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After Years of Purging, a Longing To Be Full: My Secret Struggle With Bulimia

I learned how to purge from my seventh grade health teacher, Mrs. Eng. She discussed poor body image and low self esteem manifesting into eating disorders. She spoke in a sad, serious voice and we were supposed to be horrified, but I was intrigued.

“This is what body dysmorphia is” said Mrs. Eng, her face expressionless.

I looked at the pastel poster of a skinny girl looking in the mirror. The reflection showed an obese person. I concentrated on the shoulder bones of the girl looking into the reflection and wondered what my back looked like naked. I subtly reached my hand around my back like I was scratching  it. I felt the top of my shoulder blade and traced it down until I only felt flesh.

One night my mother brought home Burger King. My little brother squealed with excitement as fries and chicken nuggets rained onto his plate. She reached in and got my bag with a chicken sandwich and fries. I brought my dinner upstairs to the TV room and ate it while watching a “Friends” rerun.

I can’t say for certain what triggered it, but that salty, full feeling turned into guilt as I stared at the empty, grease-stained bag.

I went into the bathroom with a glass of water. In a novel I read about a bulimic girl she always drank a glass of water before purging. So I drank the water and watched it all come out. Everything about it was gross.

But every time I felt that guilty, full feeling, I would do it again. I would leave the bathroom feeling slightly invigorated. I would walk downstairs and wonder if my mother would notice my glassy eyes, or perhaps they were tinged pink.

I always left the empty glass on the edge of the sink, like Gretel leaving a breadcrumb, saying I was here.

We were a family that typically ate separately. My mother and little brother ate together before I was home. I ate by myself after swim practice and my father came home when my mother and brother were in bed and I was on the computer dialing up AOL.

One night my mother and I sat down to eat together. I must have skipped swim practice or maybe it was that week or two between swim practice ending and track beginning.

She put two plates of pasta down in front of us. I could see the oil collected on the rim of the plate.

“I don’t want you to throw up after this,” said my mother with a bluntness that left the atmosphere still around us.

She placed her fork down and looked at me.

“I won’t. What do you mean?” I was immediately hot and embarrassed.

I wondered how she knew. Could she hear me? Were my eyes watery? Was the glass a clue?

“You have to stop.”

And for the most part I did. I started to skip lunch and demand only salad for dinner. I threw out the lunch my mother sent me to school with. I can picture myself skipping proudly to the garbage can and hearing it thump to the bottom; her swirly writing on the white paper bag peaking through the rest of the trash. I started to wear knee high boots and mini-skirts to school and I got attention I never knew I could.

The night before I went away to college I cried hysterically in my mother’s arms. I wasn’t ready; I was scared. I didn’t want to leave her.

“It will never be the same!” I shouted in a whisper.

“But that’s okay,” she said and brushed my hair off my cheek.

She held me in the softest way, and told me that she would be here waiting for me to come back. I pictured an illustration from “Runaway Bunny” of the tiny bunny safe in the Mother Bunny’s arms by the fireplace.

For the first two months of college I took pride in eating as little as I could. My mother sent me with a giant container of jellybeans and I remember watching them fall noisily into the trash can in our hallway. At the cafeteria I went straight to the salad bar and piled my plate high with lettuce, chick peas, and red wine vinegar.

I would get drunk at parties and cry about being fat to my girlfriends. One night a senior on the lacrosse team with dark hair and hazel, tiger eyes asked me to come upstairs with him. I nestled into his arms and he told me how pretty I was. We lay on his bed listening to Dispatch and talking about our love for mountains. When my clothes came off I felt small and exposed and reached for his warm body to cover me. He touched my collarbone lightly with his thumb. He let his hand glide to my waist and held onto my hips. “You’re so skinny,” he whispered. 

When my parents arrived for Parents’ Weekend, they brought me what they believed to be necessities, items I missed or needed as replacements: big plastic bags of hangers, new pajamas, Special K I requested. And then I saw it – a huge box of candy bars: Snickers, Milky Way, Three Musketeers. I stared at them horrified, angry enough to feel my blood boil. And then suddenly I climbed into the trunk of their car, ripped open the box, and ate an entire Snickers bar. I must have looked like an animal.

