The Fight for Beauty- Chapter 6- Living with a Monster

I welcome you to join me as I share my story of my own fight for beauty!  I’ll be posting once a week a new chapter of my journey, from beginning to end.  I’m going to share the good, the bad, the ugly, and the embarrassing.  My hope is to remove the veil and misconceptions that people have about eating disorders while offering hope to those struggling that there really is a way out.

With that said, here is Chapter 5 of my story.  To read chapter 1, click here.


“I don’t know what you’re so worried about. I mean, I can see your hip bones through your shirt” my co-worker said to me as I looked over the menu of the cafe we worked at.

It had been two months since I met with Jeff and I was about to fly out to Atlanta to record a new demo.  Despite working out for three hours a day, I was only able to lose a few pounds.  I counted every calorie and was careful to not exceed 500 calories per day.  In fact, I still remember my exact diet day in and day out.

Breakfast: 1 Cup Decaf Coffee with Sugar Free/Fat Free Hazelnut Creamer and 3/4 C Special K Cereal.

Lunch: 1 slice of ham on lettuce with 1 tbsp of fat-free Italian dressing.

Dinner: A can of green beans. 

Despite my limited diet, I became even more obsessed with food.  I loved watching other people eat and I found great joy and satisfaction out of cooking and baking high calorie meals for others.  I would bring home shakes from the cafe I worked at for my sisters and watched them as they drank it.

“Is it good?” I would ask.

“What does it taste like?”

It was as if I was overwhelmed with living vicariously through them, wishing I could eat what they did while at the same time being disgusted by them for taking in so many calories in one sitting.

People at church began noticing my weight loss and simultaneously praised me for it while secretly asking my mother if I was okay.

I was tired, yet the attention I was receiving for my weight loss made me feel more alive than I had felt in years.  Perhaps ever.


 March 22, 2006

Here I am in Atlanta.  I can’t believe I’m going to record with Mariah Carey’s producer! He’s so nice.  I went to his house last night and I think we are going to record tomorrow.  I’m excited but at the same time I’m scared.  What if I don’t ever become a famous singer? After I left his house I went to Walmart and I bought a huge bag of almond M&M’s and I ate the whole thing in the car. Then I went to Chikfila and ate waffle fries.  I bought water pills and ex-lax.  Now I feel sick to my stomach.  I hate myself soooooooooooooo much. I’m so disgusting.   I wish I could just be like a normal person and never eat sugar. Lord help me not eat bad foods and help me lose weight so I can be a singer. 


They say that everyone reaches a breaking point. Mine was in Atlanta.  I made the trip alone and I stayed there for about a month driving back and forth from where I was staying to the house I was recording at.  From 12am- 6am we would record. I’d sleep from 8am-2pm where I would then awake and be forced to find ways to occupy my time.  My days normally consisted of working out and then fighting the urge to binge.  The first few days, I was successful, however it became clear that my body had lived in starvation mode for long enough and it was retaliating by giving me urges to eat everything in sight.

It’s hard to explain what it’s like.  To be out of control of your own brain, your own body, your own actions.  Most people who have never struggled with an addiction don’t understand that you can’t just stop.  You can’t just “not do it.”  When I would confide in friends or family members who’s only token of advice was to just ask God to help me stop, I would want to scream, “DO YOU THINK IT’S NEVER OCCURRED TO ME TO PRAY? DO YOU THINK THAT IF I COULD JUST STOP THAT I WOULD? DO YOU REALLY THINK THAT I LOVE LIVING FEELING LIKE I CAN’T CONTROL MY OWN GOD-DAMNED BODY? DO YOU THINK THAT I LOVE WAKING UP FEELING AFRAID OF MY OWN SELF?”

It’s hard to explain to someone that you feel as though someone else, something else has taken over your entire body.  Your mind becomes fixated on this one thing it wants.  Just one more time. Just once.  And everything else around you fades into existence until you can get your hands on this one thing.

For some it’s drugs and alcohol. Others it’s sex.  Mine.  It was food.

It goes without saying that going to Atlanta did not catapult my career of being a famous singer.  It’s hard for me to look back on that trip without flinching as I remember the days and the nights where I drove around crying because I felt out of control of my own body.

I came home from Atlanta, broken and depressed.  I continued to spend my days fighting the urge to binge and purge. I woke everyday with food being the first thing on my mind.  I would have dreams about working out at the gym only to ruin it by eating large amounts of pizza.  Each day started and ended with a promise to myself to do better next time. I never did.  I began smoking because I read that cigarettes helped curb your appetite and make you lose weight.

“What are we going to do about Rihanna’s eating disorder?” my best friend asked my mom one night.  The anger and annoyance I felt was only overshadowed by the fact that I secretly loved that she thought I could possibly have an eating disorder.

She was wrong.  I didn’t have an eating disorder. I wish I had an eating disorder because those girls are beautiful and are so thin that you can see their rib cage! I could only wish to be that thin!

A few weeks went on and my family and best friend both pleaded with me to get help. I finally agreed to begin seeing a therapist who later insisted to my parents that I needed more help than she could provide.  My mother, knowing that I would not agree to go to a treatment assessment, told me that she had arranged for me to meet with a dietician who would give me a meal plan that could help me lose weight.

