I have lots of great memories of being a teenager but I also have learnt some valuable life lessons along the way. I remember I actually thought I knew “everything” so I couldn’t understand why my parents wouldn’t let me do half the stuff I wanted to do! I’ll try to remind myself of this when my kids give me grief.
But if I could go back and change one thing, it would be the unhealthy relationship I had with food and body image. I didn’t care about what I did to my body and all I thought about was the short term gain. What I didn’t realise at the time was that this behaviour would turn into my worst nightmare and an addiction that I would find incredibly hard to break.
It all stemmed back to a class photo that was taken when I was just 10 years old. I was laughed at and told I was the fattest in the class. I remember being so shocked and hurt and all of a sudden when I looked at myself in the mirror, all I saw was this big fat person staring back at me.
From then on I became self-conscious and by the time I got to high school I was embarrassed with my size. Then one day I ate so much that I felt ill so I snuck off to the bathroom and made myself throw up. I remember feeling so much better afterwards and if I just did this occasionally and then everything would be ok. But it quickly turned into an everyday occurrence.
I thought I was clever and could hide my illness from everyone but I became too thin and my hormones were all over the place. I was up one minute and then down the next. I was pale with big black bags under my eyes. I became obsessed with food and would panic if I wasn’t in control at meal times.
It was one of my good friends who picked up that something wrong and I finally opened up. My parents did everything they could to help me and slowly I began to change my mind-set. But the biggest shock for me wasn’t until I went to the dentist for numerous fillings and root canals and was told that if I didn’t look after myself I would have no teeth left by the time I was 24 years old. I realised I didn’t have time on my side and what I was doing was destroying my body and controlling my life.
I never thought I would ever be able to have a good relationship with food again and I had to re-teach myself how to eat properly. My whole body was out of whack from years of abuse and it took a long time before I stopped questioning everything I would put in my mouth.
It took all my strength, will power and the love and support from my family to stop the vicious cycle of bingeing and purging. And when I had my first child I realised just how amazing the human body is and really appreciated what it can do.
So now with my own kids about to enter their teens, I must admit I am a little nervous. There’s so many more pressures out there that we didn’t have when I was their age. But I know I can be a good role model and teach them about self-worth and how to love and respect their bodies. After all, you only get one chance and it’s got to last you a life time!
If you or someone you know needs help or for more information on eating disorders please visit your doctor. Or alternatively you can visit any of the sites below.
www.ed.org.nz , nzeatingdisorderspecialists.co.nz, www.ashburn.co.nz