Maddie s Story
Newark, DE USA
“To wake up and not feel comfortable in your body, to feel like you’re trapped somewhere you don’t want to be is a feeling I know all too well. For 7 years I struggled with wishing I could escape my skin and enter a different body, or at least not hate mine for just a moment.
It started in 7th grade, when I noticed on TV and in magazines that girls had these perfectly flat stomachs, and I did not. I had always been the ‘thin girl’, but at that moment I realized maybe I wasn’t the thinnest I could be. It was then that I became infatuated with always making sure my stomach was always flat.
I began to run track for my district and we had to run in weight classes. So, before each meet I had to step on the scale and make sure I was still eligible to run in my weight class. From there things spiraled downward faster than I knew possible. I ate nothing but a small bag of cereal for breakfast, nothing for lunch as I gave away my food, so I wouldn’t be tempted, and struggled to eat what my mom made for dinner.
I cried when I ate cheese, extra carbs, or anything ‘fattening’ and would do jumping jacks or other exercises after dinner in my basement until I broke down in tears. I counted my bites while I ate because the longer it took me to eat each meal, the less I ate throughout the day.
I dropped a lot of weight, but I was miserable. I was constantly angry and hungry, and I continued to hate and hurt myself physically and mentally. I had a strict schedule of when to eat and I wouldn’t let anyone prepare my food because it had to be done my way. I had to know what was in every piece of food that went into my mouth.
Moving to my sophomore year of high school, I grew exhausted of the schedule and meal plans I had kept for so long. I gained a new group of friends who were the first people I admitted I had a problem to. This group of people opened my eyes to the truth that I was not okay, I needed to get better for myself. They helped me learn to love myself piece by piece.
I began dancing, and finally I saw that my body was more than an image, but a machine that I needed to take care of in order to be better. Over the next several years I began to eat more, gain a little more weight, and stopped wanting to crawl out of my skin.
I started to slowly incorporate my ‘fear foods’ back into my diet and, with the support of my friends and family, ate more and more one day at a time. I stopped exercising as a way of punishment and started using it as a way to build up muscle I had lost.
My freshman year of college was the biggest change for me because I couldn’t control what I ate: it all came from the dining hall. It was impossible for me to do any of the rituals I used to. I ended up gaining the ‘freshman 15’ and it turns out it was the best thing that could’ve happened to me. I finally saw that my weight didn’t matter because those who mattered to me still loved me. And, without my strict eating habits, I was happier and healthier.
Coming home from college that summer I felt confident, strong, and unbeatable. I was finally the woman I had always wanted to be. My image didn’t matter.
If you told me 2-5 years ago that I would be in college eating what I wanted and not worrying about my food intake, I would think you were crazy. But that’s exactly where I am in this life. I’m happy and, for the first time in a very long time, I can say I am healthy.
Not every day is easy, but having the support of family and friends and being able to talk through my struggles makes me confident that I will never let my eating disorder take control of me again.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder or body image issues, I can’t stress enough that reaching out to someone and asking for help will be the best thing you do! It’s scary, I know, but seeing how happy and healthy my life is now, I wish I had received and accepted help sooner. You deserve to love yourself and be happy- you are capable of having it. You’re stronger than you think and you can beat your demons no matter what.”
Story & Photo Submitted by: Katie Palmiere, University of Delaware Campus Representative