Finally!  Finally someone was willing to help me the way that I needed. A little self-control was all I needed to get back on track.

I drove to a little office where I met with a middle-aged blonde woman who gave me pages of paperwork to fill out.  She seemed to watch me as I filled everything out, and not in a way I was used to.  It was as if she was studying, analyzing me.

When I was done, she took me into her office where I was excited to finally go over a list of foods I can and can’t eat.  She began asking me questions and I felt comfortable around her.  I confided that I had recently learned how to make myself throw up and how I seemed to have lost all control when it came to food.

She left the room for a bit and when she came back, she sat across from me and said, “Rihanna, it’s clear that you need impatient treatment.”

My head began to spin and my heart started to race.

“Wait…why?” I asked.  “I thought I was here so you could give me a meal plan.”

She explained how my behaviors and my food obsession were not normal.  How girls who use laxatives as much as I do often times end up with colostomy bags. She went on to say how it’s not normal for people to weigh themselves multiple times a day.  She explained how I’m not normal.

I drove home with a rage inside that I hadn’t felt before.  My ears burned and my eyes welled with tears as I thought about having to go into inpatient treatment.  I didn’t have an eating disorder.

“Ten days.”  my mom pleaded. “Just give us ten days and you’ll be done.”

Ten days.  I agreed to ten days.  I packed my bags, got in the car and blissfully began my journey to inpatient treatment.

Ten days, I thought to myself.  All of this will be over in ten days.  Little did I know that the journey was just beginning.

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Stay tuned for the next chapter!

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The Fight for Beauty- Chapter 5 – The Hollywood Dream

I welcome you to join me as I share my story of my own fight for beauty!  I’ll be posting once a week a new chapter of my journey, from beginning to end.  I’m going to share the good, the bad, the ugly, and the embarrassing.  My hope is to remove the veil and misconceptions that people have about eating disorders while offering hope to those struggling that there really is a way out.

With that said, here is Chapter 5 of my story.  To read chapter 1, click here.


When I arrived back home to Arizona, my head was spinning with possibilities of my dreams coming into fruition.  I was about to record my first demo at Paramount Studios and my promotional photo shoot was scheduled to be done at the same time.  My manager and I went back and forth as far as what my “look” should be.  Every big artist had a look and image that they had to stick to market themselves. Starting out, I stood firm that, unlike other artists, I wanted to actually wear clothes when I performed.  However, he convinced me that sex sells and before I knew it I was 100% willing to use my sexuality as a way to promote my career.

However, I still needed to lose 10 pounds off my 130 pound 5’7 frame.

My mom had read that juice diets were all the craze in Hollywood and were becoming more and more well-known for helping celebrities drop weight quickly.  I was game.

We started our three-day juice cleanse and I remember the first sip of juice I had.  I wanted to immediately vomit.  There was no way I was going to be able to force myself to drink this for three days.  I instead lived off decaf coffee and fat-free creamer.  The first two days were a complete blur.  I was starving, tired, and achy.  I forced myself to walk on my treadmill for at least an hour each day.  I put up photos on my mirror of Britney Spears in case I was tempted to break my fast and eat.

I woke up on day three and before I could even make it out of my room, I blacked out.  I woke up to my mom standing over me.  I had passed out from lack of calories.

I still refused to eat and insisted on completing day three.  In my mind, passing out was a win.  A sign of victory.  In a sick way, it motivated me even more to complete my fast because it said to me that it was working. Also, I was over ten pounds down in just three days.  I was on cloud 9.

I soon arrived back in LA, proud to show off my new figure to my manager.  He was impressed that I was able to drop weight so quickly but mentioned how I needed to focus on toning up. I was shattered.  All I wanted was affirmation from him.

I remember driving up to Paramount Studios with  my mom.  I felt like a celebrity when I had to give my name to the security team and they saw me listed on the schedule for a recording session.  The next few days consisted of writing and laying down tracks for my demo.  I arrived for my photo shoot and it was just like the ones I had watched on MTV and VH1.  My favorite music playing in the background while I changed outfits and had a hair and makeup team fixing my hair and appearance.

Eventually, things between my manager and I began to become strange.   Tensions began to arise as he was obviously not fulfilling his part of our agreement.  He seemed upset that I would never travel or go to his offices alone.  I was always with my mom or my best friend, Kainos. I later found out that a few years after I stopped working with him, he was convicted to jail time for raping his female clients.

Through a series of networking events, he introduced me to a man named Jeff.  He had obvious connections in the music industry and had agreed to meet with me.  We met at a mall in LA along with my best friend, Kainos.  He asked me what my goals were and said that he was impressed with my demos that he had heard.  He said that he wanted to arrange to have me record with Manual Seal, a Grammy award-winning producer out of Atlanta who was the most well-known for producing hits for Mariah Carey.  It came with one condition, of course.

“Listen, you have the talent but you don’t have the body.  Where you come from, guys might think you are cute if you’re wearing something skanky and you’re in a dark club and he has a few drinks in him. But in Hollywood, you’re nothing.  You’re competing with the Britney’s and the Christina’s now.  If you’re not working out at least three hours a day for the next  month, don’t even bother contacting me again.”

Kainos’ mouth dropped open (thank God she was there to witness it because otherwise people would assume I was exaggerating what he said to me).  Looking back, I can see how broken I was because I never even questioned what he said.  He spoke truth to me.  He was right.

