This isn’t beautiful
The desire to lose weight and improve physical appearances can lead to unhealthy extremes. Students share their stories of battling and surviving potentially deadly conditions, such as anorexia and bulimia.
March 16, 2017 • 246 views
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Staring at her dinner plate, junior Jordan Wrzesien contemplates her next move to avoid eating what is placed in front of her. As she takes a small bite, she slowly chews the same piece over and over again until it dissolves in her mouth. Instantly, aggressive thoughts echo throughout her mind: this is the one thing you can control in your life, how could you let yourself eat that?
Wrzesien started to develop unhealthy eating habits and was diagnosed with anorexia in seventh grade after her uncle unexpectedly passed away. She began eating the bare minimum, skipping meals, and doing an excessive amount of exercise to get rid of the small amount of calories she ate during the day.
“I didn’t know how to deal with all these emotions, so it gradually took a toll on my self-confidence. I realized the only thing I could control in my life was how much I was eating, whether or not I was eating, and my weight,” Wrzesien said.
Within two months, Wrzesien lost 30 pounds. Her physical appearance quickly deteriorated, and her face became pale and sunken in. “Emotionally, I got to the point where I couldn’t find one thing that I liked about myself, so I went from not caring how I looked or what people thought to not being able to go out in public because I would think that a random person in Target was talking about me,” she said.
While Wrzesien’s eating disorder was triggered by a traumatic event, there are several other causes that can result in the development of an eating disorder. According to Community Outreach Coordinator at the Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt Kate Clemmer, eating disorders can also be caused by having a negative body image, dieting, and genetics.
Freshman Cross Lockett began starving himself and exercising excessively to subdue his fear of becoming overweight. “I looked at my father, and I looked at myself, and I noticed that I was becoming mildly obese like he was. I decided I needed to take action or that was the road I was going down,” Lockett said.
When he first started dieting, he only ate oatmeal and rice, which would be approximately 500 calories a day. Lockett would then exercise one to two hours in the morning and at night to regulate his weight. “I made sure my calorie intake was less than the amount of calories I burned so I would at least lose some weight every day,” he said.
Sasha Smith, an alias to protect a student’s identity, developed body dysmorphia and anorexia after she also decided she needed to start dieting and lead a healthier lifestyle. This quickly evolved into something more as the desire to be healthy became excessive, and she began to run frequently and avoid foods over 150 calories.
“Everything I ate was low fat, low sugar, and as low-calorie as possible. At the time, I thought I was doing what was good for me. To me, my lunches still looked big, but they were low calorie and not enough,” Smith said.
Within three months, Smith lost eight pounds, which was a large deficit since she was already slightly underweight for her height. Due to her weight loss, she started experiencing negative side effects, such as a decrease in energy levels and feeling cold constantly.
According to Clemmer, these are some of the many negative effects eating disorders can have on your body. “Common symptoms one might notice include dizziness and fainting, heart palpitations, hair loss, menstrual irregularities, fatigue, and energy loss. The effects on physical health can occur rapidly or may deteriorate over a longer period of time,” Clemmer said.
Eating disorders can have more than physical effects on a person and can affect and disrupt people’s relationships with others.
According to Wrzesien, an eating disorder can make you a very selfish person because you’re so concerned with yourself and how you look that you don’t realize how it’s affecting everyone around you. “My family would burst out crying all the time, and I couldn’t believe that I was causing that much pain to them. It was something that I was like, ‘Why are they upset? I’m the one dealing with this,’” Wrzesien said.
Kylie Andrews, whose name has also been changed to preserve her anonymity, hid her struggles from her family out of fear that they would judge her. “Going through it, the hardest part was keeping it from people. You want to ask for help, but you can’t because people might look at you differently,” she said.
It was not until her younger sister walked in on her purging that she realized she needed to get help to prevent her sister from following her example. Andrews began her outpatient therapy at Sheppard Pratt. While she wasn’t given a specific meal plan to follow, she was watched closely to ensure that she was eating. “It was not a diet, but mainly having people watch me. You feel like you’re caged for a while, [but] they are doing it because they love you,” she said.
Wrzesien’s family also decided to enter her in outpatient treatment and had her start seeing a therapist and nutritionist. “When you have an issue like that, all you want is to feel heard. In my mind, it was like [my therapist] was the first person who was actually listening,” she said. Wrzesien started going to at least four doctors appointments a week and working with her family to get better.
This, according to Clammer, is the most effective way to treat an eating disorder. Although it may be difficult and uncomfortable, Clammer believes that recovery is worth it. “Anyone who has been through an eating disorder and recovered says that at some point it felt impossible for them to get better, but that they kept going anyway. Life is so much better without their eating disorder,” she said.
Once someone develops an eating disorder, they will continue to struggle with it even after recovery.
“I’m constantly comparing myself to other people, and I feel like I’m bigger than them. I think I’m always going to have to deal with the negative thoughts, but I think it is going to get to the point where it is in the back of my mind and not always my first thought,” Andrews said.
Wrzesien believes that struggling with anorexia and going through recovery has made her a stronger and much more confident person. “Even if I’m still dealing with regular teenage girl issues where I’m feeling down on myself, in the end I know that I’m much more confident with who I am and what I stand for because I’ve dealt with this,” she said.
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