I Am More Than A Flat Belly


I was 17 years old when I first struggled with bulimia.

By then I had a boyfriend who used to be at the national swimming team and was, obviously, a very athletic person. I didn’t used to like doing any kind of physical activity: I avoided gym classes as much as I could in school, and never really liked any sport.

When I was a senior, my boyfriend began to encourage me to do exercises. I guess I felt kind of bad that he didn’t have a girlfriend as athletic as he was. I even got scared that he would dump me for being so lazy and not fitting into his lifestyle, so I got myself into a gym near my house.

During that year, I used to hang out with my group of school friends; there were five of us, all of us really pretty, but mostly really thin as well. I was the only one of of five who didn’t have a rocking body and I used to feel really uncomfortable when we went out. That year specifically, I found it a great idea to start dieting and doing a lot of exercise because it was THE year: senior trip, prom, and more.

One of the five friends used to run a lot. She apparently loved to exercise, and always paid a lot of attention to her body. We became really close that year and we would constantly talk about how much exercise we were doing, diets, ways to lose weight, laxatives, and so on. It was not until she stopped eating at school and started lying about it to us and her family that we talked about it and suspected something was wrong with her. 

Simultaneously, I developed unhealthy habits, consisting of binging and purging myself to lose weight because, unlike her, I didn’t have the “strength” to stop eating. 

Things got really bad for a few months after that. I had the pressure of our senior trip to Cancun on my shoulders, where there would be girls in bikinis everywhere and evil comments from others about each others’ bodies. In addition to the pressure of not gaining weight in order to look “stunning” on our small prom dresses, everything went down hill and it started to become obvious to everyone that both of us had an eating disorder.

By then, I had already bought my prom dress, but I still didn’t feel thin enough despite people’s comments. After we came back from Cancun, every kind of comments came up about our bodies. My parents and my boyfriend became aware of my disorder and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to confront people about it and was so scared of people judging me (specially because people tend to think that girls with eating disorders are just air heads who want to look skinny).

I was referred to a treating center for eating disorders. I had to go several times a week to talk with a psychiatrist, a psychologist and a nutritionist. It was really weird in the beginning to go there and see others who were clearly struggling with disorders as I was, and it was uncomfortable to sit in the meeting when they had to explain to my parents what bulimia was about, and what I was going through. I felt like I had disappointed them, because no parent would want a kid with such problems.

However, time by and I began to feel more comfortable about it. I was no longer in denial with those around me: my family, friends and boyfriend were aware of what was going on with me, and if it hadn’t been like that, I think I would have not been able to go through it by myself. Once I finished treatment, I referred my friend, who was dealing with anorexia, for her to get some help as well.

Eating disorders are not easy to deal with. Once you’re in it, and once you’ve reached bottom, it is when you realize how easy it was getting into it, but just how difficult it is to get out. The hardest part about the whole thing was the moment of accepting and deciding to get help. Once you’re able to do that, as wrong as everything might seem, there is nothing left but to get better and better step by step. No one says it will be easy, but it is an obstacle everyone can overcome.

Today, I’m 19 years old. I still hang out with my best friends from school. I have a boyfriend (not the same one). I’m in college. I live a pretty normal life. Two years after and looking back, looking pictures, and remembering everything that happened, I now know I’m a stronger person. I learned that sometimes our mind can play some ugly tricks on us, and most important of all, I learned to love myself. Today I’m sure that I don’t need to show my ribs, or torture myself with every bite with the foods I like in order for people to like me. I’m much more than a flat belly and an underweight girl. 

It was not easy, but it was possible. 

Ana Maria Hernandez | Miami, Fl | USA

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