From the moment I exited the womb, I loved food. My mom could not shove spaghetti into my tiny mouth fast enough when we were at our friends house in ‘98. I was less than a year old and I’d be screaming in between spoonfuls for more food. My Aunt would look at mother laughing in disbelief. “She’s one hungry girl alright.”
Throughout childhood and pre-teen years, hungry girl stuck with me. Everything from apple pie for breakfast, to trading my carrot sticks for Dunk-a-roos at lunch and coming home to lying in front of the television for hours with an all you can eat extravaganza of cookies, leftover pizza and ice cream. If cookies, ice cream, and pizza doesn’t sound artery clogging enough, I had to gorge down an entire can of whipping cream alongside. As long as it was tasty, it would be consumed. In grade six, one of the boys in my class called me fat. I did not care because I was happy with who I was.
When high school came along, I was introduced to a whole new realm of comparison and media. One brisk February night, my reflection stood in front of the brightly lit bathroom mirror. I examined every little part of my body. My oh my.. we’ve got quite the pudgy little tummy going on… we are definitely going to have to do something about that you pathetic little thing. And that double chin, are you sure you’re not wearing a neck brace? If you stop stuffing your face maybe there will be some hope for you. I was hurt and angry because I neglected taking care my figure throughout the years, but more importantly, I was motivated in becoming the prettiest, fittest girl in my school despite the effort and time it took. Ironically enough, my mom was getting a personal trainer around the same time. Her and my dad were sold when I asked to join in the sessions too. They were proud of me, but little did they know that my idea of healthy living was awfully different than theirs.
I deleted all my social networking sites from my life and spent the following months working out: which consisted of 2 hours on the bike and an hour of weights daily. If I wasn’t burning my calories, I would hide behind my bedroom door, searching the web for low-calorie diets, best fat burning supplements, and high-cardio workouts. I counted every calorie and gram of fat and sugar that I ate. I made myself a no-no list which included any food with more than 2 grams of fat, 300 calories and 20 grams of carbs. Calorie consumption became a test to see how little I could do within a day. It came to the point where I was only eating less than half the amount of calories I needed in a day.
My relationships certainly took a toll for the worst as my physique became my sole security. I consistently compared myself to my friends and thought highly of myself: being more motivated and disciplined in my health than they were. I completely shut myself out from my parents. “Don’t you think you’re taking this dieting thing too seriously honey?” Dad would say. I replied bluntly with a “no” and continue on with my daily routine of tiring myself and undereating. I lied to my mom and told her I had my period when I never did. My brother knew something was up with me when he came home from university. He sarcastically said I was fat and I literally wept in my room the entire evening. Spiritually, I said I was a Christian, but in all honesty I could care less about what God thought of me. Despite the fact that my unhealthy habits became clear to my family, there I still stood in front of the mirror: analyzing. Your thighs are huge! Look at that cellulite. You ate way too much today, no wonder you don’t have a thigh gap. Eww..And those kimono arms. You should know by now that apples are carbs. I still didn’t have the body I wanted, and though I thought I was in control, it was food that controlled me.
It was a rainy day in the springtime when my Mom pulled up in front of the school at lunch hour. She wanted to take me out and said she had a special surprise for me. Just as much as I loathed eating out, I could not say no: she already had a bit of an idea of what I was doing and goodness forbid I further upset her. I opened the door to the little cafe for my mom. It was quaint and the hustle and bustle gave us no option but to grab the first seat we saw. A lady who I had not known came over and my mom introduced us. She was the instructor mom had taken aerobics classes from back in the 80s. I chewed my dry vegetables slowly while she told me about her daughter.
Her daughter was a few years old than I was: Sweet, bubbly, athletic and had long gorgeous hair. Well… it was long one-point anyways. After an injury in sports, she felt she couldn’t eat as much as she had, and before you knew it she was diagnosed with anorexia. Her hair started thinning out and never grew it back. When the body is not fed properly, it goes into starvation mode and organs, such as the heart and brain. To make up for the loss of nutrients, proteins are taken up from the hair, skin, and nails. It affected her entire family. It affected my entire family. I was good at controlling my emotions (in a public setting anyways) but I couldn’t fight back the tears. It had been over a year since I last cut my hair and it was almost down to my belly button. Never in my life had I felt so alone in a room full of people. Just as much as I didn’t want to believe it, I knew I had to get out of this mess. Unfortunately, I wish I knew how.
Summer finally came along, but not even a tall refreshing glass of lemonade was able to quench the tension. The next couple of months involved many tears, blow-ups, and prayers. I had never seen my dad cry before when he saw the pain I was going through. The lunch that past spring was soon forgotten and I fell back to my old ways. I wanted so badly to have a normal life again, where I could put butter on my toast and not feel remorseful, and yet there was still a voice in my head that longed for perfection; You only need to lose five more pounds..you can’t quit now…
I knew I hit rock bottom the moment I stood in front of the toilet and stuck a toothbrush down my throat. Purging my insecurities undoubtedly felt empowering – but deep down I felt a heavy blanket of sadness taking over my heart. My mom came home to a sobbing daughter propped against on the basement staircase. She sat down and cradled me in her arms. “We will conquer this together Maddi, I will be with you every step of the way holding your hand. I’ve been praying so hard for you and will continue to do so until the Lord answers for good.” Her and my father did whatever they could, but they soon found out that my issue was beyond their expertise. They insisted I see a counselor no matter how much I fought back.
It was a month later and I was sitting in the clinic, reading last season’s Elle. I remember thinking how stupid I was to give into seeing somebody that helps the insane. Looking back, however – and just as much as I hate to admit it – my parents were right: I thoroughly enjoyed going to see my counselor. She was my escape from all the pain. We set small goals every week and I was on a slow and steady path back to recovery.
Things are still not perfect and I doubt they ever will be until I am reunited with my maker. There are days where I wake up needing to remind myself that I am working to become healthy and strong in Christ, not skinny and fragile. That is because my worth is totally found in God and now realize that physical things cannot satisfy that hole in my heart. I am beyond thankful that my eating disorder hadn’t caused me to lose my hair and it is my hope that young girls can learn to love themselves without having to take the path that I had. There is so much more to life and beauty than a number on a scale or a dress size as I have learned to rejoice in the Lord for a body that is capable of doing so much.