I would do whatever it took for my dreams to come true. If it took dying to get there, so be it.


Stay tuned for the next chapter!

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The Fight for Beauty – Chapter 3 – Hello Bulimia

Being a teenager is a no easy feat.  The transition from child to adult is forced upon us during a time when everything from our bodies, minds, friends, relationships, and hormones are changing on a daily basis.  We go from being a carefree middle-schooler whose greatest concern is who she’s going to sit next to at lunch that day to suddenly being forced to make life-altering decisions about everything from our career paths, colleges, and which member of N’Sync we would give our hand in marriage to. (JT, obviously).

I still remember my first day in high school. All my life I had been attending a private, Christian school where my class size was 15 students and the most controversial event was an 8th grader bringing a Playboy magazine to school.  He was immediately expelled and no one dared talk about it except for whispers in the hallway where rumor had it that once he was expelled he tried pot.  If it wasn’t in the Bible, it wasn’t to be discussed.  I remember being openly chastised in front of the class because a teacher overheard me telling a story where I said the word “bra.”  She claimed that I had no class and was disappointed that I would use such a word in front of my male peers; as if a bra is something every young girl should feel ashamed of.

Now, here I stood amount 1,500 peers who openly discussed sex, drugs, and their wild weekends spent passed out after drinking wine coolers in their parents basements.  I couldn’t tell you about my classes or my teachers even if I wanted to because all I remember is being consumed with the fact that I didn’t fit in.  I knew nothing about what the world was like outside of my Reformed-Presbyterian school background where even uttering the word “damn” would get you sent to the principal’s office.

Walking the halls felt paralyzing to me.  The girls at my new school were different from my friends before.  They were beautiful, confident, and they all wore Abercrombie which was the epitome of cool in 2001. I would watch in awe as they easily drew attention from guys as they flirted and laughed at their terrible jokes. The message was loud and clear that in order to get attention from a guy, you needed to show just the right amount of cleavage while being easy and flirty.  Which was unfortunate for me because the most intimate thing to happen between me and a guy was receiving a candy gram on Valentine’s Day and I was only a size A cup.

If I couldn’t be like the other girls, maybe I could at least try to look like them.

 

A few months into high school, I was finally becoming adjusted to my new social circle and I didn’t openly flinch every time I heard someone swear. You could say that being in a public school had its own effect on me because I was even becoming more rebellious as I secretly purchased my first non-Christian cd.  It was Avril Lavigne’s debut album Let Go and I’d sing Complicated at the top of my lungs as I drove to and from school.  Man, did I feel like a badass.

However with the new-found rebellion and freedom I found, I also found myself more entrapped in my eating disorder. I became even more obsessed with dieting and attempting to lose weight.  I would eat as little as I could while the feeling of hunger made me fantasize about all the things I could be or do if I was skinny.  The hunger pangs would motivate me to resist more food even more as I imagined my new, skinny self just ahead.  Skinny Rihanna wasn’t intimidated by the other girls in high school  Skinny Rihanna had a boyfriend and was the envy of all the other girls. Skinny Rihanna was smart, funny, and popular. Skinny Rihanna’s dreams were just in reach and she had the support and encouragement of her friends and family. Skinny Rihanna didn’t spend hours in the front of the mirror pinching and squeezing her love handles wishing she could just do away with them altogether. Skinny Rihanna was happy.

Eventually, I broke.

It was a Friday afternoon and I was driving home from school.  I was exhausted, starving, and had just majorly failed an acting audition.  I remember fantasizing about everything I wanted to eat.  Cookies, cereal, peanut butter, icecream, you name it.  When I got home, I was alone and I found myself standing in the kitchen.  I paced around the kitchen island as I fought with myself as to whether I should eat or not.  One little snack couldn’t hurt.  I’ll stop after just one granola bar.  I went into the pantry and quickly one granola bar turned to two, which turned to the entire box. The shame I felt was overwhelming and the only way to avoid having to feel it was to keep eating.  Entire boxes of cereal, half a gallon of icecream, pasta leftovers from the night before.  I ate until I felt sick and I could no longer even look at the sight of food.

I binged.

I was so naive to the world of eating disorders that I had no idea that there was even a word for it.  I stood in the bathroom, hovering over the toilet trying to make myself throw up everything I had just eaten.  I had heard of girls who could eat whatever they wanted and they were able to stay skinny by making themselves vomit immediately afterwords. But I couldn’t.

I remember crawling into my bed that night, overwhelmed with shame, guilt, and disgust over what I had just done.  Just as the feeling of hunger made me feel powerful, the feeling of indulging made me feel worthless.

As I drifted off into sleep, I swore that it would never happen again.  Little did I know that my journey had just begun.


Stay tuned for the next chapter next Wednesday!

