I heard a song on the radio that I think every teenage girl needs to hear. We live in a society that attempts to confuse us about what is beautiful. This song brought back memories of when I was a teenager. I struggled quite a bit with body image. And one thing that didn’t help this struggle, was my mom’s discovery that she had breast cancer.
At 13, I had absolutely no idea how to process this news. In my mind, I simply told myself she would be fine. She would have a mastectomy and everything would be fine again. But, I also did something else. The control freak inside me started working over time. I started to control everything I felt I could control to compensate for not being able to do anything about the cancer my mom was battling. I was a straight A student, I was the “perfect” well behaved daughter and I was determined to have the perfect body.
I never liked my body when I was a young girl. I was by no means fat, but I could stand to lose five or ten pounds. I remember counting calories and being on a diet when I was nine years old. I went through a chunky stage when I was about twelve years old. I was constantly criticizing my features. My butt was too big, my thighs were too big and my chest was too small.
By the time I hit high school, I was fixated on being thin. Thin was beautiful. My mom’s cancer news just seemed to perpetuate this need. I started exercising excessively. I walked 4-6 miles every day and then would ride on the stationary bike we owned. I started limiting my calories even more. I started to see results. The numbers on the scale began to drop and I was so excited. I had power over my weight!
I hit what was probably a healthy, ideal weight for my frame size and just kept on going. I started only eating a bowl of cereal in the morning, a bowl cereal at night and a small carton of chocolate milk at lunch.
My parents were very concerned. My dad yelled. My mom lovingly tried to show me through scripture why I shouldn’t be concerned with body image. Each time they asked me how much I weighed I would lie to them. Once they had me watch this video on anorexia. The only part that scared me was the portion where they discussed fertility problems anorexic girls have when they get older. It scared me a little to know that I might be ruining my chances of ever having children.
The video didn’t scare me enough to stop my behavior. I watched the scale numbers fall from 125 lbs down to below 100 lbs. When I reached 88 lbs, I remember being so tired. It was becoming harder to lose weight. I was eating hardly anything and one morning the number on the scale had gone back up to 89 lbs. I now know, that this was my body’s way of fighting back. A body will go into starvation mode and take every calorie it has and fight back.
When I saw the scale number creep up one pound I panicked. I went over to the bathroom sink and tried to stick my finger down my throat. That’s when it happened. I hit bottom. I couldn’t do it. I broke down in tears.
I went to my mom and tearfully told her I needed help. I started seeing a dietitian. Looking back, I think I needed counseling. But, the dietitian did teach me how to eat more healthily and eventually I saw the numbers on the scale climb back up to an ideal weight.
After that bout with anorexia and after my mom’s death when I was 18, I struggled a lot in life with insecurity. I never measured up. About ten years ago, the Lord finally got through to me. I stopped trying to find my worth in what the world says makes me valid and began to see myself through His eyes. He loves me whether I am fat or thin. He accepts me whether I succeed or fail. When I succeed, he celebrates with me. When I fail, he wraps his arms around me and reassures me of his promise. Failure? What failure? You are beautiful.