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When Good Becomes Bad

by Michelle Sadowitz

Each one of us struggles with something.

Whether it is a situational, physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional struggle, we all have, will, or may even be currently facing them.

My struggle was anorexia.

Between ages 14 and 17 was when this struggle was taking place. Initially, I just wanted to get in better shape and eat healthier foods. These are good things in and of themselves, but as time went on, good intentions and good habits became extreme - good became bad. 

I grew up in Japan, and I was always very aware (or maybe just convinced myself) that I was a bit bigger than other kids. Japanese people were overall shorter and thinner and that is something that I always thought about. Maybe I wanted to fit in a little bit in some way. This was just a small factor in the struggles to come. I was terrified of being anything close to chubby, so I wanted to be the farthest thing from that. Being fit and muscular wasn’t even cutting it and I focused on numbers more than I should have.

Seeing the numbers drop on the scale made me feel accomplished and I began to unnecessarily challenge myself.  Questions I asked myself all the time were things like, “How long can I go without eating?”, “How much can I exercise in one day?”, “How can I avoid eating?”, “Where and when will I be able to exercise today?” I became obsessed and people around me began to notice and say things to me about it. But of course I didn’t see myself as being skinny or unhealthy; I was eating healthy foods and exercising for goodness sake!

My body changed a lot and it wasn’t good, but I never saw that. I was somehow twisted in my thinking; I was fine being able to see every one of my ribs and every notch on my spine, I was happy when I could wrap my hands around my thighs without my hands touching them! 

5’3 and 86lbs and 17 years old - great combination right?

That was the lowest point for me on the scale. I would lie about my weight all the time. I would fiddle with the scale, wear wet clothes, have rocks in my pockets, and drink tons of water anytime doctors or my parents asked me to get on the scale. I knew all the tricks. I didn’t understand why everyone was so concerned about what I looked like because I thought I was in control. I just wanted people to stop questioning me. 

The effect this had on my body overtime was less than ideal: I stopped menstruating for 3 and ½ years, I was always tired and lethargic, apathetic, anemic, I had dry yellow skin, my vision would often go blurry and even black at times - but I ignored all of that. And I refused help from anyone because I didn’t think I had a problem. 

My family would have conversations with me all the time. They tried to make me eat more or gain weight and I was just so stubborn and scared of gaining any weight at all. They eventually told me that if I wanted to go to America for college than I had to start gaining weight and if I couldn’t then I would have to stay and get help. That ultimatum made me gain some weight along with the help of my tricks, and I came back to America. I hated that I had gained some weight and I felt terrible. I did not want to “get better” but I began to realize some things. I saw and felt my physical health going back to normal. People said I looked good with a few more pounds on me. They told me they were praying for me, and my siblings told me they were glad I was gaining weight because they were worried I was starving myself to death.

I didn’t realize this is what people had been thinking of me. I was so caught up in myself, that honestly I had become a very selfish person. I began to see how my actions had been affecting other people around me and it wasn’t good. Once you are malnourished, your body just does not function normally and it does affect your brain. My perspective and what I thought was reality was not reality. But the choices I made in the early stages led to the full fledged struggle of anorexia. 

I finally just had a choice to make: do I want to actually be healthy or do I want to slowly kill myself?  Do I want to keep hurting people around me or do I want to improve and do the right thing? It was hard to get over numbers and making myself eat more. I felt like I was letting myself go. And that was because I had missed what being healthy was all about in the first place. 

It’s not about numbers or comparing yourself to other people. It’s not about depriving yourself of food or all about aesthetics. So everyone, stop telling yourself lies, and stop deceiving yourself. Maybe you think you're healthy enough because you don’t look like that person over there, or maybe you think you are too fat and just need to keep dropping the pounds, maybe you think that you can control what you eat but you are actually overweight. Whatever it is, take a second and evaluate yourself.

Pursuing physical health through exercise and having a balanced diet is great. We only have one body so why wouldn’t we want it to function at its best? That is what health is about. Remember that. 

If I am honest, there are days where I forget that and I want to go back to my anorexic days, I don’t want to eat and I want to fall back into bad habits. But then I remember the damage it caused once before and how I don’t want to let my struggle define me or control me.

I hope that I can help other people who struggle see the truth, encourage them and help them take the steps they need to pursue a healthy lifestyle and improve themselves.

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