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The Fight For Beauty

I’ve been putting off creating this series of blogs for a while now.  I came up with every excuse imaginable to avoid having to put in the time and effort, however I was recently challenged when I was praying one night.  I was asking God what my purpose was here.  What is my next step? Am I wasting my life away living day to day with no real goals or vision? The answer: yes.  After finishing BSSM and having to go through the process of grief after losing family members, I found myself just taking one day at a time.  For a season, that was exactly what I needed.  However, I’ve felt a shift and the Lord gently reminded me of a promise I made to Him when I first moved to Redding, CA just four years ago.  When I arrived, I was deep in my struggle with bulimia and couldn’t find anything about myself that I liked.  I lived guarded and insecure.  I would cry before God asking for freedom from this life-consuming disease and promised Him that if he would set me free, I would give my life to help others find their own freedom.  Since my recovery journey, I’ve had many great opportunities to share my testimony and see it give hope to others and my prayer is that the same continues.

I welcome you to join me as I share my story of my own fight for beauty!  I’ll be posting once a week a new chapter of my journey, from beginning to end.  I’m going to share the good, the bad, the ugly, and the embarrassing.  My hope is to remove the veil and misconceptions that people have about eating disorders while offering hope to those struggling that there really is a way out.

With that said, here is Chapter 1 of my story.

“What is it that you want?” She asked as she sat leaning on her worn-down desk. Her office always smelled of old potpourri and hand sanitizer combined.  The lights were always dim. I assume to give the person sitting across from her a feeling of comfort and coziness, but I instead always felt like I was sitting in a police interrogation. My eyes scanned across her walls and I briefly remember seeing pictures of her family, her degree set on display within in an overly-gaudy frame, and her bookshelf was packed with books entitled, “Family and Depression” and “The Monster Within.”  The monster within. I knew that monster all too well.  That monster is what got me here in the first place.

“Rihanna,” she interrupted as I stared blankly at her. “What do you want?”

“To be skinny.” I replied.

Her eyes grew narrow as she stared directly at me…or through me.  I couldn’t tell the difference.

Silence.

“What do you want?” She asked again.

What do I want? I thought to myself. I want to be skinny.  I want to be able to have a conversation with my parents without it turning into an argument about food.  I want my sisters to stop thinking I’m crazy.  I want to go out to dinner with my friends without leaving in a nervous breakdown. I want to eat cake on my birthday and not think twice about it. I want the dreams about working out and bingeing to stop because I can’t even escape this disease in my sleep. I want the kids at church to stop treating me like I’m a lost cause. I want my sisters to be proud of me. I want to sing and travel the world.  I want the sadness in my parent’s eyes to go away.  I want a boy to chase after me as if I’m the only girl he’s ever laid eyes on.  I want a friendship so deep that we finish each other’s sentences.  I want to be loved. None of this would have even happened if I could have just lost weight. None of this would have happened if I was skinny.

“Rihanna, bulimia is just a symptom of something lacking in your life. Now, I’m going to ask you again, what is it that you are looking for? What do you really want?”

The silence of the room was only broken by the sound of the clock on her wall.

“I want to be skinny.”

It didn’t start as a sickness.  It didn’t start as a disease.  I couldn’t honestly tell you when my obsession with my body began.  My earliest memories consist of watching my mom do Jane Fonda workout videos in our living room and overhearing conversations about diet and exercise.  My mom, aunts, and their friends always seemed to be strange around food. While serving us macaroni and cheese or grilled cheese sandwiches, they would comment on how lucky we were to be able to enjoy such a luxury while they had to endure celery sticks and rice cakes.  I never understood why they felt that eating cheese would be the end of their world, but I remember thinking that if their lives would be ruined if they wore a bigger size jeans, then surely mine would be as well.

I remember hearing my parents fight one night.  They seemed to always fight about money or the fact that my mom would spend hours on the phone at night with her friends and I guess my dad didn’t like that.  This particular fight was different though. I remember my mom yelling, “I’m sorry that I don’t look like Cindy Crawford!”  I remember my heart sinking as I wondered, “Does my dad not think my mom is pretty?” I remember thinking about the times when everyone would tell me that I looked just like my mother.  Ever since that night 21 years ago, I have yet to see a photo of Ms. Crawford without being brought back to that moment.

It was in the sixth grade when I made the first real effort to lose weight.  My friends and I all began noticing our bodies changing and while my friends were going shopping for their first bras, I was going shopping for bigger jeans.  I was developing curves and everyone noticed.  My friends started calling me “JLO” and I remember coming home from school crying because everyone thought I was fat. Since I didn’t have a clue about dieting, I decided to stop eating breakfast.  I loved the feeling of being hungry.  It gave me a sense of control and power.

As I entered into Junior High, everything began changing.  My friends, our bodies, our lives, our interests.  I never felt like I could fit in anywhere.  I desperately wanted to be accepted by the cool girls in my class, but everything felt off.  I remember sitting in Heather’s bedroom listening to Blink 182’s Enema of the State while she and Cara were modeling their new bras that they filled out perfectly and talking about the boys in our class that they wanted to make out with and eventually marry.

“Rihanna, who do you want to make out with?” Cara asked.

I immediately felt uncomfortable in my own skin because not only was I still stuffing my bra with toilet paper, but I wasn’t particularly interested in marrying anyone in the seventh grade. Don’t get me wrong, I had my fair share of crushes and had an undying devotion to Craig Johnson who made me weak in my gangly knees, but I’ve always had different goals.  Growing up, I fantasized about being a rich and famous singer who traveled the world but lived in my humble 20 acre ranch in Nashville, TN.  Boys always came secondary to my dreams of singing.  Although to be honest, I do sometimes feel that I have a better chance of joining the ranks of Taylor Swift than accumulating my MRS degree, but that’s for a different blog.

