At 2 a.m., the nurse at Children’s Hospital came into my room on the fourth floor to see if I was alive. My heart rate had just fallen to 29 beats per minute. A normal heart beat should be at least 60 beats per minute. This was not the first or last night that anorexia almost took my life.
In two weeks, I would turn 21. For my birthday, I did not spend the night at the bar getting drunk or partying with my friends. Instead, I spent my birthday in bed on the fourth floor at Children’s Hospital in their eating disorder unit. All of this hell and misery was the result of a diet, a diet I started my freshman year because I had gained the dreaded “freshman 15.”
If you ran into me on campus, I would seem like any other junior studying political science. However, my life has not been normal, and the lessons I have had to learn almost cost me my life. Since my freshman year in college, I have battled an eating disorder. I have been hospitalized twice for heart problems; last summer, I spent four months at a treatment center. This disease has robbed me of my life. I am writing this because I want to share the pain and misery an eating disorder can cause. I want to share what I have learned in hope that I may prevent someone from going down the same deadly path that I have.
It’s impossible to go a day without seeing diet ads or commercials telling me to lose weight in order to feel great and be happy.
Unfortunately, I bought into the message that gaining weight was bad and that losing weight would make me happy. Ironically, the opposite has been true. Being thin and losing weight has been blown out of proportion in our culture. As women, it’s time we take a stand and stop buying into the myth the media has been feeding us for the past 20 years.
I am a strong believer in living a happy and healthy lifestyle, but I am afraid that many women do not understand the concept of a heathly lifestyle. It is not reaching a weight that a chart or doctor says one should be. It is not avoiding all unhealthy foods; it is not dragging oneself to the gym everyday to spend an hour of hell working out. A healthy lifestyle is loving one’s body and accepting it for all its imperfections. It is listening to one’s body and eating whatever it tells you to eat, even if it tells you that you need a piece of the triple-layer chocolate cake. Being healthy is moving your body, not to burn X number of calories, but to have fun and experience life.
I have met and heard of many women who get caught in the trap of trying to lose weight in order to be happy. Unfortunately, too often this results in health problems and even more misery. It is hard to love and accept one’s self when the world is full of ads and products that are telling me to lose weight in order to look better.
But it is still possible.
During my road to recovery from anorexia, I am learning that I am a beautiful person, even if I don’t meet the media’s standard of beauty. I am realizing how amazing my body is and all the different ways I can use it and have fun and enjoy life; my body is not just to burn calories. I am trying not to feel badly because I ate a piece of cheese or a fun-sized Snickers bar, a bagel or a piece of fruit.
Most importantly, I am learning to LOVE life and LIVE it without worrying about food and weight. I encourage women to stop listening to the media and start listening to their own bodies. Being happy and healthy are two very important things in a woman’s life; however, it’s not necessary to lose weight to be happy and healthy.
I encourage women who struggle with similar thoughts about their body and life to join me in this amazing new way of thinking and living. If you or somebody else you know is struggling with food, I encourage you to pursue help at the CSU Counseling Center (491-6053).
Shawnie Mulligan is a junior studying political science.