Michelle* starves herself and abuses laxatives most days, because she feels pressured to look good next to her high-powered husband of two years. Yet he has no clue what she’s going through. The 34-year-old, who works in communications, opens up about the secret she’s been hiding for two decades.
“My wedding to Derrick* was one of the happiest occasions of my life. More than 100 close friends and relatives were in attendance, and I was head over heels in love. Derrick and I had dated for 2.5 years; he was the smartest, handsomest and most caring man I’d ever come across, and I was overjoyed to finally call him my husband.
I met Derrick at a work event. He works in the F&B industry, and he’d shown up at a party organised by my company. We clicked right away and hung out as friends for a few months before taking our relationship further.
While Derrick and I were close, there was one thing he did not – and still doesn’t – know about me: I have an eating disorder. It’s hard to imagine how he could miss a problem as serious as that, but I keep it pretty well hidden. In fact, if you asked him now whether or not I ate at our wedding dinner, he would probably say ‘yes’, but the truth is that with the exception of a piece of our wedding cake, which he fed to me, I made it a point not to consume a single morsel of food that night. Actually, I doubt if anyone noticed that I skipped the buffet table, because they were all too busy talking, dancing and having fun.
DECADES- LONG PROBLEM WITH FOOD AND WEIGHT
My struggle with an eating disorder began when I was 14 years old. Like most girls my age, I was conscious about my looks and equated being slim with being desirable to the opposite sex. I was a little on the chubby side, so I resorted to skipping meals whenever I could, or replacing some meals with milk. My parents didn’t know about my ‘tricks’ because they worked long hours and left me to sort out my own meals.
Within weeks, the extra kilos I was carrying disappeared, and soon, everyone was commenting on how good I looked. In an effort to stay that way, I continued my weightloss ‘plan’ all the way through junior college. During this time I managed to maintain my leanness, but nobody, not even my parents, suspected that I had a problem, because I was physically active in school – I did a lot of sports. I was also at that age when you start to shed ‘puppy fat ’ and experience a change in body shape. Most of my friends were weight-conscious as well, so whenever we hung out we would share meals, which made eating very little relatively easy.
I discovered laxatives in my first year at university. I was eating out and going to a lot of parties then, so I was consuming more calories than I was used to. I loved the feeling of lightness that the laxatives gave me, and by my third year, I was taking up to six laxatives a day, two or three days a week. I also joined one of the university sports teams and began exercising more in the hope that it would keep me toned. By that stage, my battle no longer had anything to do with competing with my friends or attracting a guy’s attention, and everything to do with maintaining a sense of control over my body.
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