“Umm, maybe Troy?” I quipped.

“Well you better hope he likes girls with a fat butt like yours!” Heather laughed.

I immediately wanted to shrink away.

Fat.

Disqualified. 

Not good enough.

I walked home that night as those words echoed through my mind.  I vowed to not only cut out breakfast, but also lunch.  That will show them.  Then I’ll find a guy to like me.


Stay tuned for the next chapter next Wednesday!

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To All Girls Watching the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show…

The holiday’s are upon us once again which means our homes are now surrounded by Christmas lights, our Instagram feeds filled with #paleo #glutenfree #grainfree Christmas desserts, while our Facebook feeds covered in pictures of adorable children dressed as angels or shepherds.  Amongst the Christmas cheer every year, we kick it off with a good ol’ fashioned lingerie show known as the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.

Millions of people tune in every year to witness undeniably beautiful women gracefully strut up and down the runway with their flawless figures and windblown locks.  I completely understand why they are called “Victoria’s Secret Angels” because they are captivating in every sense of the word.  Everything from their makeup, their hair, and nails have all been primed and perfected.

This show tends to stir up controversy and I’ve already read numerous blogs and articles that present themselves as revealing some earth-shattering secret as they list all the ways that these girls aren’t, in fact, perfect.

They have fake hair!

They’ve been airbrushed!

They’ve been on restrictive diets and can only eat 1 carrot a day!

Most of these articles are then somehow linked to other articles published by the same blog site with titles like “Get long, shinier and thicker hair in 2 weeks!”…”5 ways to diminish the appearance of cellulite” and “How to lose 10 pounds by Christmas.”

Do you see the irony?

I admit, I used to watch this show and found myself becoming angry because I felt that it promoted negative self-image and gave people an unrealistic idea of how a woman should look.  I often made sarcastic remarks like, “They don’t look pretty, they look hungry!” or “I wonder if they know what a sandwich tastes like” and my favorite “REAL women have curves.”  (Which is funny because I’ve never found an official definition of a real women being a certain jean size.” I thought that these remarks were coming from a place of concern until I realized that they were coming from a place of insecurity.

You’ll never make yourself feel better by tearing down some body else.

Here’s the thing, regardless of a person’s sphere of influence…whether they are cat-walking on a stage in a literal 1 million dollar bra or walking down the street in a t-shirt on clearance from Target, body shaming is never okay.

I think that the VS Angels would be the first to admit that they don’t go about their day to day lives with a Brazilian blow-out and in 5 inch heels and yet we feel as if it is our duty as women to point that out. We make it our job to point out how they are not “real women.”  That comment in itself invalidates the very point you are trying to make.  On on hand you are saying that you don’t want to be measured by your size and/or weight and then you try to validate your argument by using size and/or weight.   I find it interesting how we can be so cruel to our own kind.  I’ve never heard a group of women making comments about men saying, “He’s just way too fit.  Real men have beer bellies!”

You see, they are girls just like the rest of us.  They have family and friends that adore them because of their personalities and hearts.  They have goals, hopes, and ambitions for their futures.  They have days where the only cure is a night with pizza, chocolate, and The Notebook.  They’ve lost loved ones. They’ve fallen in love. They’ve had their heart broken.  They’ve laughed until their stomach hurts.

They are “real women” not because of their body shape but because of the life they carry within.

This is just part of their job and the fulfillment of a dream that many of them have had since they were little girls.  Since I am a person who has crazy outlandish dreams to the point where it’s embarrassing, I just cannot be okay bashing someone else’s when theirs comes to fruition.

So to all the girls who may find themselves watching tonight’s fashion show, I pray that you feel secure enough in yourself to not tear someone else down.  I pray that you don’t go to bed feeling bad about yourself, but rather inspired by knowing what’s possible.  I pray that you can recognize another woman’s beauty without losing sight of your own.

Let’s rise above.  We are all in this together.

Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, Lexington Armory, New York, America - 07 Nov 2012

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Life After an Eating Disorder

Two years.

730 days.

Countless Prayers.

More tears than I would like to admit.

More dreams awakened than I knew possible.

I’ve come a long way in two years.  If you had told me two years ago that I would be recovered from bulimia, I wouldn’t have believed you.  I would want to… oh how I would have wanted so badly to believe that I could be free from this monster that had stolen everything from me.  But I wouldn’t.

But isn’t that the beauty of who Jesus is…we don’t always have to believe.  God’s redemptive power isn’t dependent on our believing.  Thank goodness for that.

Someone recently asked me what it feels like to be two years into recovery.  The first year was this high of overcoming obstacles and I felt as though I was sprinting this ridiculously exciting and crazy whirlwind of a race.  Every day felt like a victory to be celebrated.  It was beautiful and thrilling.

Going into year two was a bit different. I had already known I was free from the bulimia, but now I had to learn how to live again.  I had to learn who I was apart from the eating disorder.  I would be lying if I said it was easy, because it was not.  I still had hard moments where I latched onto the belief that the way I look is directly related to who I am and who I am called to be.  I had to begin weeding through my life and removing the things and the people who depended on my insecurity to make them feel secure.

