physically cute and sexy, but at LEAST I was no longer ruining my health! Best of luck. It can take a lifetime!

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