reader report

I starved myself for 14 years

00:34, Feb 04 2013

While this is hard for me to talk about, I am hopeful that it may help some of you. It really hurts to see so many young women suffering.

When I was about eight years old I noticed that everyone around me was skinny, and tall. I was not. I was short and I was fat. At least that's how I felt. I know now that I was average height and I was slim.

I started (with some friends) exercising and watching what I ate, at age eight. Looking back this does shock me, but at the time it was normal. My mother was obsessed with her own weight. My parents had nicknamed me "chubby", which was apparently what my legs looked like as a baby. Of course, I took it to mean I was fat.

A friend of my parents once told me I used to be such a cute-looking kid, until I got fat. My grandmother told a friend that I was bigger, just a typical kiwi girl, and I would never be small.

It all stung, it all still stings more than ten years later. I am shaking as I type this.

My eating issues didn't begin in earnest until I was 10. Before that I was just obsessed with how I looked, I wasn't harming myself in order to look thin.


By age 10 I had a noticeable chest, more than most the girls at my age. I had decided by that point that to be worthwhile, I needed to be skinny. I started to throw away my lunch before school in the mornings. By lunch I would be starving and a friend of my would give me his apple. Occasionally, I would accept.

I started to isolate myself, slowly driving away my friends as I got older. My parents divorced during the summer before I started high school. I started to harm myself and I eventually got found out by friends who dobbed me in to the school counsellor, who rang my mum.

My mother told me, and I will never forget this, "I have too much going on right now for you to be doing this, you have to stop."

She never brought it up again. I continued, of course. I still was not eating breakfast or lunch, and I also started halving what I had for dinner. Occasionally I would binge. Binging probably kept me alive, to be honest.

We moved when I was 15 and I started to tell horrible lies to get my parents' attention. I regret it to this very day. I continued to starve myself and I started to get sick. I just felt tired all the time, and cold, always cold. My thick, wavy hair fell began to fall out and even now my hair is still so thin.

I started exercising again, running 5 kms a day if I could and cycling everywhere.

When I left high school and started university I was still not eating, but I had stopped harming myself. I had lost an aunt who was very dear to me the winter of my final year at high school, and I saw what my death would do to my grandmother.

At that point I couldn't really afford to eat well. I got $120 a week, and $110 of that went to rent. I lived on cheese and mayo sandwiches. I didn't really feel fat anymore.

By the time I moved in with my husband he knew enough to hate my mother, and be very, very concerned about my eating. When he was home, I would eat, but when he was away I went back to not eating - by now it was habit.

I got pregnant, and the first five months were torture. I got sick with hyperemesis gravidarum. I tried to eat, I honestly did, but the moment any food went in to my mouth I threw it back up. I ended up in hospital being fed through a tube.

I spent nearly half my pregnancy in hospital and by the time I stopped being so sick, I had lost 22.3 kgs. I was the lightest I had ever been, ironically, when I had been trying to eat properly. I put that back on by the end of my pregnancy and then lost it again when I breastfed my daughter.

As soon as I stopped breastfeeding I tended to get so caught up in my baby I would forget to eat and soon fell back in to my old habits. When my daughter was eight months old, I finally talked to my doctor about it.

It had been over fourteen years.

I didn't want my daughter and any other children I may have to grow up thinking that their mother fasting was normal, to think that they were fat, and that it wasn't okay for them to be so.

She drew me up an eating plan, she recommended therapy but knows that we can't really afford it.

I have good days and I have bad days. Mostly now I just try to eat three times a day. It doesn't matter what I eat as long as I do. It's a careful road. Because of how long I starved myself, my body puts everything on as fat. I started out with just half a piece of toast and a yoghurt, and then five spoonfuls of dinner. I slowly upped what I ate every few weeks.

I have been recovering for just less a year now. Most days I look in the mirror and think I'm disgusting and horrible.

But on Friday nights I go dancing and I come home feeling beautiful and bulletproof.

Good luck to everyone with daughters, sisters. Please don't let them turn out like me. 

The name has been withheld from this submission to protect the identity of the contributer and her family.