February is National Eating Disorders Awareness Month. (triggers, numbers mentioned)

I want to warn you up front, this post will be long, detailed, and full of things most of you never knew about me. But, because of the impact eating disorders have had in my life, I want to make you all aware so that you may be able to spot the signs of a loved one with an eating disorder.

In Junior High, I was athletic. Very athletic. Therefore, I had an athletic build. By the age of 14, I was 5’9, and taller than most of the boys in my class. At 15, it really started to hit me that I wasn’t one of the “pretty” girls. You know the type – the ones that had a different boyfriend every week. Or, heck – they just had a boyfriend.

I started to think that I was too fat, and that by losing a few pounds, I would be prettier. Being prettier meant that I would get a boyfriend. At the age of 15, I basically stopped eating. I lived on Diet Coke – after all, it was the only thing we had in our fridge. Not eating wasn’t hard for me. We never had food in our house. Mom and Dad were always on a diet, so junk food didn’t come into our house very often. We ate our meals in restaurants, and my parents gave us lunch money to buy lunch at school. I would buy a soda at lunch, but usually gave my money to someone else so that they could buy a bag of chips or whatever. When we went out to restaurants, I would play with my food, moving it around on my plate, but would never take more than a few bites. And, most of those bites ended up in my napkin. I lost 20 pounds in no time at all.

The start of my Junior year, we went to “school camp.” A week away from home. I don’t know why we did it, but it was part of the “rules” of the school. During that week, I became very close with one of the popular guys, and we started dating shortly thereafter. In my mind, I figured that the reason I had gotten the boyfriend was because I had lost the weight and was now “pretty.” It set me on this path that I still haven’t completely recovered from.

Over the next few years, my weight flip-flopped. I would gain a few pounds, feel guilty, and then lose 10 to make up for it. My mom took me to several doctors, but no one ever said the words “eating disorder.” This went on for years, and it was just never talked about in our house.

In 1996, I got pregnant with Ashley. I was about to become a single mom. I did really well during the pregnancy and actually gained 50 pounds with her. When she was born, I didn’t breastfeed her. I did it for the selfish reason that I KNEW I couldn’t starve myself if she was dependent on my supplying her milk. By the time Ashley was 6 weeks old, I had lost those 50 pounds completely. Old habits die hard.

In 2000, I moved from the Chicago suburbs back to Ohio. I started dating a guy, and it was supposed to be perfect. His dad and my dad had been best friends, his sister was my best friend. Well, it wasn’t perfect. We were engaged on Christmas Eve of 2000, and by April of the next year, it was over. That breakup set me into a nosedive right back into the eating disorder. Only this time, I didn’t just stop eating. I would binge and purge several times a day. My back teeth are now completely rotted because of all the purging I did.

My weight dropped to 94 pounds. Size 0 clothes just hung off my body. At this time, I was seeing a doctor and a therapist, but nothing was working. I would put rocks in my pockets to make myself weigh more so that the doctor wouldn’t say anything about the weight loss. I always wore several layers of clothing, and never took my shoes off. Eventually my doctor caught on, and would have me strip down to my underwear and bra in an exam room to get weighed.

While at my lowest weight, I met Gene. We started dating, and he was very aware that something was going on with me. I told him about the doctor and the therapist. He went with me to my next doctor’s appointment, and the doctor threatened that I either “get my head on straight” or she was admitting me into the hospital and forcing me to eat through a tube. I was a danger to myself and I was destroying my body, inside and out. I had to gain 5 pounds in two weeks, or I would be admitted.

With Gene’s help, I gained those 5 pounds. It was not easy. There were fights, tears, and screaming. I was like a drug addict going through withdraw. As I type this now, the tears are flowing, just remembering what those two weeks were like. It was hell on earth. Literally.

By the time Gene and I married, I was back up to 120 pounds. I can’t even begin to tell you what a support he was. I still can’t believe that he stuck with me through all that – especially so early on in our relationship. But, he did, and I love him so much for it. I truly owe him my life.

It’s been six and a half years since Gene and I were married. Through those years, I’ve had really good periods and really rough patches. After pregnancy was always the hardest. That’s why I’ve breastfed all of my kids. I *knew* that if I breastfed them, I would have to eat healthy and be able to supply them with the nutrients they need, just like during my pregnancies.

I always did really well at “flipping the switch” when it came to pregnancy and nursing. I did slip up one time when Zander was just a few weeks old. We had some friends over for dinner and I completely stuffed myself. I ended up purging after that. I felt SO guilty afterward, that I never purged again while my babies were still nursing.

Now, here I am. More than 15 years have passed since this all began. My self-image is no better now than it was back then. I get physically sick when I look at myself in a mirror. I posted images of myself in a review over on Buy By Mom, and I can’t even look at them. I cried as I edited those images and wrote up that review. I’m crying now, just thinking of those pictures. They are horrible, and I hate them.

I have two girls. I worry every day that my girls are going to face these same struggles. I want – more than anything – to be able to prevent them from going through what I did. I want them to realize that they are beautiful even if they aren’t a size 0. I want them to know all the things that people have told me for YEARS that I just cannot grasp. I know in my head that making me fat doesn’t necessarily make me ugly, but when I look in that mirror and actually see what I have become, it makes me ill. I do NOT want my daughters going through this. The problem is, I don’t know how to prevent it. I know the signs to watch for, and believe me, I’m watching. Ashley has already started commenting on how fat she is (which she is NOT!), and I am constantly making sure I tell her how beautiful she is.

If you are worried that someone you love may suffer from an eating disorder, or think you may, here are some excellent resources on the web:

Find Help – http://www.4therapy.com/ Find a therapist in your area that deals with eating disorders. No charge for this service.

