There are many reasons I decided to create this blog- Sara Kruzan, my frustration with sexism and inequality and the realization that we operate in a society that benefits from the systemic oppression of marginalized and underrepresented populations. But there are other reasons too, more personal ones, and I promised myself that I would share my entire story to help other young girls and women feel less alone in their battles with body image.
I believe there are less than 10 friends of mine who really know where I went for 3 weeks when I was 12 years old. Some of them were very good at keeping my secret, and others weren’t. I developed a severe eating disorder that nearly killed me in 7th grade. Prior to my diagnosis, I was a normal, healthy, 100lb pre-teen at 5’4″. Within 3 months of routinely starving myself and exercising obsessively, I dropped to around 64 lbs. I just want to look like all the models in Vogue, I thought. What’s so wrong with that?
During a routine blood test, I had a seizure and my heart stopped due to a combination of dehydration and my body just really taking a beating. My mother and little sister, who was 7 years old at the time, saw the whole thing. I was immediately taken to the Children’s Hospital in Hartford, not far from my home in Western Connecticut. I remember few details about what happened there besides my family crying and when I told my physician that I would rather be dead than gain any weight.
I do remember being escorted away to a psychiatric institution. I remember being told I “had to” go and not understanding, at the time, what that really meant. I remember being scared that all my friends would think I was crazy and being reassured that there was just no other place to put me. So they put in an ambulance, took me to the institution and set up my bed next to the nurse’s station in the common area, where everyone could see me, so they could make sure I wouldn’t make myself throw up or exercise at night while everyone else was asleep. I was 12.
I also remember not being able to use the bathroom or shower alone. This did not mean that a door was left open and a nurse sat outside the bathroom- it meant she was inside, watching me shower, watching me go to the bathroom. I had never been naked in front of anyone before, and I could feel her eyes on me, all the time. I was 12.
I remember being forced to sit at a table which I was not allowed to leave until I ate everything in front of me. When you’re 64lbs, trust me- you cannot eat much. I remember being honest and telling them I didn’t like milk and mayonaise grossed me out. They did not listen and there I sat, for hours, feeling like I would never be able to leave.
I remember sitting in a room with a group of other people- all men- all aged 16-18, who were in the same unit as me but for different reasons: attempted murder, assault, attempted suicide. I remember seeing cuts on their arms and dried blood on their faces and I couldn’t understand what I was doing there.
I remember coming home and not wanting to talk about it with anyone. To this day, my family references the events by introducing the topic as, “when you were sick.” The only reason I was discharged was because I gained all the weight back that I had lost. But I had been taught nothing about how to modify my eating disorder. I didn’t learn about healthy portions; I didn’t learn about body image and how millions of girls and women are affected by anorexia. I thought I was alone. It was then I realized how badly we need better methods for helping girls who are struggling with weight, body image and their self-esteem- and how badly the media needs to stop encouraging and selling unrealistic body images to impressionable young women. To put things in perspective, our prefrontal cortex, the area of our brain that is responsible for judgment, doesn’t stop developing until we are 25. So why are we selling ‘skinny’ to this age group?
Today, The Huffington Post published an articled called “Heidi Klum Eats Conuts and Shocks The World.” Really? THIS shocks the world? The United States carried out 3 drone strikes in A SINGLE DAY and we’re worried about a model eating a cronut!? Fuck that.
Yes, there she is- sitting next to her glorious box of cronuts! The world is watching, Heidi, be careful before you take that next bite!
Or how about another Huffington Post ‘breaking story’ about Miley Cyrus wearing shorts and‘showing off her legs.‘ No shit- what other part of your body is exposed when you wear shorts? Any why is this news?
This is the barometer for judgment and society’s ill-constructed plan for selling skinny. Most women do not look like this- I do not look like this. I’m not fat, but in the fashion industry, I’m plus-sized.
Take, yet again, The Huffington Post’s (do you see a pattern, here?) June 2013 article about plus-sized models taking the industry by storm. Take a look at these pictures– do these women look plus-sized to you?
Yeah, that’s what I thought.
I’ve waited 14 years to share this story, and for good reason. I was afraid of being judged and I was ashamed that I was so easily distracted with my body image that I would allow myself to lose complete control over my own life. I was afraid I would be stigmatized. When we think about people being ushered away to psychiatric institutions, we think they are really, reallycrazy. But the reality is that these institutions exist, for many people, as plan-B. I mean, what do you do with a 12 year old suffering from anorexia?
There you have it- that’s my story. Now, can we all agree to stop selling skinny?
If you know someone who is suffering from an eating disorder, please visit the National Eating Disorder Association’s website to learn how you can help.