That winter I got my tonsils out and ate mashed potatoes every day for a week. It felt gluttonous and delicious. I nestled under blankets and read “Harry Potter.” My mother put flowers next to my bed with piles of magazines. She made penne a la vodka with heaps of cream and parmesan.

I keep this time of my life secret. If someone sees a picture of me looking particularly thin I will say, “I was weird with food then.” No one will ever know how every night I touched my stomach, hoping it felt hollow. No one will ever know how I traced my bones; how I loved the way my collar bone turned round and pointy at my shoulders; how my ribs splayed as I counted them. My hip bone a half moon in my palm.

When I had trouble getting pregnant, I remembered painfully how I stopped getting my period freshman year. I shuddered at how proud I felt then. I wondered if my secret was keeping my baby from me.

The first miscarriage was quick. I cried loudly on the phone with my doctor outside my apartment building. She told me to eat a piece of chocolate cake and I knew I would never be the same. The second was longer. I bled for weeks, reminded every day of life slipping away from me.

When I got pregnant a third time my whole body swelled. My cheeks, my arms, my ankles. Even the skin around my eyes puffed. And I was grateful. I became like that white, down blanket I slept with as a child – holding my baby with soft, thick arms. I put my hand to my stomach and let it roll as the baby turned. I felt the little kicks flutter between my hip bones. I wondered if she could feel my hand cupping her shoulder as it rested under my cushiony flesh.

Now that I’m blessed with two daughters I’ve almost forgotten about this secret of my past; how I longed to be nourished while starving myself of food.

But in the dark, when I know nobody’s watching, I put my fingertips to my collarbone. When there is a cold space between my husband and me I pull at my loose skin and let it cover my ribs. I touch my stomach where life once grew and watch it cave into cold, hard bones.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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Dear Jeff Bezos and all who have anything to do with Amazon Prime Day,

I just want to start by saying—I know you are trying to be helpful. I love you all for that. I honestly do. But, you are kind of making me feel a lot of pressure today. Like, in a good way, but also, in an anxious way.

Let me explain…

On any given day, as a mother to three children, I have a certain level of anxiety. While it's not constant, I do have my anxious moments. Why? Because there are various versions of the following: Me asking my two older daughters to get their shoes on what feels like 500 times as I am changing my 9-month-old's very, very, very messy diaper while I am trying to figure out what I can throw on to wear in about five seconds while I am repeating brush your teeth, brush your teeth in my head so I, in fact, don't forget to brush my teeth.

Not even to mention the mental load that weighs on my mind every single day. Remember to flip the laundry, fill out the school forms, cancel that appointment, reschedule this appointment, order more diapers, figure out what we're having for dinner, squeeze in a shower, lock the basement door so the baby can't get down the stairs, find better eczema cream for my middle daughter, get more sunscreen...the list goes on and on and on.

But then you Amazon Prime Day me and I'm having a lot of feelings about that.

Because you're reminding me of things I need to order, to think about, to be on top of more.

The little potty that's on sale reminds me that I need to step up my potty training game for my 2-year-old. That super cute dollhouse reminds me that I need to think about my daughter's first birthday in two months (WHAT!). That face mask reminds me that I need to remember to wash my face before bed because I forget waaaay more than I remember which is terrible.

But then I realize, these deals are going to save my mental load by fixing my life. Right?

Like, I never knew I needed an Instant Pot until you told me it was only $58. Now I am scouring Pinterest for meals I want to prep in my own. THIS POT IS THE TICKET TO GETTING MY LIFE IN ORDER.

Do we need more plates and cups for the kids? I mean really they only probably need about two plates and two cups each but YES. Yes I do need more cute kids kitchenware. THESE PLATES ARE THE TICKET TO BEING A GOOD MOM.

What would I do if I had five Echo Dots? I don't know, but let's find out because they're only $29! THESE DOTS ARE THE TICKET TO EFFICIENCY.

