By Daniel Morgan, Editor
Over the past few years, I’ve been serious about getting healthy and losing weight. I’m proud to say that I’ve lost 80 pounds and counting on this lengthy journey. My largest weight that I can remember was 272 pounds; I’m just at the 190-pound mark, give or take a few, and I haven’t seen my weight that low since middle school.
When it comes to my body, I’ve dealt with low self-esteem practically my whole life. I remember when I was six or seven years old; I was at a swimming pool with my family, and some older boy was teasing me and asked me if I was pregnant. That’s obviously stuck with me along with many other memories, but it’s gotten a lot better over the years. I’ve dropped multiple jeans sizes, now fitting into a size 36, as well as going from struggling with some 2-XL shirts to fitting comfortably into some large-sized t-shirts.
Every time I step on the scale and see more progress, I’m proud of myself, and I should be. I’ve worked very hard to get to where I’m at physically, mentally and socially. I look into the mirror, and sometimes see a different person. That makes me happy, except for the times when I don’t.
I have worked really hard to get to where I am now. I’ve done countless exercises and workouts; I’ve cut out bad foods and learned to eat in moderation; I’ve learned that it takes time, and the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, I’ve fallen into some very, very bad habits as well.
“I am always proud of you, but I worry that maybe you did it the wrong way,” my mom Robin Morgan told me. “Starving yourself is easy, and your body needs vitamins, and things to grow. [I worry] you are sitting in your room starving, or telling your friends you already ate and are full. I do worry when I don’t see you for long periods of time and wonder if you are eating at all or just getting by on feeling full with water.”
There will be days when I don’t eat anything as a form of punishment. Sometimes water is my only consumption for a day; the line has been blurred to the point where I don’t know if I’m thirsty or just trying to feel full so that I don’t eat anything. Then there are some days when I’ll eat normally, nothing too big or too small, but just enough to feel satisfied.
However, there are days when I can’t stop eating, for no apparent reason at all. I call it getting “triggered” because if I start eating one thing, I literally cannot stop thinking about and eating food. That’s when things get bad.
You see, I don’t feel guilty for eating two donuts or having an extra spoonful of this or that; I feel ashamed. I feel like I don’t deserve anything and that I’m ruining everything that I’ve done so far to get to where I’m at with my weight. Suddenly, I’m not worth it. The person in the mirror doesn’t look like me, but instead the person I was a long time ago.
How could I let this happen? What kind of person goes from such great progress to this? How dare I, for even a second, think that it’s okay to throw all of that hard work right out the window?
So, I debate and barter with myself over and over, telling myself that I can make up for it. But sometimes that isn’t good enough. I look into the mirror and try to stop myself, but it doesn’t work, and I end up purging. That’s the only logical thing I can do at this point because it’s too late to do anything else. Don’t sweat it when you can just stand over the toilet and vomit all of the bad thoughts and dead weight away.
That moment when I’m standing there straining myself is, to be quite honest, relieving. I look down and see all that I’ve rid myself of, feeling a weird combination of pride and remorse. However, sometimes it’s still not good enough, so I try to do more, and more, until I literally cannot stand the pain in my chest, throat, stomach or face anymore.
Once I’m finished, I look back at myself in the mirror and feel nothing but regret and more shame. Look at my face, how red and destroyed it looks. The blood vessels beneath my skin are all showing because of all the straining, and they don’t go away for a while. My body doesn’t look any different either; yet I convince myself that I’ve done some good, and I go back to my day.
“We put so much significance on how we look,” West Liberty University football coach and health instructor Brad Forshey said. “If someone over periods of time is constantly feeling that pressure to be thin to fit in, then eating disorders will often occur. They are never satisfied with the way their bodies look. People concern themselves of other people’s opinions entirely way too much! Have you ever seen any overweight mannequin in a store? Probably not. As I covered in great detail in our class, if one’s level of self-efficacy and self-esteem is high, these habits typically do not arise.”
This can happen once every blue moon, but sometimes it happens more than once a day. It all depends on how I feel about myself that day. Depending on the time, I’ll turn the shower on so people can’t hear me in the bathroom. Sometimes I turn the TV up in my room so that people won’t know what I’m doing in fear that they could hear me elsewhere. It pains and embarrasses me to admit that this has contributed to my weight loss, but it ultimately has, which makes me more ashamed.
I know better, and I know all of the healthy ways to go about losing weight. But that’s not enough, I guess. Living a healthy lifestyle isn’t enough without losing just a little bit more.
