Size Zero Jeans Don't Always Mean Success
5:45 am. Nervously, I stepped one foot onto the scale, then the other. Eyes squeezed shut, I waited for the all too familiar ding that let me know it was time. Time to look down and see if the handful of grapes I had eaten the night before for dinner had made me gain a pound. Time to decide if today would be another day of fasting and endless cardio or if I'd allow myself a "treat" for losing even more weight.
Just a few months prior, I had walked across the stage and been handed my diploma from a prestigious university. I then landed a promising job in my field, bought my first car and moved into my own apartment. To the outside world, it looked like I was living the dream. It looked like everything was perfect. Except, of course, it wasn't. It was far from perfect. While it looked like my life was just coming together, it was actually quickly falling apart.
What no one saw beneath my new size 0 jeans was that I had fallen victim to anorexia. My days became a fog of painful headaches and fatigue to the point I could hardly concentrate on my work. What little energy I did have went towards constantly obsessing over calories and weight. I was quite literally "dying to be thin."
I have been in recovery for nearly two years now and, while I've made a lot of progress, it has been a tumultuous journey. Each day brings a new round of ups and downs, highs and lows, good moments where I feel invincible and bad moments where I want nothing more than to crawl back to the false security of my eating disorder.
But the hardest part of recovery is that you can't control it. Despite what everyone says, despite the jokes in the media, anorexia isn't a choice. It's a disorder. It isn't something done for attention or a last-minute fix before spring break. Just like someone with a broken leg can't just "get over it," I can't just eat a cheeseburger and be cured.
Eating disorders are mental illnesses. And unfortunately, many of the girls suffering from them are afraid to speak up, are so afraid of being judged that they don't get the help they deserve. That's where we need to change society. We need to change how we think of the millions of girls dealing with anorexia, or bulimia, or binge-eating disorders.
It doesn't make you pathetic to struggle. It doesn't make you pathetic to admit that eating more than an apple for lunch gives you a panic attack or that throwing up after dinner is the only way you feel okay with yourself. Having an eating disorder, or any mental illness for that matter, doesn't make you a bad person or a failure.
And choosing recovery or asking for help isn't weak. It's the opposite. It's one of the bravest things you can do, one of the hardest. I know because I've been in that spot. It's not easy. But it is worth it. Because when you choose to recover, when you finally stand up for yourself, when you finally recognize that your life is worth so much more, you are one step closer to being the girl you deserve to be. You're one step closer to the ultimate goal: loving you for who you are, scars and broken pasts and all.
So to all the girls out there struggling, to all the girls who are hiding their inner battles, remember that you aren't alone. That we've all been there, in one way or another. And together, we can heal each other and move past the pain. Together, we can raise awareness for mental illness, for eating disorders, for the people who need it most. Together, we can make a difference.
By Amanda Tarlton, 25