Mirror-Mirror – http://www.mirror-mirror.org/ Full of information, help, ideas and more.

ANRED
– http://www.anred.com/ Information and Resources

NEDA – http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/ National Eating Disorders Association

NIMH – http://www.nimh.nih.gov/ National Institute of Mental Health

ANAD – http://www.anad.org/site/anadweb/ Counseling services and helpline.

The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness – http://www.eatingdisorderinfo.org/ The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness seeks to establish easily accessible programs across the nation that allow children and young adults the opportunity to learn about eating disorders and the positive effects of a healthy body image. Furthermore, our aim is to disseminate educational information to parents and caregivers about the warning signs, dangers, and consequences of anorexia, bulimia, and other related disorders.

EDA – http://www.eatingdisordersanonymous.org/ Eating Disorders Anonymous (EDA) is a fellowship of individuals who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problems and help others to recover from their eating disorders. People can and do fully recover from having an eating disorder. In EDA, we help one another identify and claim milestones of recovery.

Something-Fishy – http://www.something-fishy.org/ Eating Disorders Anorexia, Bulimia & Compulsive Overeating Dedicated to raising awareness and providing support to people with Eating Disorders, and their loved-ones… since 1995

Anorexia Treatment – http://www.anorexia-nervosa-treatment.com/ Information, counseling services, and more.

If you are afraid that a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, the worst thing you can do is try to force them to eat. Love them, encourage them, and above all, help them find help. Seek out a counselor (there are TONS who specialize in eating disorders!), find a support group. DO SOMETHING. Don’t try to ignore it or brush it under the rug. Early treatment could save a lifetime of hardship.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, please don’t be afraid to ask for help. Lean on your family and friends. Find support from other women who are also dealing with this. Talk to a counselor or a doctor. There IS hope. If you *ever* need to talk, please don’t hesitate to email me: angie (at) 5vinezmonkeys (dot) com.

Thank you for allowing me to share my story. It’s not an easy one to tell. I just hope that by sharing my story, maybe I can help someone else avoid falling into the trap of eating disorders.

Angie Vinez (2894 Posts)

Angie is a wife and mother to 8. Her life revolves around cooking, cleaning, laundry, and other household duties. She is passionate about her life in Christ and wants to encourage other mothers in their own walk of faith. Angie is active on many social media networks, loves technology, photography, and graphic design, and loves creating blog designs for other mom bloggers.



Comments

  1. 1

    Angie, I am SO sorry that you had to endure (and continue to endure) this horrible “disease”. I know it won’t make things better, but I think you are absolutely beautiful. You have the warmest, most gorgeous smile and you look so genuinely happy.

    I will keep you close in prayer that you are able to continue to fight off the urges. Beauty comes from the inside out and you are SO beautiful all over.

    Thank you for sharing your story…I can only imagine how hard it must have been.

    I love you and am praying for you.

    Dawn xo

  2. 2

    I have also struggled for years with eating disorders. I have been fortunate enough to be healthy and average for the last several years. I have been lucky enough to work through some triggers that have threatened to start me off again. People don’t seem to understand the power and influence food can have in a persons life. You are very brave to tell your story in so much detail. That is still not something I am able to do. I still have not overcome the shame of it all. You stay strong, stay healthy and stay happy.

  3. 3

    (((HUGS))) Angie. I hope you know how much I love you, girl 🙂 I’m so glad that you have a man like Gene by your side. It’s so important, whatever a person is going through, to have that support from their spouse. He’s a gem 😉 (But don’t think for a minute that isn’t lucky to have you, too!) Are you getting any help or support from anywhere else? I know I’ve said it before, but I think you really need that. If I could make all those feelings go away for you, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I pray you can get to a place where you feel more peace soon.

    Stay strong, sweetie, you’re one in a million!

  4. 4
    Renée aka Mekhismom says:

    Oh Angie, I am so sorry that you are struggling with this. But at least you have a loving husband to help you and I love that you are working with your child so that she knows she is perfect just the way she is.

  5. 5
    Heather L. says:

    (((HUGS))) Angie. I wish you could see yourself as others see you, a beautiful woman with a giving heart. I pray that someday you will beat this disease for good and find peace.

  6. 6
    A little piece of 7th heaven says:

    Hi Angie,
    I am sorry to hear that this is something that you struggle with. I will be praying for you.
    And for what it is worth…I think you are beautiful..inside and out!
    Annmarie

  7. 7

    Angie thank you for sharing your story..You never know who it will benefit. I struggle with self-image and weight issues and I am in my doctors words obese. I have to tell myself that I am a child of the King and that everything He has created (including me) is beautiful. This shell that we are in is only temporary but our soul is eternal if we are born again. Praise God! You are truly beautiful inside and out! God Bless.

  8. 8

    Thanks for your article. Struggling with an eating disorder can cause profound isolation, fear and hopelessness. Because this illness thrives in secret, people with anorexia, bulimia and compulsive overeating hide their behaviours from those closest to them, hoping that no one will notice whilst hoping that someone will.
    In order to begin the process of recovery, secrecy must give way to self awareness and honesty, and this can only happen in a safe, structured and caring environment.

    I would also like to suggest a website with lots more information about eating disorders as well as addictions . http://www.lifeworkscommunity.com

    Life Works Community Blog also gives a source of information and inspiration from some of the leading counselors at Life Works. Topics include: alcohol addiction and drug addiction, eating disorders ( anorexia, bulimia , and compulsive overeating ), depression and anxiety disorders , and compulsive disorders ( sex addiction , love addiction , gambling addiction , and codependency ).

    http://www.lifeworkscommunity.com/resources/life-works-community-blog.asp

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