By Madi Brown
*Bagpiper sports editor Madi Brown shares her story. Her parents have read this column. For objective coverage on this issue, check out today’s print issue.
I looked in the mirror and I saw my ribs, I saw the deterioration of my muscles under my skin, and my hair fell out in chunks as I tried to brush it. My body was screaming for help, but I could not see what was wrong with me. In my mind I was the skinniest I had ever been, and it still was not enough.
There were multiple factors that led to this, but one of the biggest ones was what I witnessed growing up. My mom is beautiful but for the longest time she did not believe it. She watched her mother hate herself because of her weight and because of that, she learned to do the same. I watched my mom talk down to herself my whole life, and it was instilled in me. What my grandmother passed down to my mom, my mom passed down to me. Our problem was never physical. It was mental.
Growing up, I was always more aware of my body, and I never felt comfortable in my own skin. I became obsessed with wanting to be skinny, so I joined sports and tried to keep myself active.
I started running in grade school, but I was 13 when I realized I could not live without it. Running to me was a way to ensure that I would not get fat, but I was never satisfied. Even though my motives were wrong, I had a healthy lifestyle. It was not until my junior year that I began cutting foods out of my diet, such as meat.
I did not make dramatic changes to my lifestyle overnight. It was a perfect storm.
It happened so gradually that I did not know I was hurting myself until it was too late.
It started off with me eating smaller portions of meat, which eventually led to me cutting out meat all together. I cut everything from my diet until I was living off of tomatoes and crackers.
I was eating around a thousand calories a day, and on top of that I was exercising two to three hours a night. I had no idea how abusive I was being towards my body because I was blinded by the scale. In December 2016, I weighed 140 pounds By April 2017, I weighed 112 pounds. The problem was it was never enough; I never felt happy with my body.
That summer I decided that I wanted to try waist training, because if it worked for the Kardashians, obviously it was safe for me. I remember putting it on for the first time under my clothes and nearly puking because it was so tight. I was so twisted at the time though, and I actually saw it as a challenge. Over the next few months, I wore the waist trainer and I got to where it was not tight at all. I still was not satisfied with myself. It was like I needed to feel the pain. One day I decided that I was not feeling the effect as much so I would wear it all night while I slept. I continued to do that for three months, while I was still not feeding my body.
After not eating meat for six months, my hair started falling out. When it first started, I was only losing around 50 strands a day, which I was told was completely normal but as it continued it got worse. I was afraid to brush my hair because I got to where I was losing 300 strands a day. I was not the only one who began to notice the changes.
I remember the first time my dad felt concerned for me, we had just went out to dinner and he gave me a hug and said he could feel my bones. After that, my family started making comments about how my clothes were too big and my face was always pale. They looked at me with pity, as if I had this disease that was killing me. I knew I was not healthy, but I refused to believe that it was my eating habits. I did not want to believe that this miracle diet was actually hurting me. As time went on, I started to become so exhausted that I would come home and sleep instead of eat. I remember one time when I actually slept for over two days without eating.
My parents wanted to get me help, but I refused. In the end, I was the only one who could fix my problem. I found support from a friend who I had met at my church, and we began to go to the gym together. This was my turning point, seeing everyone around me striving to be healthy and not skinny. I began to become more educated about nutrition and changed my life. It has been a long recovery, but I have never been healthier or happier. Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes, but it is not a physical issue, it is a mental one. The problem was people believed this was a physical issue of mine, as if I could stop whenever I wanted to. My body image issues were something I struggled with my entire life, and it look a long time for me to learn how to be okay with me. I was my own worst critic because I never believed I was good enough.
That was the lie I told myself.