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What I Learned From My Teenage Eating Disorder

By Renae Maua 3 min read

Sometimes, helping your daughter better appreciate her own beauty means being kind and gentle with yourself first.

Why do you exercise? Is it to get stronger, fitter, lose some weight—or do you exercise so you can eat more? I start with this question, for as women, if there is a deeper question to why you exercise or diet, then no amount of exercise or dieting will ever satisfy you. You have to face the question beneath the surface in order for you to find peace with yourself. Here is what I mean . . .

I was around 12 years old when I started to become obsessed with my weight and figure. Back then, one of my friends was bulimic and another would starve herself. I took the binge eating, starve myself and exercise approach to try and get the perfect body so I could be satisfied with myself.

What followed was a crazy cycle that kept me in chains. I would start by overeating the foods I loved. Then enormous guilt and disappointment in myself would set in. I would vomit up as much as I could. I would miss the next few meals and then go smash it out in the gym, until I had burned enough kilojoules. This continued for a number of years.

Looking back at my photos, I was not fat. I was just never happy or content with myself. The deeper question for me was, Am I perfect enough? I was not aware of this back then, but I was chasing perfection and therefore no amount of exercising or dieting would provide me with a self-image that would satisfy me.

The sad reality about eating disorders is that many who have them do not recover. In 2017, ABC News published an article titled “Anorexia nervosa: Australian health system ‘failing’ patients with eating disorders”. The article stated that “one in five patients with [anorexia nervosa] will die by suicide”. The Butterfly Foundation, an Australian organisation supporting those with eating disorders, noted that one million people in 2012 suffered from eating disorders and 64 per cent of those were women.

Eating disorders often arise from poor body image and this peaks in teenage years. I remember my dad saying to me when I was a teen, “Renae, your calves are looking really skinny.”

Rather than hearing the concern in my dad’s comment, I chose to hear it as a compliment, for I was always fat in my eyes. The dissatisfaction in my self-image still haunts me today. I still struggle to put the brakes on when it comes to yummy food. I eat when my mood is down or when I think I deserve a reward.

Now, desiring to look nice is not wrong, wanting to reach a goal, be it weight, fitness or toned muscles is not wrong. I am asking you to look deeper beneath the surface to ascertain the true motive behind your goals. If you discover a deeper reason, you may have unresolved issues that need confronting. Failing to confront these underlying reasons puts you on a path where no amount of exercising or dieting will ever be enough. If you have an eating disorder, I encourage you to go and talk to someone about it and free yourself from the chains of perfection, guilt and dissatisfaction.

The Bible says that God made women in His own image and that He was satisfied with what He created. With God and in God, we women are enough. So why are we letting this world rule our ideals? It’s time we stand together and learn to stand alone in God and be satisfied in who God made us to be. We owe it to ourselves and we need to own it for the sake of the next generation of women—our daughters.

My daughter Faith was in kindy when she came home one day saying she was fat while pinching her tummy.

I asked, “Why do you think you’re fat?”

She replied, “My friend said so.”

Faith’s friend at school had learned that being able to pinch one’s tummy indicated they were fat. She shared her knowledge with Faith and since my daughter could pinch her tummy, she concluded she was fat too. This broke my heart and it shocked me that this was happening at six years old.

I do not want my daughter battling with food and self-image like I do. I do not want my daughter telling herself she is fat when she is perfectly beautiful in how God made her. I do not want any of our daughters, future daughters or women in general to think they are not ever enough.

We need to accept, appreciate, respect and love ourselves as women. We need to encourage each other and never let our challenges drive us to silence. Let’s share our battles with each other so we can fight them together.

To be beautiful means to be satisfied with yourself. Beauty begins when you decide to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. For it is not what you are that will hold you back. It is what you think you are not that will.

So say these words out loud: Who I am is enough. What I do is enough. What I have is enough. Learn to embrace these words and you will grow to be satisfied with yourself, just as God is satisfied in who you are.


If you or someone you know needs help, contact:

Lifeline:  13 11 14 Australia | 0800 54 33 54 New Zealand

This article was first published on www.collegechurch.info.

Renae Maua and her husband Nimrod have five children aged between nine and 25. She loves to read, run and hang out with her kids.


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