At Age 12 I Started Starving Myself

anorexia1By Iliana Revuelta

I’ve never been a size 0 girl.

As a kid I was bullied for being overweight, and every night I cried myself to sleep.

My parents were busy raising my two baby sisters, so I was left to raise myself. Without guidance I read magazine articles on how to lose weight.

When I turned 12 I began starving myself. I ate maybe one meal a day. Or none. And added crazy exercise routines to my crazy diet.

At family gatherings I ate very little, or watched other people enjoy their delicious food.

I began to hate food. If I ate I felt like the worst human being — who should be punished with an extra mile of running.

My weight went down. And unfortunately, so did my metabolism.

By the time I got to high school I was small, but still thought I was too big. I had rounded hips but wanted to look like the starving girls on Photoshopped billboards.

When I got a boyfriend I tried to keep my unhealthy relationship with food a secret. And when we broke up I blamed my weight and starved myself for months, until I got to be the smallest I had ever been.

But when I graduated from high school and moved out of my parents’ house I went to the other extreme. I was working like crazy to survive, and felt so empty inside that I began binge eating to fill the void — in another manifestation of my unhealthy relationship with food.

But two years ago I decided to take control of my life, helped in part by the examples of other women who have developed healthy relationships with their bodies, like Amy Schumer, UFC fighter Rhonda Rousey, and former Disney star Demi Lovato.

I have finally learned to love my body. I’ve joined a gym and I’ve also regained a love for food. I now eat healthfully and guilt free.

I also wake up with purpose and a reason to live.

I have worked very hard to get here and still have a ways to go, but I am mentally and physically stronger than I have ever been.

Young women too often fall into the trap of putting all of our energy into our appearance and forget about the other things we have to offer the world. Being obsessed and unsatisfied with our appearance leaves us missing out on a lot of opportunities for success and happiness.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on October 19, 2016, in body image and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 37 Comments.

  1. I feel that a lot of women and young girls fall victim to the unrealistic beauty standards that have been given for decades, perhaps even centuries. In today’s age, American women are pictured in advertisements to be thin, with a flat stomach, either small or larger breasts, skinny legs with a “thigh gap” in between, and collar bones that stick out. Even so, I think beauty standards are starting to change. People such as Meghan Trainor and Demi Lovato have been standing up for women and believe that their bodies should not fall victim to Photoshop, where their bodies are made smaller, a lot of the time, without their permission. Even younger spokespersons such as Zendaya have made complaints and have shown the differences between her actual body, and the Photoshopped images that people see in magazines. It is starting to become normal for women to want a curvier body such as Nicki Minaj’s or Kim Kardashians. They all aim for the “big butt” that Sir-Mix-A-Lot loves and cannot lie about. New diet plans and workouts come out monthly and make people believe that they can change for the better. Personally, I have fallen victim to the “norms” of society and wanted to feel thin as well, even though I wasn’t “fat”. I thought people would like me more, and I starved myself on and off for about three years now, but with support from loved ones, I have learned to appreciate my body how it is and have been working hard on being healthier by working out to make myself stronger. You are beautiful any way that you are, you just need to find that confidence in yourself.

  2. Why does society establish the theory that thin women is the best of beauties? I believes healthy figure is the best. A few years ago, I saw a c runway of certain brand and designers said the theme of this year is strength or powerful. It was really strange that a skinny model who looks like anorexia was wearing a cloth which theme is powerful on a runway. And I have read one article about a model who struggled with anorexia. She said “When I became a model and decided to walk on a runway in Paris, my agent said the trend of this year was anorexia. So I stopped eating.” No one doesn’t know anorexia is not a trend of fashion but an illness.

  3. Sometimes it seems impossible for a woman to grow up in the west without acquiring some sort of tangled/abusive relationship with food, body dysmorphia, eating disorders etc. It’s a heavy thought, and one of impotent anger, since I never know what I could possibly say to help. So thank you for this post, since it reminds me/us that developing these issues doesn’t mean living under them forever. And maybe next time I don’t know what to say, I’ll just link to here.

  4. This post really hit home for me. I was thinking the same thing as the author of this post whenever I looked in the mirror after I had my first child. There was pressure from everywhere to try to live up to the perfect 21st century mommy image of society. Living up to what is portrayed through TV, magazine ads and really everywhere we turn our heads to is mentally and physically tiring. As young women we are so vulnerable and fall into an obsession of being thin and lean with the beautiful long shiny hair, the perfect high cheek bones, the small shoulders. Living my life holding a full-time job, being an attentive wife, and a caring mother all while trying to look good according to other people’s standards took a toll on me . It was not until I reached a breaking point and saw how sick I was and how thinned out and pale I looked that I realized how much damage I was doing to myself. Although I wish I could help other woman that could be in the same situation I was I know that sometimes we have to hit rock bottom in order to realize how much help we need. The most important piece to this puzzle is having a very close support group of family and friends, that’s what makes the difference.

