I Don't Look 15 Anymore: How I've Grown From My Eating Disorder

I Don't Look 15 Anymore: How I've Grown From My Eating Disorder

"Why should I care to look like a runway model when my curves got me lookin' like a damn fertile, renaissance goddess. Find the beauty in your body. I promise it's there." — Camila Mendes

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"It's just one bite of cake. Just eat it. It won't hurt you."

Oh, how I wish I could have. Sophomore year of high school: excelling in academics, thriving in extracurriculars, laughing endlessly with friends and family…

… Coming home from rehearsals and crying over my reflection in the mirror.

Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes; some hit you like a gust of wind, others slowly submerge themselves into your daily life, masked in the joy of weight loss, energy, and attention. For me, it was the latter.

I had been dieting on and off for years since eighth grade. Eighth grade. While other twelve-year-olds were blissfully eating pizza and ice cream, I myself was on a "no-carb" diet for the first time.

I was never one those girls who was naturally skinny — I wore my first bra in fifth grade, started getting attention from guys in seventh grade, and by eighth grade, I was deeply unhappy with my appearance, realizing that I no longer wanted to "look older." In fact, the idea of looking "womanly" disgusted me. I wanted to be like the skinny girls, and I was willing to change my entire diet and body to achieve that, despite my completely healthy, beautiful body.

It wasn't until my sophomore year of high school that I realized how detrimental this was.

Each day, I would write down exactly what I ate and how many calories I consumed, along with my total carbohydrate count. While doctors recommend eating 2,000 calories a day, some days I consumed only 930, not including any calories burned in 3-hour dance rehearsals every other day. At times, I would look in the mirror after showering and just cry at my reflection because I would appear bloated after a long day. It wasn't until the following months, I would look in the mirrors of the school bathroom and see my ribcage faintly through my cropped sweater that I felt like I could finally breathe again.

My mom immediately made an appointment for me to see a therapist.

I remember bawling in her office as she showed me a medical chart of healthy BMIs and weights, telling me to look for my weight. I did. I was completely normal, completely healthy, yet in my mind, this meant "still too fat" or "not skinny enough." Even with the physical proof before my eyes, I could not see myself as beautiful unless I was the thinnest I had ever been. Because when you have an eating disorder, it doesn't matter how others see you, and facts on paper cannot heal you. What matters is how you view yourself, and only then can you begin to heal.

And the truth is, I have never been overweight. But even being "healthy" and "normal" was unsatisfying. What I saw in the mirror each day was a girl who needed to keep losing weight, unaware of the dangers of the path I was on: a ubiquitous, never-ending journey of dissatisfaction.

After what felt like an eternity of therapy sessions, I could finally go out to ice cream with friends again and actually eat ice cream. This may seem minimal, but it was a baby step in the right direction of my journey to bettering my self-image and becoming body positive. Sessions of tears and anxiety turned to acceptance and understanding, gradually, and I am grateful.

I have probably gained 20+ pounds since age 15, straight to my thighs, butt, chest, etc. And that's OK.

I can't see my ribs sticking out anymore when I look in the mirror. And that's OK.

I thank God I do not look 15 anymore because I am learning to accept and love the body that I have been given. Am I satisfied with how I look now? No, but I take things one day at a time. And if I want one, a single bite of cake, I am going to eat it. And I am not going to cry or do sit-ups in my room afterward.

Fifteen-year-old me would see my current reflection and burst into tears. And now? At almost 19 years of age, I am finally starting to accept the body I have been given. Instead of spending my days being both mentally and physically unhealthy, I am focusing on more pertinent issues. How much water am I drinking? How much sleep am I getting? Who am I surrounding myself with? How can I better myself spiritually, socially, emotionally? I am more than a number on a scale, more than a number of calories per day, more than the bones (or lack thereof) I may see when I look in the mirror.

To all the women who don't have the same body they had at age 15, I get it. I will never be one of those girls with a fast metabolism and naturally skinny physique. Those bodies are absolutely beautiful, and so is mine. Being skinny does not come naturally to me— if I want to lose weight, I have to eat healthily and work out every day. And now, I choose to eat healthily and work out every day because I love the way it makes me feel— I specifically take care of my body to celebrate it and to help it, not to punish it like before. I've had to unfollow Instagram accounts of models whose body types I will never attain, and start following accounts of models such as Iskra Lawrence as well as others who promote body positivity of all shapes and sizes.

I did not heal overnight, and I am definitely not where I'd like to be, but thank God I am not where I used to be. I continue to struggle with my self-image each and every day, and I still refuse to weigh myself. I may never feel completely satisfied with the way that I look. But I will continue to learn, grow, and change — and that change is beautiful. Just like me, just like every other college female frustrated with their changing physique. And so, I am unconditionally thankful that I do not look 15 anymore.

Chelsea Chaet

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An Open Letter From The Plus-Size Girl

It's OK not to be perfect. Life is more fun that way.

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To whoever is reading this,

My entire life has been a juggling match between my weight and the world. Since I was a young girl every single doctor my family took me to, told me I needed to lose weight. The searing pain of those words still stabs me in the side to this day. I have walked past stores like Hollister and American Eagle since I was 13.

Being plus-size means watching girls the same age as you or older walk into a store that sells the cutest, in style clothing and you having to walk into a store that sells clothes that are very out of style for a young girl. Being plus-size means being picked last in gym class, even if you love sports.

Being plus-size means feeling like you have to suck it in in pictures so you don't look as big next to your friends. Being plus-size means constantly thinking people are staring at you, even if they aren't.

