“You don’t need to be pretty like her, you can be pretty like you.”
No one seems to like the word “pretty” lately, but I personally do not mind it. I think the message this quote is trying to get across is that we are all beautiful in our own ways, and just because we may not resemble our “idea of perfect” does not mean that we are in fact, not perfect.
It is around NEDA Awareness Week and around this time each year, I usually share my story of overcoming an eating disorder. This year, I really debated it. This portion of my life seems like such a distant past and sometimes bringing it up again just does not seem necessary as I continue to grow in my life… but it is important and as my favorite blogger @theskinnyconfidential discusses, a good blogger needs to be vulnerable. We need to use these platforms for real, raw honest truth that can spark positivity and inspiration in others (rather than just showcase perfectly curated photographs or a social feed that depicts that we have it all together..trust me I DON’T but I am working on it 🙂 ).
So here it is- At around 19 years old, I developed an eating disorder. Big changes happened in my life at eighteen years old. I graduated high school, enrolled in a university (that I was not too excited about) and I quit the college cheerleading team. I started my first relationship ever at 18 years old just before I left for college.
My first semester freshman year was totally not as hyped up as I envisioned college being. I think this goes along with the whole concept of social media highlight reels and seeing pictures from parties that looked AWESOME only to attend and it be super lame.
I also started on birth control, which really messed with my hormones. I was not conscious that this pill was actually about to control my mental state as well. (I totally plan on writing a post about the benefits of an IUD soon btw)
I attended school by the sea, which sounds like a dream but it actually gets very cold/foggy during the winter months. Rather than sitting in my dorm and watching tv, I decided to set a goal that I would be the best looking girlfriend/student/lady that I could be. I did not think I was bad looking, I just thought I could totally use some work.
My goal was to lose weight, achieve those blonde locks that I always wanted, and to feel like I fit in. I wanted to be proud of my looks; I thought it would make people like me more and it would help me feel more confident at school.
I downloaded this app called “My Fitness Pal” which set my caloric intake to 1200 calories a day. Please keep in mind that I have a fast metabolism and I live an active lifestyle. This amount of calories was no where near accurate for someone of my metabolism and size.
It was a slow start that eventually spiraled into an obsession. I lost control and in the back of my mind feared that there was no end point. I kept hearing that I looked “good” or “skinny” and I took those words as compliments that added fuel to the fire.
This process lasted around 2 years. Two years of my twenties that I will never get back.
Over this time, my hair thinned out. I lost my long gorgeous dark brown hair and was left with short blonde thin hair.
My nails fell out. I remember showering at Monmouth and my toe nails literally falling out.
I was cranky, boy was I cranky. I took hangry to a new level. I lost motivation to and I lost enthusiasm with life because I had no energy. I was proud of myself if I stayed lower than 1200 calories (around 900 calories a day). Gum became my best friend. By chewing gum, I could “hold off.” When someone offered me something, it was automatically a “no.” I was glued to my app, and I was glued to this process. In the back of my mind, I knew I needed help. Heck, everyone could see I did. Yet, I did not know when or what to do.
This eating disorder was no longer just an eating issue. It was depression, terrible haunting thoughts, and severe anxiety. I felt worthless. I would never be good enough.
I remember sitting in the parking lot at Hansel and Griddle in Somerville. My stomach growling. I just told my mom that I was hungry. She offered to pick something up, and then… I broke down and balled my eyes out. I only had a handful of calories left for the day. I did not have enough calories left to consume the food I needed. I did not know if I should spend them on this and I feared that a wrap would make me fat. YES A WRAP.
I was at a total mental crossroads. I screamed that I needed help.
Debi took me to get the help that I needed.
I wish I could say it was a quick recovery and the rest is history, as well it is history…but this process took quite a while. Lots of visits to therapists and nutritionists, and lots of mental growth to strengthen my thoughts and beliefs that I was in fact good enough.
Would my family and friends still love me if I gained weight and had brown hair again?
It may sound silly, but these thoughts were real.
Body dysmorphia is a struggle that many young ladies/men deal with and while it may seem like a taboo topic, I think it is worth discussing. We are growing in a time where we are constantly compared to others and it can be easy to fall into this trap.
I want you to know that there is a light at the end of this tunnel.
I want you to know that YOU are good enough, right now just as you are. Your smile is the best thing you can wear, and sure beats any designer item or a smaller size outfit. Your natural hair is awesome, stop wishing it was different. If you want to change it up, DO IT… but do it because YOU want to, not because you think it will make a difference in your social life or the amount of likes a picture will get.
You are loved.
… by your family, friends, pets, and this Earth. You have the ability to see, laugh, feel, smile, hear, and breathe. You have air in your lungs and heart in your soul and that is a blessing. This whole life is. Take a step back and express your gratitude. You are here for a reason, we all are. Spend your life enjoying this blessing, do not take anything for granted.
You are pretty. You are pretty like YOU. 🙂 Only one of you exists and that is so rad.
and lastly, you are perfect.
I can proudly say that at 24 years old I still do not have much figured out, but I do know that I am good enough just as I am. I think recovering from this taught me valuable lessons about life and growth. If I can pull out of this, so can you.