Eating Disorders: “If I eat this, it will make me fat…”

“I remember the first day I threw up,” Allison told me. “I was on a Girl Scout camping trip and felt I had eaten too much. Just that week I had watched a Baywatch episode where the star of the show, played by Pamela Anderson, was being confronted with her eating disorder. There was a detailed scene showing her character throwing up her food by sticking her fingers down her throat. So I excused myself to the bathroom and tried to do what I had just seen on television — throw up by putting my fingers down my throat. It worked, and so began my six-year battle with bulimia. “In high school, I began to date Justin. ‘Awful’ is the only way to describe him accurately. He wanted me to be super-skinny and encouraged me to do anything to stay thin, even if it meant throwing up my food. He would say things like, ‘You are so beautiful and skinny.’ Struggling with low self- esteem, I did my best to please him and stay thin by continually throwing up my food. It became more than just something I did every once in a while; I was now bingeing and purging three or four times a day.”

Each morning when I woke up, I hated myself. I hated myself for throwing up, I hated that I did not feel like I could stop bingeing…

Upon returning from a date, Allison would grab an entire box of Raisin Bran and milk. “Any food taken with milk or Coke would always make the throwing-up part a lot easier,” Allison continued. “I would binge on Raisin Bran, milk, and Coke, and then purge it after every date I went on. I just couldn’t cope with how he treated me. I felt used and worthless, and bingeing was my solace. Each morning when I woke up, I hated myself. I hated myself for throwing up, I hated that I did not feel like I could stop bingeing, and I hated having a boyfriend who only liked me if I was skinny. And to make matters worse, any food I was tempted to eat, I thought to myself, ‘If I eat this, it will make me fat.’” Allison had become accustomed to her dry mouth, aching throat, and what she calls “chipmunk cheeks.” “My face and cheeks were so swollen from the trauma of throwing up all day that it literally looked like I had something stuck in my cheeks,” she said. “Even now, I cannot look at pictures from those years. It’s just too painful.” When Allison’s hair began falling out in chunks, she realized the extent of her addiction. She approached her mom with the news of her problem, and her mom responded simply, “Just don’t do that.” Allison was reaching out for help, but still felt stuck. No longer trying to hide her secret, she would walk into a bathroom, even with three other girls in the next room, and purge her entire dinner.
There are many reasons women struggle with eating disorders, including a need for control, a distorted body image, media propaganda and fear. Eating disorders are complex. The roots of these issues often have nothing to do with food at all. If someone you disciple has an eating disorder, Discipling Women will help you understand the warning signs, the different types of disorders, and how to walk through the healing process.