The number on the scale haunts me. Every single time I think about the number I cringe.

Can I just say how going shopping is an absolute nightmare? If you haven't noticed, in almost every store (that even has plus sizes to begin with) plus-size clothing is closed off and secluded from the rest of the store. For example, Forever 21, There are walls around every side of the plus "department."

Macy's plus department is in the basement, all the way in the back corner. We get it that we are not what society wants us to look like but throwing us in a corner isn't going to change the statistics in America today. That being that 67% of American women are plus-size.

My life is a double-digit number being carved into my jiggly arms and thunder thighs. It is me constantly wanting to dress cute but turning to running shorts and a gigantic sweatshirt instead so that people don't judge me on my size.

It is time that the American society stops making plus size look like a curse. It will never be a curse. If every person was the same size, what would be the point of uniqueness? I will never despise who I am because while I was growing up multiple people told me that I needed to be a size 6 in order for a guy to fall in love with me. I will never hate myself for getting dressed up and being confident.

To all the girls reading this who may be plus-size,

It's OK! You're beautiful and lovable. If you want to buy that crop top, buy it. Life is too short to hide behind a baggy T-shirt. We are just as gorgeous as the girls that we envy. Be the one to change the opinion of the world. Fat rolls don't need to be embarrassing. Your stretch marks are beautiful. Don't ever let the world tell you not to eat that cheeseburger either.

In the end, this earthly life is temporary. We are on this earth for a blink of an eye. Don't let anything stand in your way. Wear the bikini, the crop top, and the short shorts. Post the sassy selfie you've had on your phone for 6 months and you won't post because you have a double chin or your head looks "too big." Who cares. BE YOU and love yourself while you're at it.

I'll start.

Cover Image Credit: Victoria Hockmeyer

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It's National Eosinophil Awareness Week And More People Should Be Talking About It

It's time to raise awareness about eosinophil-associated diseases and support those, including myself, who are affected.

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For anyone who is unaware, May 19 to May 25 is considered National Eosinophil Awareness Week as recognized by the American Partnership for Eosinophilic Disorders (Apfed) since 2007. The purpose of this week is to raise awareness and help educate individuals on the various eosinophil-associated diseases. Despite its existence being virtually unknown to many people, this week has become very significant in my life and I think more people should be having conversations about it.

If you had asked me about eosinophil-associated diseases two years ago, I wouldn't have been able to say a single thing besides maybe defining an eosinophil the way I learned to in my AP Biology class senior year of high school. But as of a few months ago, it has officially been one year since I was diagnosed with an eosinophil-associated disease — something I never imagined would happen in my life. While I won't share too much of my own experience because it's honestly quite personal and still a little sensitive to discuss, it's safe to say that eosinophils completely changed my life.

I was fracturing bones like it was my job — I think I had upwards of nine stress fractures in my legs and feet in a year and a half time period. I had to stop playing sports my senior year of high school and couldn't run at all. I was nauseous 24/7. I was rapidly losing weight to the point where I had lost close to 35 pounds and none of my clothes fit me. I couldn't swallow anything, including water. Eating was painful. I had no appetite.

I was sick and in pain ALL the time to the point where I would get emotional or even cry.

I missed school days, tests, exams, social events, and eventually had to quit my job for an entire summer because even getting out of bed was hard for me. Ultimately, even the decision about the college that I chose to attend was partially based on my health and the doctors I would need to visit frequently.

But the most significant thing was that I was experiencing severe depression and anxiety and was honestly just straight-up scared. Think about it: I was experiencing a wide range of life-altering symptoms yet no one could figure out why and even when they did, there was no cure and only limited options for treatment. Unfortunately, this is the reality for many patients and their families. The process of diagnosing an eosinophil-associated disease can take years and require pretty much every medical test you can even think of because these diseases are all classified as rare diseases.

I was experiencing symptoms for a year and the journey to an accurate diagnosis took about a year after that. The journey itself was not easy, as it involved numerous doctors and countless medical tests to eliminate other potential diagnoses like cancers, parasites or even celiac. Since then, I have been involved with treatment for a little over a year. For me, treatment involved several medications and steps, including gaining the weight I had lost.

But the main piece was cutting pretty much everything out of my diet, meaning no gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, seafood, or nuts. Gradually over time this treatment involves reintroducing the foods individually (each for a three-month period) to see what can be tolerated or which foods make my eosinophils act abnormally and then restricting my diet accordingly.

Since starting treatment my life has been gradually changing in a positive manner, which is something I couldn't have imagined when I initially became ill. Yes, I will still be sick for the rest of my life and experience the chronic waxing and waning of this disease, but hopefully years of experience and knowledge will make me better equipped to handle it. One day there may even be a cure. But until then I will continue to raise awareness and participate in National Eosinophil Awareness Week in solidarity with the few who are also sharing in my experience living with an eosinophil-associated disease.

While I wrote this article with the intention of participating in Eosinophil Awareness Week by raising awareness and educating (to some extent), it was about more than that. I wanted to give you a synopsis of my story and the challenges I face to make this week more understandable and more real. This was because I know that eosinophil is not only challenging to say (even I struggle) but also challenging to conceptualize.

If you're interested in learning more or you're still confused, I recommend doing some quick reading on Apfed's website because they are extremely helpful in the way they simplify the complex information.

If you would like to see what you can do during National Eosinophil Awareness Week, you can also click here to visit Apfed's day-by-day guide for the week, which included some fact sheets, information about wearing magenta to support the cause, and other information about individual participation.

Editor's note: The views expressed in this article are not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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