It sometimes felt like I was learning how to walk again.  The first year was about experiencing a new sense of freedom that I never knew existed and now I had to learn how to sustain it.

I am so thankful for the patience of God.

I often times will go back to this blog post I wrote a little over two years ago on a bulimia recovery website to remind myself go how far I have come.  It brings me to tears as I remember so clearly the moment in which I had written these words with tears streaming down my face.  I remember feeling I had lost all hope but thinking that maybe…maybe I could still have a chance at life.  Maybe this wasn’t the end.

 June 1, 2012

It’s been 10 years. 10 years ago I was an insecure 16 year old who was lost in this new world of bulimia.

I wish I could go back and tell that little, precious 16 year old girl that she was okay…that she didn’t need laxatives or to throw up to get rid of the food. That she didn’t need a diet, a gym buddy, or just motivation. I wish I could go back and tell her that there is no shame in enjoying food. I wish I could tell her where she would find herself in 10 years if she didn’t say no.

You see, I never thought I would end up here. I thought that once I lost weight then I would be able to not obsess over food. But no matter my weight, size, or appearance…it’s always there. It’s always lingering, taunting me like “You can look away but I’ll always be here.”

Sometimes I make it through the entire day eating healthy and I feel like I’ve conquered the world! Then I crave something sweet. Okay, just one cookie is ok. I deserve it. It won’t hurt. This is recovery. Then one cookie leads to two. Two leads to three. Three leads to all the cookies. Then ice cream. Then left over pasta. Then peanut butter and jelly. Then granola bars. Then panic. That’s when I walk in the bathroom, lock the door behind me, turn on the faucet, and then stare in the toilet. Sometimes I look at my reflection and pray that I’ll see Jesus’ face. Jesus, please…just show me your face and I’ll be free forever. I stare hard trying to make my eyes see something that doesn’t ever appear. Stalling. I don’t want to throw up. But I have to. So it starts. My eyes water, my stomach constricts and I begin my routine. I try to measure with my eyes how much I throw up and try to match the things coming up with what I ate. I throw up until it’s all gone or until I can’t throw up anymore. At this point, I cry out to God and repent. But most times, I repeat the process within a few minutes. I can’t control myself. Something else controls me. When I look in the mirror, I look tired. Even in pictures I feel like I don’t look like myself. When I smile in pictures, I look to see that it’s only a slight grin. I’m afraid that I have lost my looks.

I’m 26. I want to get married someday. I want to have children. I want to record my music and reach out to people. I want to go to lunch with my friends and meet for coffee without thinking of anything other than the people I am with. I want to be able to look my parents in the eyes and have a normal conversation with them. I want to be able to be around them without feeling ashamed and angry. I want freedom. I want to walk in the promises and the destiny that Jesus has laid out for me.

Satan laughs every time I fall into his destiny and his dreams for me. But I plan to turn the tables. I plan on being free.

I wish I could go back to the girl who wrote that and tell her of all the exciting and beautiful moments that she was about to encounter.  I would tell her that no one is out of the reach of God.  That not one of her tears has gone unnoticed or unseen.  I would tell her that life was just about to unfold.

I remember pleading with God to heal me and promising if He healed me, I would give my life to seeing other girls get set free.  I can’t help but speak about the reality of freedom because I once was among the ones who believed that it couldn’t possibly exist on this side of Heaven.

But freedom exists…It so beautifully exists and I am honored to be proof of that.

 Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”  Neil Gaiman

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A Conversation with my 13 Year Old Self

As most of you already know, I’ve been in recovery and free from bulimia for almost two years now. Prior to that, I spent well over ten years abusing my body day in and day out and I’ve since been on a journey as I discover all the ways my body still has to heal from the past.  I recently was able to go see a Dr. regarding some issues I was having.  For the last year, I’ve been unable to lose weight despite all my efforts.  I even got a group of girls together last summer and created a 30 day fitness challenge.  Being the competitive person I am, I was sure to never once miss one of my six-days-a-week hour workouts and I never indulged in any cravings aside from my “Sunday Funday” meal once a week.  I even would workout twice a day just to try to take it to a new level.  How much weight did I lose? Zero. Along with not being able to lose weight, I also have been exhausted, overly sensitive, and nervous and yet unable to sleep.

Emotionally it’s been draining especially when old thinking patterns from my past have been haunting me so I was very relieved when I was able to see a Dr. and learn that I am not crazy, but there is just leftover healing that needs to take place in my body.  As he was listing off what he was finding (inflamed gallbladder and liver, under active thyroid, fatigued adrenals, tired pituitary gland), I was brought back to the seventh grade when my PE teacher made me watch a documentary about eating disorders after I broke down in the school hallway over a picture I saw of myself. The documentary told the story of a young girl who wanted to lose weight and became anorexic.  After years of struggling, she finally recovered but was now living with the aftermath of the disorder and was dealing with a variety of health issues.  I remember watching it and since the disorder had already found a root in my heart, instead of helping me it only made me jealous that she was able to successfully starve herself and I was not.

Fast forward 15 years later, I am that girl in the documentary.  The years in between now and then were not nearly as glamorous as the disease had promised me it would be but instead filled with tears, hospital visits, and a tired soul. I drove away from the Dr. thinking about that 13 year old girl who just wanted to be skinny. Just wanted to be loved.   I wondered how my life would be different if I had never gone down that path. Would I be more successful? Would my dreams of singing have actually come to pass? While I don’t believe in living in regret because God has a beautiful way of redeeming and crafting together our pasts with our futures, I do wish there were some things I could have said to that little girl.

