It’s hard to imagine how a small comment can affect us enormously. A negative comment from her cousin about her weight pushed Alma to diet. Alma’s diet soon became an addiction and turned into an eating disorder. Her life as a 15-year-old girl, navigating her high school years, changed dramatically when she discovered that she wasn’t happy with her body. Alma wasn’t happy with the life she had in that moment and felt like she didn’t fit in with the people around her. It was difficult for her to see beyond what she saw in her mirror every morning. Today, Alma is 19-years-old and overcoming anorexia. She shared her experience battling anorexia with us.
How did your anorexia begin?
My trigger was a comment I received from my cousin. One day, she told me I would never be thin. That is when I said, “Enough.” I would not allow my weight to be a hindrance to feeling the way I wanted to. My initial excuse was that I wanted to wear a two-piece swimsuit. This was the first of my excuses to start “harmless” diets. I always had problems with my body image. For me, it was a reflection that something was wrong with me. Then, it struck me that perfection, or what could make me happy, was to be thinner. My diet soon began turning into an obsession. It was awful. The truth is that now I regret that first thought so much because it is was what triggered [my anorexia].
What did your friends and family tell you about your appearance?
At first, they all praised me when I started losing weight and told me I looked great. Then as time passed, so did my control and I began to see myself decline. My mom took me to a specialist; I recovered for three months. I fell into a problematic relationship with a guy who had the same problem as I did—that was a big mistake. Suddenly, my relationship with him ended in a bad way. I started thinking it was because of my weight and in less than three months I lost 15 pounds again. My family became alarmed about my weight, but nobody said anything because it was a subject no one wanted to talk about. I blamed it on being stressed about school and told them that was the reason I had stopped eating as much. Every day, I was eating less and less, until it became more noticeable. My parents noticed a missing patch of missing hair [due to the anorexia].
What was going through your mind at that moment?
It was quite scary. The only thing I thought was that that if I gained weight, my whole effort, my whole self, would go away. All that I had been through would have been for nothing. I was not afraid of dying or what would happen to me further on. I was afraid others wouldn’t like me if I gained weight. There came a time when I was afraid to leave my house because for me that meant having to eat and that I would lose control of myself. It was like living in hell. I swear it was awful; I did not enjoy anything because of the fear I had about myself. I remember I was suffering at night because of hunger pains. It was an awful pain and it was an internal struggle, too. I thought I would die of depression at the time. I didn’t want to eat because nobody would accept me otherwise. The thing is, I was a compulsive eater before being anorexic. I was afraid to return to the same situation.
How did you stop?
One day, my dad showed me an image on his computer of a girl who looked like a skeleton and he told me I looked like that girl. He said that little by little I was going to kill myself. He told me that he was going to kick me out of the house if I didn’t get better. I didn’t understand why he was getting mad at me and threatening to kick me out of the house. I was the ideal child; I had the best grades and didn’t go out very often. He had no right to say absolutely anything. I told him he did not have any right to tell me what was wrong with me. Then, he said something that clicked in my head and made me cry. He told me, “Children should bury their parents. I will not dare bury you and stand in there, crying by your grave.” He was afraid I was going to die because of my anorexia and that made me realize how serious my problem was.
Do you still struggle with any emotional or physical problems caused by anorexia?
It left me with many problems. Even now, I still struggle with health problems, but treatments are normalizing my system for now. It’s a daily struggle with looking in the mirror and not getting carried away with letting negative thoughts get to me. Besides, my family constantly pressures me not to fall again into the same disorder. It’s not easy, I had one and a half years of therapy.
Why do you think eating disorders are a big problem for today’s youth?
Girls need to realize that not everything in life has to be thin or fat. If they obsess about being thin, then they are slowly destroying themselves with thoughts that don’t help them. Eating disorders are a big problem because people don’t know what the consequences are and how serious a problem it can be.
Do you still struggle with anorexia?
Yes and I think I will my whole life. It’s a mistake that I will always be paying for.
What would you say to girls who face similar eating disorders?
I would tell them to be aware of the consequences of their actions. It can take an emotional toll not only on you, but on all those around you. Eating disorders affect your whole family. This can lead to death and cause pain and suffering for your whole family. If you don’t want to focus on healing for yourself, you should think about your family and how it will hurt them to see your suffering this way.