Sometimes I write about issues not because I want to, but rather because I feel like I need to in order to help someone else. This is one of those blogs.
When my husband and I were dating, one of his family members came up to me, grabbed my sides and said, “you’re getting a muffin top there” (*for those not unfortunate enough to have even been labeled with one, a MT is what happens when your waist gets bigger and spills out over the top of your jeans. It’s stupid. It’s also no one’s business). I know this was just a passing attempt at humor that failed horribly, but it hurt me deeply. Anyone who knows me knows I’m pretty tough. I don’t hesitate in giving back venom after I’ve been struck, but this was different. I froze. I knew they were right. But I also knew something they didn’t know-I had recently battled an eating disorder.
The reason for my sudden “muffin top” was that my body had been on an insane journey from which it was struggling to recover. My organs, now so dependent on weight loss pills and diuretics, literally stopped functioning normally when I tried to give up all my weight cutting measures. To understand how I got to this point, you need to know where I started out. I want to share this painful and embarrassing part of my life in the hopes that this could both steer my friends away from these measures and help families know the signs they should look for.
In my early twenties I had zero self-esteem. A list of what I saw as devastating disappointments paired with an emotionally abusive relationship left me feeling out of control.
That’s the key word in this whole mess. My bulimia was never about my weight or the food I was trying to blame for my problems, it was about control. I couldn’t control anything going on around me, but I could control what happened within me-or so I thought.
When people hear “bulimia” they immediately think of throwing up. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but that was a major part of my disorder. But so was the abuse of pills and so was excessive exercise and so was drinking a gallon of water at a time as fast as possible and then lying on the floor unable to move.
Please know, I’m not glorifying who I was. There’s nothing pretty about an eating disorder. It makes you a hideous, obsessed mess. I know the pressure. I know you think you can just do it until prom or graduation or your wedding or whatever event you have to “look your best” for, but hear me-you cannot be your best by abusing your body. That’s what it is-abuse. Instead of getting out of the abusive, toxic relationships I was in, I transferred that abuse to my body.
And as for that need to be in control? It wasn’t long until my body revolted against what I was doing and I lost ALL control. Medications that are only meant to be used occasionally were being used daily for weeks at a time. My body got used to them and I had to up the dosages until they didn’t work at all. Eventually my digestive system shut down. According to my doctor, my intestines were essentially dying and if I didn’t stop soon, there would be no recovery.
Thank God, one day after purging I looked in the mirror and realized I didn’t recognize myself anymore. Changes that were imperceptible to others were mocking me from my reflection. I had to stop. With God’s help, I was able to. He helped me see what this was really about. He helped me see that the control I was killing myself to gain didn’t belong to me, nor did it belong to my boyfriend, or my life situations-it belonged to Him.
That’s not to say that I haven’t had moments of temptation. There are triggers, like the “muffin top incident”, that make me want to start again. Then there are minefields, like pregnancy weight gain that makes me think the only solution is diving head first back into my disorder. But I can’t go back. I refuse.
I hope this blog has served its purpose of pointing out the dangers of eating disorders. I hope this familiar face helps those struggling with these issues to know they aren’t alone and that there is hope ahead. I hope this makes a point about why weight jokes are dangerous, not funny. And I hope this helps my friends in recovery to embrace their new bodies, muffin tops and all.