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My Eating Disorder Wasn’t About Body Image

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Growing up, I was always the kid who sat around in her underwear. In the ballet dressing room, I was always the girl who was comfortable changing in front of everyone. I was openly comfortable with my body. Because of this, a lot of people were confused when they found out I had bulimia.

People would say things like, “But you have such a good body.” And it’s true, I did. I love my body. Of course, I had some insecure moments. What teen girl doesn’t? And after thinking about these comments, I was confused, too. According to popular belief, eating disorders are for people who want to be skinny. They’re for people who ate salads and jogged until they felt like they were going to pass out. But really, everyone who struggles with an eating disorder has a different story.

I didn’t think (or maybe didn’t believe) I had an eating disorder until my therapist told me. I remember sitting in her office as a scared 14-year-old. She looked at me and said something that contained the word “bulimic.” Now, at 18, I can’t remember the exact sentence, but I can remember my reaction.

“What did you say?” I asked nervously.

“Bulimic. Would you say that you’re bulimic, Ashley?”

“I don’t know,” I answered.

“I would say so,” she said with certainty.

I remember grappling with this new found label. I didn’t get it. I ate “normally.” The only abnormal thing about my behavior was if I got stressed out, I would purge. I definitely did not think this fact deemed me worthy of the label “bulimic.” Alas, according to my metal health professional, it did.

Now my task was to come to terms with this label. My name is Ashley and I have bulimia.

In order to do this, I had to redefine what I believed about eating disorders. It was not all about body image or diet. I had to figure out what it meant to me. And for me, my eating disorder represented control and relief. Of course, everyone’s defining moment is different. My break through came when I stopped listening to other people’s definitions of my disorder and started to figure out what it meant to me.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

Originally published: April 4, 2016
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