Backstory: I grew up with an extremely supportive mom who encouraged me and loved me 24/7. But even then, I almost always felt insecure about my body. It may not have started as body dysmorphia, but that is what it very quickly became. I would look in the mirror and hate what I saw, despite my mom’s assurances that I looked the same as always, and that regardless of what I claimed I saw, I was beautiful.
And yet, my self-perception was worsened by the emergence of social media in my life. Even though Instagram had god-awful filters and Tumblr was just a community of hipster tweens, I was addicted. But my addiction was also tied in with the scary notion that I would never fit in with the skinny girls.
I would scroll through my feeds, seeing girls in tight booty shorts, crop tops, or bikinis, and I constantly felt undervalued (and I still do sometimes, tbh).
When I was cast as Cinderella my senior year of high school, the first thought that entered my mind was not of the songs I would get to sing; instead, my first thought was: “How will I look in a ballgown, considering I’m *insert body-related insult here*.” Now that I think about it, that’s not really the best way to start a 3-month process of being in a musical. I figured if I was going to be the lead in a show about a princess, I might as well make sure that I fit the Disney princess body type: skinny.
For the first month and a half of the rehearsal process, I resorted to eating one meal a day, max. I would conveniently “skip” breakfast and “forget” to pack a lunch. I would get home from school after 2 hours of rehearsal and eat dinner, my first meal of the day. Then repeat.t
I wouldn’t even drink water. First of all, I’ve never really liked drinking water (I know, that’s a really unhealthy fact). Once I stopped eating, I realized water weight was also not something I wanted to deal with, so I boycotted water.
Here’s a fact: Bodies need food and water, especially if you’re doing high-intensity dancing (including a 10-minute waltz complete with lifts and spins).
Not surprisingly, I started losing weight. I went down one pant size, and my bras no longer fit. I felt
good great, and I told everyone: “I have no idea how I’m losing weight!”
Spoiler alert: that was a lie.
My mom would ask me if I was okay, and if I was eating. I would keep telling her I was fine, and that she needn’t worry.
But I wasn’t fine. Fine is the word you use when you’re everything but fine.
I wasn’t completely miserable, however. I had convinced myself that this was normal behavior and that I loved how I looked in the mirror.
But here’s the thing: I purposefully paid no attention to the downfalls of starving myself, because I was terrified of realizing what I was actually doing to my body.
I was irritable. It was senior year. I was taking classes that I disliked, I was stressed about what college I would go to, and I was able to count the people I trusted with one hand. It felt like everything was out of my control, and the one thing I could control was my food intake.
One particular night, a few weeks before we opened the show, I broke down. My mom and I had a fight, and I told her everything I had been holding back for months. And I felt free.
Here’s the truth as of now: I still struggle with my body image. I struggle every single day.
But now I know that there are people in my life that are there to listen to me when I’m hurting.
Friends, I urge you to be honest with yourself and the people you love if you’re dealing with an eating disorder. You are SO loved, and you are SO much more than a number on a scale.
All the love,