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Last week marked this year’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week which aims at bringing awareness to preventing and bringing attention to body disorders that affect more and more people each year. Health care providers, support groups, associations and organizations band together to spread the word and help provide easier access to treatment. Eating disorders have always been a hush hush issue in my eyes. You don’t want to bring them up with anyone who may be struggling and even when you do, it seems like it’s something that’s swept under the rug. In light of last week and the realization that more people close to me have been silently struggling for years, I thought I’d share my own story.

Contrary to popular belief eating disorders aren’t always the result of a body image problem. For me, it started as more of a control issue in that I felt like everything around me was falling to pieces and I gripped on to the only thing I had complete control over – my diet. I’ve always been an emotional eater and during the stressors between my junior and senior year of high school it spun out of control. Not eating wasn’t even an option in my eyes, my family and friends would definitely catch on so bulimia seemed like the perfect solution (as I type that I’m cringing – such an altered way to think). I managed to keep it quite the secret and I felt better. I couldn’t control that my grandmother was sick, that I was uprooted for the 8th time in my life and moved to a new state and school in the middle of high school because of my dad’s job, that my sister seemingly hated me, that I had to pick a college and was being pressured to make sure it was the right choice, but I could control what went into my body and what came out.

My freshman year of college I went to a Christian university and had not purged for 5 months. My friends and family still had no idea of my previous struggle, but one day during our floor bible study the words “I have bulimia” came out of my mouth before I even realized what I was saying. I had known a few of the girls on my floor since early middle school and the tears that immediately ran down their cheeks hurt more than I ever thought. I felt like I had let them down, that I had been too weak and disappointed them in some way. I went on to explain how it had come about and how I had been doing well, though the problem never really goes away. I even ended up discussing my journey at a women’s conference, but at the end of the day my family still had no idea. Now that I had started openly talking about the issue, I knew that come Thanksgiving break I would have to tell them.

Needless to say it didn’t really go over all that well. They immediately wanted to pull me out of school and get me into treatment, which I was less then pleased about. I did end up transferring to a university closer to home and went to talk to someone who helped me see that my coping mechanism was in no way going to make the stress go away or life any easier. Back then I liked to think I was over it and that it was a “phase” I was going through. Today, I would have to say it’s true when they tell you eating disorders truly are a disease. Six years later, I still struggle and deal with it every day. I overanalyze what I put in my body and how much. If I have pancakes one day I cut back the next and run an extra couple miles. When I started CrossFit I easily put on 10-15 lb’s of muscle as I fell more and more in love with Olympic lifting and craved higher numbers every time I stepped in the gym. Even though I know my weight has gone up due to muscle gain, I can’t help but look in the mirror and pick myself apart. I even went so far as to take a break from the sport overall for a couple months.

This world can’t wait to point out your flaws. Tell you you aren’t good enough. Your legs are too thick, your stomach not flat enough. It causes us to hate the person looking back at us in the mirror and harp on what makes us unique. I know Im not the only one that struggles, I know I have many close friends who of course comment on their little flaws but are struggling much deeper then they appear. Pile our own self doubt on top of the fact that we all can’t wait to jump and criticize each other and you have a recipe for disaster. Can you imagine how much better the world would be if we could support each other? If we could stop pointing and laughing at the girl who isn’t a perfect size 4?  This year, I made a pledge to begin to love myself for all my imperfections inside and out. To embrace my curves, love the fact that I have a butt and enjoy a burger and a beer after a night out with friends. To know that I’m not the best singer yet can frequently be found belting out Britney’s newest single. To stop getting myself down for the fact that I don’t fit into the same size as my sisters or most of my friends, since when did a 6/8 become a big size? IT’S NOT. For you, I have a request. Strive to do the same. Stop telling yourself all the things you’re not and bring attention to all you ARE. If we can’t figure out how to love ourselves, how can we expect anyone else to? Know you’re beautiful. Unique. We work so hard to be a carbon copy, when in fact we were born to be an original.