1. Skinny doesn’t equal happy. It’s so hard for us women in today’s society to actually separate the terms “skinny” and “happy” because we are flooded with messages everywhere from TV commercials to instagram to pinterest that equate happiness with thinness.  The truth is, skinny girls still get their hearts broken. They still have bills to pay, jobs they don’t love, pets that die, and friends that betray them.  They don’t get a free pass on the circumstances life presents them just because they can rock a pair of tiny New Religion jeans.  Happiness is self-created and it begins within your heart. 

2. Beauty is not a pant size. Nobody even knows what skinny is.  Everyone has a different definition of what skinny and beauty is. Open any magazine and on one page they are praising a celebrity for all the weight she’s lost; then on the next they are praising an entirely different girl for her “take me as I am and i’m not a size 0” attitude! You cannot and will not win in this game because beauty is a heart posture and not a pant size.

3.  This road will break your family’s heart.  I can’t quite put into words the looks on your little sister’s faces when they see you for the first time since you went into rehab for bulimia.  It’s a look of confusion, excitement, and sadness all at the same time.  They won’t be able to understand why you abuse yourself and you won’t be able to provide an answer because it’s become so much bigger than you had expected.  It’s beyond what you know to control. It will cause strife between you and your parents and your siblings.  Ask for help. It’s okay.

4.  Eating disorders are not glamorous.  They lie to you from the very beginning by making you think that the attention you will gain from it will be fun and exciting.  Magazines throw out accusations of eating disorders towards your favorite pop stars and actresses like it’s a trophy or prized possession.  Trust me when I say that it’s a trophy that you wished you never had to fight to get.  It comes with countless nights alone in the bathroom, lying to the people you love, and it may cost you your dreams.  It’s not glamorous. It’s destructive.

5. It’s never too late.  No matter how engrossed in this disorder you may feel, you are never too far gone.  I know that I just made point number 4 sound extremely depressing and dark (which it is, don’t get me wrong) it is however never without hope.  Your own self abuse cannot separate you from what Christ did on the cross which already gave you your freedom.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

As I sit here and think about the little girl who was and the girl that has become, I know that there is so much more that I would say to her but nothing more important than the simple word “Grace.” If you or someone you love is battling with an eating disorder (or any addiction), grace is the most valuable gift to give to yourself or to them. Grace to fail. Grace to succeed. Grace to be.  That’s what I am choosing to give myself as I continue this healing journey.  I hope you do the same.

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Beauty is Power

You are beautiful.

Sounds cliché, right? How many times have we heard that as girls? Everywhere from Pinterest to instagram to your favorite blog has been flooded with uplifting messages encouraging us to love ourselves just as we are.  If you’re like me, you’ve read those posts and felt a hint of encouragement and a fleeting hope of finally getting it. I say fleeting because for a long time, that revelation would soon slip through my fingers and I would find myself back in the whirlwind of my toxic thoughts.

Beauty is powerThere is something captivating about a woman who walks in the fullness and confidence of her beauty.  Her beauty, not someone else’s. She doesn’t have to be a size 2.  Her lips may be thin, her freckles dark and her laugh lines set. But she knows those things don’t add or take away from who she is as a woman.

You see, once we realize that our appearance can’t add or take value away from our hearts, the power that was once stolen from us is taken back into our possession. No longer are we slaves to the master who always tells us to try harder, yet insists that we are never good enough.

For  a long time, my master was bulimia.  It had an ugly way of making me feel like I always needed it despite its true desire to destroy me. I was never good enough for it. So, when I would read blog posts encouraging me to love myself for who I am, its message couldn’t sink in because I had given my mind access to a master that said I would never be lovable, beautiful, or worthy despite my best efforts.

I realize that I am rambling a bit. Maybe because I don’t have a whole lot to say other than that I want girls to take their power back. Maybe because I have everything to say and no way to really narrow down my thoughts on the subject. Maybe because insecurity and self-hate haunted me as a little girl and I feel this overwhelming urge to see them both destroyed in my generation and family.  It could be because I am tired of seeing people I love, young and old, serving a master that will never give them what they have wanted since they were old enough to ask for their first Barbie…beauty.

You are beautiful. You are powerful.

To the girl who feels like you will never live up to your family’s expectations and dreams for you, you are beautiful and you are powerful.

To the girl who spends her free time on the elliptical and yet can still never look quite right in your swimsuit, you are beautiful. Be kind to yourself.

To the girl who just spent an hour pinning “motivational pins” filled with models in bikinis and “thinspirational quotes,” you are beautiful and you are enough.

To the girl who just ate an entire chocolate bar, five stale cookies, half of a leftover pie and handfuls of chocolate chips, you are beautiful.  We’ve all been there. Life will go on.

To the girl who just spent the last nine months nurturing and giving life to another human being despite feeling sick, tired, and scared, you are beautiful.  Your body just created a human being, don’t be so hard on yourself.

To the girl whose youth seems like a distant memory and your face trails the places where laughs, smiles, and tears once resided, you are beautiful. Your best days are ahead of you.

