When I developed an eating disorder, my only worry was that the people around me would notice how unhealthy I was and want to help me before I was ready to accept I had a problem. What happened instead was shocking and made it much harder for me to finally come to terms with my disorder and decide to get better on my own.
Guys gave me attention for the first time in my life.
All of a sudden, guys I’d always just been friends with started making meaningful eye contact, and a few of them asked me out. Guys I didn’t know started to approach me in bars and for the first time in my life, people told me I was beautiful.
Older women started complimenting my figure.
For some reason, elderly women were obsessed with my body. People my grandmother’s age would ask me how I managed to stay so fit and said they would’ve killed for a body like mine when they were my age. They seemed to think my obvious disorder was a badge of honor or proof of some kind of discipline rather than a psychological disorder.
Women my age asked for my diet.
Girls I barely knew started talking to me as if we’d known each other forever and asking for my diet. I had always envied their bodies and couldn’t believe girls who looked so confident and beautiful could want to change themselves one bit. To my surprise, these girls seemed almost as insecure in their bodies as I was.
I started getting catcalled on a regular basis.
For the first time in my life, I could hardly leave my apartment without some guy yelling something at me about my body. Whether it was that my butt looked nice, that I should smile more, or that my shorts made my legs look sexy, it was always something demeaning disguised as a compliment that they expected me to be grateful for. I was so insecure about my body that the last thing I wanted was to have attention called to it, especially that kind of attention.
I dated “hot” guys.
At first, all the new attention I was getting from guys was flattering and I let it affect my dating habits. I began to date “hot” guys who I’d always thought were out of my league. I quickly learned that they were only there for my body and that my vulnerability was convenient for them. They didn’t care who I was inside and knew they’d be able to use me without being asked for more. Because of this, all my relationships were lonely and short-lived, and I became a serial dater without a single fulfilling relationship for all three years of my eating disorder.
My friends drifted.
My girlfriends started talking about how great my body was, but they seemed distant. Whenever we were in our swimsuits at the beach or dressed up for a night out, they seemed to be uncomfortable. It became harder to spend time with them and they began to drift away from me. This was devastating because we’d all always been so comfortable around each other. All of a sudden, I felt like I was making them feel the physical insecurities that I never used to feel around them. We’d always been so supportive and genuine with each other, and now it felt like my secret disorder was tearing our friendship apart right when I needed it most.
The more compliments I got, the worse I felt.
Eventually, the more people who told me how great I looked, the more miserable and uncomfortable I felt. There were girls who wanted to look like me because they thought my appearance was effortless, but I knew that no one could look like me without developing a disease like mine, and this began to take its toll on me emotionally.
I started seeing myself differently.
Normally when you get compliments, you feel good about yourself. But very quickly after developing my eating disorder, I couldn’t stand being complimented on my body. I knew that what other people were seeing wasn’t me. I didn’t feel like myself inside; my body didn’t feel like it belonged to me anymore. Eventually, I didn’t even recognize myself in the mirror.
I changed my life.
In spite of the fact that people seemed to find me more attractive, my eating disorder made me feel more separate from my body than ever. I felt worse about my body than I ever had, and finally, I realized that I would do anything to feel confident in myself, even if it meant losing the approval of everyone else. I began to gain back the weight I’d lost, feeling like I was reclaiming myself with every added pound.
People reacted to the change, but not in the way I’d expected.
I thought that once I gained back the weight I’d lost, people would stop thinking I was attractive, but they didn’t. If anything, people complimented me more, but it wasn’t just about my body. Guys would approach me to tell me how beautiful my eyes were or that they couldn’t resist the way I laughed or smiled. I became myself again, inside and out. I stopped caring what other people thought, and not only was it liberating, but it seemed to be more attractive to other people as well. For the first time in my life, I felt beautiful, and it showed.
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