You all know that I love me an empowering story. And while all stories have ups and downs, it’s through the difficulties that we learn not only who we are, but how strong truly blessed we are. Today I’m going to share Theresa’s story, which centers on a beautiful, healthy, amazing woman who battled (and beat!) an eating disorder.
In high school, Theresa was a self-described happy-go-lucky band nerd. At 5’0” and 155 pounds, she didn’t have a problem with her body image. Her senior year, she began taking a migraine medication. Not eating started out as a side effect of the medicine, but since she ate like a high schooler (lots of junk food), Theresa said she didn’t think much of eating less. She was active and losing weight, but not on purpose.
Before college and at 130 pounds, Theresa was looking for another hobby and took up kickboxing. Her idea of being “fit” quickly became an obsession that spiraled out of control. The first semester of college she dropped to just 60 pounds (that’s approximately the size of a small child, a big bag of dog food or less than eight gallons of water). This time, in addition to trying to be fit, Theresa began to take notice of what she ate — this time not as a side effect from the migraine medication.
Spirals Out of Control
While Theresa thought she was getting healthy, she was starving herself. Her family took notice and tried to step in, causing rifts for the first time in their close relationships. Theresa denied any allegations of losing weight on purpose. In her mind, she was still healthy. When her mom flushed the migraine medicine down the toilet she went and got more from the pharmacy. Theresa was fighting a battle raging inside her. Her brain was telling her she would get fat if she didn’t work out, if she ate, pushing her to do more.
“Looking in the mirror was horrific because I had to see what I thought was real in my mind — a fat cow who looked disgusting.”
At this point, Theresa couldn’t be in photos because she hated the way she looked. She couldn’t step on the scale without anxiety over her weight. Anorexia had taken over her every thought. She was a size Youth 12 and on five different medicines because of the toll anorexia was taking on her body.
“I had goggles on that were different than anyone else’s, and it took me a long long time to realize that what I see and feel isn’t the reality. It is a distorted image of what I really look like and that is something that doesn’t go away, you just have to learn how to deal with it . . . It never goes away.”
It took a total stranger to wake Theresa up to her self-destructive habits. She visited the on-campus nurse about leg cramps when the nurse told her that she resembled one of the starving children on television commercials, with a bloated belly because her body was trying to store every calorie she ate. She was offended, but then, a coworker agreed. Her father told her that he was planning her funeral.
With the help of her family and friends, Theresa was able to beat the disorder and get healthy. She started working with a personal trainer to focus on health goals rather than weight. She hasn’t weighed herself in four years. Theresa listens to her body. She pays attention to her triggers and consciously works through emotions.
“One has to decide if they control their life or does their eating disorder control their life, just like with any addiction.”
I love telling stories of love and this is a story of self love. We each battle demons, whether they’re visible or invisible, physical or mental. We have to take time to remember that we are strong, talented women. We can do anything. And there’s no wrong way to be yourself.
While her journey isn’t over, Theresa is still learning and growing. She is open with her family. She journals. She has friends and family she can lean on when she needs to. She sees beauty in other people, and in herself. Anorexia is a part of Theresa, but now she controls it, rather than the other way around. She is a living, breathing superhero, and she’s got this. And whatever you’re battling, you’ve got it, too. You have the power to be whoever you want to be and control your own destiny.