If I order a Vitamix at 30% off, I know I'll lose the baby weight. Think of all the smoothies I'll mix up! I mean, I just lost a pound even thinking about the smoothies that thing can whip up. THIS VITAMIX IS THE TICKET TO A SEXY BOD.

Buying this trendy, floral dress will step up my mom style significantly. THIS DRESS IS THE TICKET TO KEEPING MY COOL.

Okay, then after I add all the fixers to my cart, I realize… I have 99 things, but necessity ain't one.

I mean, I have everything from waterproof band-aids to bras to dresses for myself and my kids to an alarm clock and books. I basically feel like Oprah—You get an Audible subscription! You get an Audible subscription!—but instead of these products magically being paid for by Queen O herself, the money is coming from my bank account, which is a lot less fun of a game, TBH.

And if I am being honest, I don't need much help with my order-things-from-Amazon-and-pretend-it's-being-paid-for-with-Monopoly-money game as I am quite often coming home to an Amazon package wondering what it could be, opening it with the enthusiasm of a kid on Christmas morning—even though I am the exact person who ordered whatever is inside of that Amazon box.

But today, on Amazon Prime Day, you tempt me with all the deals. And yes, my anxiety, blood pressure and adrenaline rise. And yes, my bank account might temporarily decrease—BUT if we are being fair, with the savings I'm getting on things I would buy anyway, I am basically making our account increase overall. Right?

And while these things aren't going to make me skinnier, or cooler, or more put together—I'm okay with that. I am doing a pretty good job on my own. But some of them will actually help my life in a few different ways at a reasonable price, and I am grateful for that—for real.

Now, Bezos, please end this 404 error nonsense and let me purchase all the things!

Thank you for all the savings and excitement,

Mamas everywhere

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Usually when celebrities post swimsuit photos on Instagram they don't exactly look like your average beach-going mom, but former Bachelorette (and mom of two) Ali Fedotowsky posted a series of bikini photos on Monday that are both beautiful and relatable.

"This might be my most vulnerable post on Instagram ever," she wrote in the caption for the photos which show a postpartum belly that looks like a real postpartum belly.

"At the end of the day, I know it's important to be open and honest about my postpartum body in hopes that it helps even one person out there who is struggling with their own body image," Fedotowsky (who just gave birth to her second child in May) wrote.

In the first photo of the series she's wearing a sarong around her stomach, but in the second and third photos Fedotowsky reveals the kind of stomach many mamas sport: It's not perfectly taut, she's not showing off any abs, but it is definity beautiful.

"If you swipe to see the second photo in this post, you see that my body has changed. My skin around my stomach is very loose and stretched out, I'm 15lbs heavier than I used to be, and my cup size has grown quite significantly," Fedotowsky writes.

The photos are a sponsored post for Lilly and Lime Swimwear (a line made for women with larger busts) but that doesn't mean it wasn't brave. In fact, the fact that it's an ad makes it even more amazing because research shows that when advertising only shows us bodies that don't look like our own, women become "generally more dissatisfied with their body and appearance".

Ali Fedotowsky

On her blog Fedotowsky notes that a lot of comments on her previous Instagram posts have been followers remarking how slim she looks, or how much they wish they looked like she does postpartum. By dropping that sarong and showing her tummy Fedotowsky is showing other mothers that there is nothing wrong with their own.

"While I appreciate the positive comments, you guys are always so good to me, I keep trying to explain that I'm just good at picking out clothes that flatter my body and hide my tummy," she wrote on her blog.

"I bounced back pretty quickly after I gave birth to Molly. But things are different this time and I'm OK with that. I'm learning to love my body and embrace how it's changed. I hope I get back to my pre-pregnancy shape one day, but that may never happen. And if it doesn't, that's OK."

Ali Fedotowsky

It is okay, because our bodies are more than our swimsuit selfies. They the vessels that carry us through life and carry our children and provide a safe, warm place for those children feel love.

Loose skin is a beautiful thing.

Thanks for keeping it real, Ali.

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Amazon shoppers were anxiously awaiting the countdown to Amazon Prime Day, but when the clock struck one, er three, the website went down.