You see, we are all beautiful.  Who we are, our laughs, our curves, our wrinkles, the way our hair falls in front of our face after a long day, the sound of a nervous giggle in front of our crush, the way our arms feel when they are wrapped around the ones we love and even our flaws all tell a story of where we once were and where we are going.

Be kind to yourself.

You are beautiful.

You are powerful.

 

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Love Your Selfie!

Selfies, also once known as self-portraits, have taken over the internet by storm.  I admit that at first I did not know how I felt about such a phenomenon. Prior to 2004 (when MySpace first made it’s debut), selfies were almost non-existent on the internet.

MySpace was first started as a website where people would post photos of themselves and others would rate how hot they were on a scale from 1-10. This then created the pressure to have the perfect photo! MySpace was the first home for the bathroom selfies. You know, the ones that you took with your Razor flip phone when you think you look good but you forgot to windex your mirror? From there, the human race eventually discovered that they no longer needed a dirty bathroom mirror to capture a photo of themselves, just long arms and the right lighting would do the trick.

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Now, selfies have become just an added activity to the every day life of a human. It’s just as common as brushing your teeth everyday and the variety of selfies are endless. Gym selfies. Car selfies. Bored selfies. No makeup Monday selfies. Short hair don’t care selfies. An inspirational quote selfie. A cry for attention selfies. Just hanging out selfies.

Basically, if you didn’t take a selfie, did your day really happen?

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There seems to be an unending debate as to whether or not selfies should exist. The way I see it, if you aren’t for selfies you are wasting your time. They aren’t going anywhere. In fact, they are only growing in popularity!

Personally, I am in support of selfies.

Why? Because as someone who struggled with insecurity for so long, I’d rather see people embracing who they are than hiding it.

It’s funny because I remember having a conversation with people a few years back when I was struggling with a lot of insecurity. They would always say, “I wish you could know how beautiful you are.” Fast forward to the present and I am now an avid selfie-taker. Not because I am vain or conceited, but because I’m confident. The same people who used to say they wished I could see my beauty are the ones who have tried to make me feel inferior because I take a self-portrait every once in a while.

It’s somewhat of an inconsistent message that we are sending. Be confident in who you are but not too confident because then I’ll feel insecure.

Do you take selfies? Great! I applaud you and all the work that goes into taking a perfect selfie! Love your beauty and never apologize for seeing it!

Do you hate taking selfies? That’s ok! You don’t need to take selfies to be a confident person. I am sure you are beautiful and you don’t even have to prove it to me with a picture!

My point is, whether you like selfies or not, they are here to stay. I’m embracing the movement. If you don’t want to, fine. But don’t try to make others feel badly about themselves for it.

I’m just saying, take as many selfies as you want. There are multi-million dollar companies with old white men as CEOs that profit off of your low self-esteem and self-hate.

destroy them.

love yourself.”

-anonymous.

Six year old Rihanna knew she'd love selfies.

Six year old Rihanna knew she’d love selfies.

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Will You Like Me?

There seems to be an interesting epidemic running rampant throughout our society. Walls are built, dreamers are silenced, dancers are handicapped, lovers are separated, children are abandoned, and an entire world is dying because of one little word: Insecurity.

Out of curiosity, I decided to see what Websters dictionary defined “insecurity” as:

  • not adequately guarded or sustained
  • deficient in assurance : beset by fear and anxiety

I struggled with insecurity my entire life. Now, I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but I can remember being 4 years old and feeling a wave of insecurity because I overheard someone refer to my belly as a “chubby baby belly.” Those words produced fear inside of me and ever since, I had been in a losing war with my body…or so I thought.

All throughout my years with bulimia, I used to think that if only I looked like a celebrity, my life would be perfect. Counselors, therapists, and Doctors all tried to tell me that the reason I was hurting myself was because I hated who I was on the inside, but all along I thought they were wrong. I thought that I loved who I was. I was sarcastic, funny, and a self-professed “B” word. All I needed was the perfect body and my life would be perfect.

I’ve shared my story about how God radically delivered me from bulimia and my fight to sustain it. It took hours, days, weeks, and months of pursuing recovery and really believing that I could overcome this; and I did. But once my drug of choice had been taken from me, I discovered that addictions really are just that: a drug. Something that numbs. Turns out, all those counselors, therapists, and Doctors weren’t lying to me. I really didn’t like myself.

I’ve been in recovery for 17 months now and it’s been interesting to see how all the ways I have managed to keep people out of my life by hiding behind the bulimia.  It’s always a scary feeling when you are venturing out into the unknown, but in reality it’s the best place I have ever been because God can finally clothe me with what I was created for. Love.

As children, we all played hide and go seek. The goal was to find the best hiding place where no one would ever think to look. If we found a really good spot, we would find ourselves stuck there for what seemed like an eternity as we listened to others trying to find us. What started out to be fun begins to get frustrating as we hide there alone, because the thrill comes not in the hiding, but in being found.

I spent my entire life hiding, hoping that someday I would be found but too afraid to step out alone. God never stopped his pursuit of me and the most beautiful part is that as much as I was happy to be found, his excitement and joy surpassed anything I could have experienced.

So let us love what we were made to be because God is the master designer and he isn’t going to make his first mistake on you.

Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence. I Corinthians 10:12

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