She’s the epitome of health.
She exercises religiously five days a week – consisting of four days of heavy strength training coupled with two to three short, intense sprint sessions – and never, ever misses a workout. She preps all her food in bulk at the beginning of every week and is never seen without her cooler full of ready-made, home-cooked meals. She drinks a gallon of water a day and pops her fish oil on the regular.
She politely declines when offered a donut at work and walks swiftly by the corner bakery without a second glance. She sips on sparkling water at the bar when she goes out with her friends and can still throw her head back in laughter and have a ball of a night. She has never, never been seen eating anything considered remotely unhealthy – no sugar, no grease, no unrefined grains. When approached about the best way to lose that muffin top or her preferred method of cardio, she’s more than happy to chitchat and offer her two cents.
Girlfriends admire her dedication. Men can’t tear their eyes away from her sculpted glutes when she struts by. Her waist is tiny. Her abs are chiseled. Her smile is radiant
She’s the epitome of health.
Except that she’s not.
What you don’t know about her – what nobody knows – is that she has secretly been fighting a battle. For years. What initially had started out as a side hobby, a fun little interest of hers she liked to pursue, has quickly turned into an obsession, and now she feels trapped. This need of hers to stay lean and be “that fit girl” to anyone and everyone who knows her has consumed her and has left her engaging in a daily struggle to put on a façade.
That smile? It’s been practiced and perfected countless times in the privacy of her own bathroom mirror. Look happy. Look happy. Look happy. When she turns down dessert, she’s telling herself be cool be cool be cool. Her perfect gym attendance can be attributed to that incessant inner voice screaming do you really want to get fat again, you lazy pig?
Her actions are driven by fear rather than by an intrinsic love for her body.
Look inside her kitchen cupboard and you’ll find a shocking display of sugary cereals and sweets placed high, high up, out of arm’s reach. She saves those for her Sunday night ritual when she drags over her kitchen stool and pulls everything to the floor. Sitting with her legs crossed, she’ll take a slow, deep breath before proceeding to consume one treat after another. She’ll eat until she feels like she’s about to throw up, and then she’ll continue to eat some more. Only when she feels thoroughly disgusted with herself will she allow herself to stop and head to bed, ready to face another week’s worth of repentance.
On Monday mornings, she wakes up and races to the mirror to inspect the damage. She pulls her shirt up to check that her abs are still there – yes, a little watery, but still there – and then steps gingerly on the scale. Up 6lbs. She’ll be lean again by Friday.
As long as everyone thinks she’s Miss Perfect, she feels safe. As long as no one ever sees her miss a workout or ingest anything considered remotely unhealthy, she feels loved.
Who is she? Who is this fit girl who appears to thrive on the outside, but battles demons on the inside?
Is that “she” someone that you know? Is that “she”… you?
[Tweet "You see, people who seem fit and healthy can actually be very, very sick."] I’m sure you know someone – or perhaps several someone’s – who has wrestled with an eating disorder to some extent.
“Women,” writes Dani Shugart, “are at war with food and their bodies.”
I remember when I was deep in the throes of my own eating disorder, I desperately wanted to understand what was going on and how to get better. Unfortunately I was living in a time and place where eating disorders were so prevalent that they were considered the norm, and my condition consequently went undiagnosed.
I wish many things had been different. I wish I could have learned much earlier that there was a better way to live, that I didn’t have to live in misery just to look a certain way. I wish I had resources readily available for me to seek help. I wish my friends and family had known how to recognize my problem and how to approach me about it.
I wish I could have saved me from myself.
Dani Shugart’s latest book, The Sound of Secrets, is about getting out of an eating disorder. Whether it be anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating disorder, or even orthorexia, Shugart’s words will help get you or a loved one out of the quicksand.
Available through Amazon, this book is an open-hearted account of the battle that Shugart’s sister faced before succumbing to anorexia one year ago, as well as the author’s own reflections.
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I hope you take the time to read this, if not for yourself, then for someone you love. At best, this will get you on the path to recovery, and it’ll help you understand yourself better. At worst, you’ll be prepared to lend a hand to someone else in the future.
You know me. I’m all about fighting the good fight against Ana and Mia and all their ugly cousins. Dani Shugart is, too.