On Monday afternoon shoppers were trying to get their hands on the much-hyped Prime Day deals but instead of low prices, many users just saw 404 errors, continuously refreshing pages, or had issues keeping or adding items to their shopping carts.

CNBC reports shares of Amazon were down during the shopping glitch, and many shoppers took to Twitter and Instagram to discuss how all they could see on Amazon were the dogs who decorate the site's 404 pages.

As cute as the dogs are, shoppers are getting tired of seeing them, so hopefully Amazon gets things back up and running soon. Analysts had projected Amazon would rake in $3 billion dollars this Prime Day. Time will tell how much of that was lost during the great dog picture debacle of 2018.

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"Say you're sorry!"

"Go apologize and mean it."

"You don't sound like you're sorry to me."

"She won't want to be your friend anymore if you don't apologize right now."

Sound familiar? This is a hot topic for many parents. We want our kids to have good manners, to truly feel and show compassion for another, to want to apologize from a heartfelt and authentic place—yet when we tell them to say they're sorry, what are we really communicating?

I think:

  • I need you to apologize so I can feel better about what just happened...
  • This is how we fix problems...
  • I need you to do what I say ...
  • You need me to tell you how to feel and behave...
  • I'm in control...(bigger and stronger wins)
  • Integrity is secondary to apologies—what you do doesn't have to be aligned with how you feel or think... just do it anyway.

Whew. Maybe not the message we really want to give.

Yes, manners are important and apologies are necessary. But, encouraging the growth of this from within—a genuine desire to (re)connect and show compassion, being in our integrity—is essential for healthy relationships.

Think about it. How might you feel if, after being hurt deeply by a friend they brushed you off with a cursory, "I'm sorry" or after a tearful yelling match with your teen that left you feeling raw, your spouse said, "How could you lose it like that?! You need to go apologize to him!"

I'd venture to say you might feel more hurt, maybe misunderstood and alone, or even mad.

Often, situations our children are in that we catch ourselves telling them to apologize are defined by just the same kinds of feelings. Hurt whether they are the one doing the hurting or being hurt; frustrated and mad that their favorite toy was grabbed, a cool idea rejected, some other injustice experienced; misunderstood because their feelings and thoughts weren't respected, because the adult missed all that led up to the conflict, because they weren't listened to; alone because they are misunderstood, not listened to, hurt on the inside, feeling rejected; MAD because they really didn't like what their buddy did and their feelings overflowed.

Having your child say "I'm sorry" is going to do very little for a child to grow an understanding of how they feel, why they feel, what they can do with all these feelings—all precursors to compassion.

The words I'm sorry" are more often about our need, not our child's. So what can you do to grow the genuine, integrity based, heartfelt ability to apologize?

1. Role model, always

Be genuine with your own apologies. Voice compassion for your child, others, and their situation.

2. Name and affirm feelings of all parties involved.

Just think, if your spouse, following the tearful yelling match with your teen, had said, "Honey that was really tough. Let me hold you for a minute while you pull yourself together," how might you now feel? How might that change the next step you took? I bet you'd feel connected, understood, cared for, and in a better position to now re-connect with your son and apologize for losing it. And it would have come from a genuine place within you.

3. Give choices or ideas.

"What can you do to help him feel better?"

"When you are ready to let her know you feel sorry, she'll appreciate it."

"Can you use your words or would you like to show her you feel sorry?"

Words, smiles, pats, sharing a toy, playing next to—these are all authentic ways kids can show they are sorry.

4. Notice what your child chooses or does on their own to express their apology and their feelings and name it.

"Thank you for offering your special stuffed guy to your friend. You wanted to help him feel better. What a nice thing to do to let him know you felt sorry."

And now you are helping your child learn a bit more about what healthy, caring relationships look like. Genuine apologies are on their way. It takes time to grow a child who can tap into their inner selves and respond with compassion and honesty in a difficult situation. Time, patience, and gentle guidance... trust this. "I'm sorry" will follow... and be truly meant.

Relationship building all around.

Originally published on Denali Parent Coaching.

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