Artwork by Emily Wieringa
I have an unusual relationship with eating disorders. I never had one, but people often thought I did.
I was the girl who was always just too thin, the one who couldn't beef up. The doctors thought I was diabetic, or maybe my thyroid wasn't working, something had to be wrong. My parents bought cans of protein shakes - I didn't want to drink it. We Are the World pulsed through boomboxes, my classmates and I sang along, knowing there was a problem somewhere, but too young to grasp it. It scared us sometimes, so we joked. The boys would turn a comb upside down and laugh about the Ethiopians holding the canoe and I would look away and blush. I was sure they were also making fun of me.
Time passed, I was fourteen. Older girls, girls who didn't even know me, whispered that I was anorexic. I made sure to never let them see me sweat it, but their words singed. Sometimes, they burned. I carried the belief that there was something wrong with me, and everyone knew it. On my own, I'd often forget. The problem was, I was never alone for long. And I just didn't blend in a crowd.
So, I learned to fill my plate in public even if I wasn't hungry (I usually was). I felt eyes on me if I walked to the restroom after finishing a meal.
The fashion magazines that made most girls feel not small enough made me feel normal. I scanned the pages, eyes locking on models with knees that didn't touch and I felt a kinship, a sense of solidarity, like maybe I wasn't all by myself.
At 16 I wasn't picked on much- not to my face. It was a whisper in the room, but I was confident in plenty of other areas, so I let this one thing gloss right over my knobby shoulders and down my bony spine. I'd be fine.
It followed me to college, where the psychologist called me on the phone and point blank asked me if I was anorexic. I laughed and then I fumed. I was sick to death of explaining myself, so tired of being reminded that a girl who felt so typical and boring was seen as everything but.
The 21st Century swept in and I was grown, I had a man who loved me. I was more comfortable in my skinny than I had ever been. But how could I not take it personally when the magazines that had once loved me so well now ran headlines in a 20 point font - "Men Aren't Attracted to Skinny Chicks!"?
I didn't want to be someone else's self-esteem boost. Couldn't we all just stop talking about what was hot and what wasn't? Enough with the categorizing. The comparing. Wasn't there room for all of us?
See, this is what women do, women who aren't careful, women who miss the point. We stack the scales in our favor. We make someone else be the sufferer.
My friend Emily Wierenga wrote a moving, wrenching account of her struggle with anorexia. The wisdom in her words reaches beyond the confines of a particular disorder. It grabs at the core of who we are and wish to be, lassoing all the fall-out of our wanting.
-Chasing Silhouettes, Emily Wieringa
I read Chasing Silhouettes through the lens of who I am, all of my experiences, all of my scars. I was surprised by the ways I identified with her words. I think we all have our wounds. We've all felt the sting of hurtful words. We've all wished this or that away, we've wished that we could change something, switch it out with hers or hers.
We're moms now. We look at our babies and things make so much more sense, but the world is even meaner, so we worry.
Having spent years processing body image, I feel safe in saying that it's a struggle for almost every girl. The reality is, around 8 million Americans have an eating disorder – seven million women and one million men. Millions more struggle to fit, to blend, for one reason or another.
If you know a young girl, you need to read this book. If your a mom, please read it. A youth worker? It's important to know the reality. Because maybe you don't know someone suffering with an eating disorder, but odds are you know someone suffering with a roughed up body image.
And let's come together and promise to celebrate health, regardless of waist size. Let's celebrate heart, character, a laugh that shakes the rafters. There's so much to love about being a woman, let's champion every size and shape. We don't need a sufferer.
Buy Chasing Silhouettes here.*
Emily is giving a copy of Chasing Silhouettes to one FPFG reader. Leave a comment to enter! Tell us anything on your mind.
*Purchase Emily Wierenga's new book Chasing Silhouettes: How to help a loved one battling an eating disorder within the first four weeks after its September 25, 2012 release date and receive a special invitation to watch an online forum on eating disorders with bestselling author Dr. Gregory L. Jantz, FindingBalance CEO Constance Rhodes and author Emily Wierenga.
Readers must email a scanned receipt, a picture of them with the book or tell us when and where they purchased the book to firstname.lastname@example.org, and they will be logged in to receive a special invitation to watch the event. They may also submit questions for the panel to answer, some of which will be selected and answered during the forum.