It’s taken its toll on my body and energy, too. Sometimes my whole body aches from all of the straining and discomfort. It hurts to move sometimes, even just to get out of bed, but I have to.
“I pray your health is okay because sometimes your paleness and dizzy spells are not good,” my mom said. “Heart problems can happen from things like this.”
My voice is also suffering partly because of this. I’ve been uncomfortable with the pitch of my voice throughout my life, too, and my dependence on vomiting has not helped the cause; it’s only exacerbated the problem. Acid reflux can play a large part in vocal cord damage, as does throwing up. Forcing stomach acid up through your throat when you may already experience acid reflux is anything but healthy.
Once I finally decided to go to a doctor about my voice/throat, we found that my throat is enflamed, and my vocal cords are red and swollen. I’m constantly clearing my throat, sounding hoarse and raspy, and switching between different octaves and registers because it’s often hard to just get any words out of my mouth at all let alone consistently.
But all of this is okay when I hear someone say, “Wow, you look great! Keep it up!” Yet “Keep it up” puts the idea into my head that where I’m at still isn’t good enough. Of course, I lie whenever people ask me how I’ve lost so much weight because it’s just embarrassing and shameful. It’s not like I haven’t done everything the right way; I’ve put a lot of effort into this. Sometimes even that just isn’t good enough.
“I think peer pressure and the feeling of being a part of the ‘crowd’ or succeeding involves looking good as well,” my mom said. “People think if you don’t look your best then you aren’t being the best you can be. Garbage! You look amazing, and maintaining is going to be hard. Your mood swings have been hard, and I know it’s because you are hungry and feel like you are being accountable to some. When you said it’s hard living here, it hurt me, but I am trying not to hover.” My mom was referencing the time I told her I didn’t like coming home from school because there is too much food around. I try to keep absolutely no food in my dorm room to eliminate temptation.
My biggest problem is that I never reached out for help when things got dangerously bad.
“Sometimes reaching out makes people think others will think they are weak; I don’t!” my mom explained. “I think it’s the strongest thing a person can do.”
If you’re like me and get ignored by virtually everybody you care for, including large segments of your family for whom nothing will ever be good enough no matter how hard you try to reach out, you’ll be convinced that nobody cares. There’s always at least one person that cares though, even if it’s someone you wouldn’t expect.
I remember my dad coming into my room one night asking if I had eaten anything that day. I told him that I hadn’t, and I was getting impatient and angry that he kept talking about food. But he then told me that he was worried about me and wanted to make sure that I was healthy.
“There are so many resources out there for help,” Forshey said. “Invest in your friends or family, the people you know support you no matter what. Listen to them, vent to them. The first thing someone must do is recognize there is a problem. One must also know this issue will not go away overnight. It might be a long process, and setbacks may occur. The want and desire to persevere must be there.”
I could’ve talked to my mom or dad, my sister or grandmother, some of my good friends at school or even a doctor, but I didn’t, and that was my call. I got through most of it on my own because that was the only way I knew how. There are other options, though, and part of me wishes I would’ve explored them. But shame is a powerful thing, and I would’ve been too embarrassed to be honest and tell this story before.
“If we can all look ourselves in the mirror, and accept who we are as a person, and be happy with what face is looking back at us, we would all be better off,” Forshey said. “Take me for example. I am overweight; I suffer greatly from male pattern baldness – two things that could definitely lower one’s self esteem and self-efficacy. BUT I DON’T LET IT! I love who I am! I wake up every day happy. Every single one of us should be happy every morning. How you may ask? WE WOKE UP! The alternative would not be good!”
Harming myself because of shame is the unhealthiest part about my weight loss. I’m starting to realize that some things just aren’t worth it, whether it’s losing weight, trying to fit in, looking for acceptance or validation, etc.
“At the end of the day, the one person we must all win acceptance from is ourselves,” Forshey said.
Sometimes I stay “clean” for long periods of time; that’s when I especially focus on all of the good weight loss practices. Sometimes, though, I still fall back into the trap because at times it feels like I have a dependence on purging; I went through this whole cycle with myself a few nights ago. It happens, but as I’ve wrongly heard from multiple people, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” My experience proves that to be untrue.
There are so many ways to go about changing yourself, though, and I regret choosing the unhealthy methods every day. It’s a shame, but I still get up every morning and face the world, happy or not. Fake smiles can cover up a lot, but encouragement and self-love can heal a lot, too.
Photos provided by Daniel Morgan