  5. I have dealt with this exact situation myself. Seemingly enough, it’s actually fairly common that (mainly) girls deal with this unhealthy way of seeing themselves, and it’s all around the same age. I was a chubby kid, but I wasn’t huge; I felt huge. When you’re young and beginning to enter your teenage years, you look around to T.V. shows or magazines and you see “teens” that have been caked in makeup and done up by the best stylists in Hollywood; it makes you wonder why you don’t look like that. And we KNOW that it isn’t real. We’ve heard it a million times, “it’s photoshopped” or “they don’t look like that in person”, however we can’t seem to wrap our minds around that fact. They look so real, and so beautiful to someone who is already struggling with finding out exactly who they are supposed to be. Thank God for the role models we have in our personal lives (i.e. parents, teachers, older friends) that love and support us as we struggle to learn how to view ourselves in a healthy way and thus let ourselves develop into a healthy adult.

  6. Elizabeth Maher

    Your examples of women who have positive relationships with their bodies show three different ways in which women can have a healthy look at the mirror. Rhonda Roussey’s body is powerful, but her image as a sexual being (in society’s eyes) is of little consequence to her. She has even mentioned in interviews that sex before a fight is used as an advantage http://www.gq.com/story/why-ronda-rousey-has-as-much-sex-as-possible-before-a-fight. So she does not even allow the slut shaming to have any consequence to her. She judges herself as a fighter, and not as a sexual being. Sex is useful and important to her, but not as someone else’s tool with which to be judged.

    Amy Schumer uses her body image for her comedy routine where she also openly speaks about her sexual adventures and misadventures. She manages to be a positive role model even if that role modeling is not exactly PG. I do not necessarily agree that self deprecating comedy is a good way to deal with body image issues, but her honesty in interviews http://www.today.com/series/secrets-of-success/amy-schumer-gets-emotional-talking-about-body-image-empowerment-today-t50611 will help others look at themselves in a more positive light, especially for girls who have body image issues.

    Demi Lovato did what many Americans are afraid to do just for their own psychological issues, she sought out professional help. In seeking professional help, she told the world that it is okay to need someone else’s help, especially when it came to issues with their body. Too many people are afraid to even admit they have these issues. In the same way that men have to bottle up their emotions, women have to suppress the idea that they might not view themselves positively. We are all expected to be strong powerful women with nothing wrong. She can be strong and proud of her body while still admitting that she needs help. This can go a long way in helping young women realize that there is nothing wrong with their body and can also help those admit to themselves that they have a problem.
    http://people.com/bodies/demi-lovato-on-body-image-bulimia-and-drug-use/

  7. This article is very sad yet very true. These days, growing up for kids can be very hard. A lot of kids are starting to bully when they are young. When this happens, kids self esteem lowers and they start thinking negatively about themselves. Some kids can take this and they go home and talk to their parents, peers, or teachers about what is happening but some kids do not have that support system and try to take it into their own hands. This can result in kids having eating disorders, starting fights and getting into other trouble like hanging out with the wrong crowds, doing drugs and even going back to the schools with guns. We have been seeing to much of this happen and it is not okay. As kids get older, especially women, they start going through puberty and other things develop. A lot of girls now are also wearing makeup and trying to look older too. This makes the girls feel like they aren’t pretty enough.

    I am glad that there is a lot of celebrities standing up the cause now as it is getting very bad. A lot of little women tend to watch tv and listen to radio stations so when a celebrity is standing their ground or singing about how they need to feel pretty in their own skin, they are saving a lot of girls. These celebrities have more impact than I think they will ever know. I also think that that is not enough. I think schools need to make sure they touch on these subjects and also listen to kids when they say there are getting bullied. Most times, school do not listen or do not have a strict enough policy on it and then bullies get away with it and keep doing it.

  8. Unfortunately, I know this struggle all too well. Luckily, I was able to appreciate my body before I feel deep into depression. Ever since early in middle school, I have thought I was overweight. I look back at pictures and think “wow, I was not fat at all”. I would never wear a bikini. Even when I was a size 5. I would always by clothes too big to hide my body. I felt so self-conscious. I know now it was all psychological. But why? I think we are so fascinated with what we see on television and social media that it makes us think that is what is a normal figure should be. Young girls are so pressured to be perfect that they lose sight of their natural beauty. Parents have to pay a lot of attention to their young daughters and watch for signs of anorexia, bulimia, and depression. It’s important to remind young girls of their beauty and help them live a healthy life style.

  9. In our society, women are pressured to adhere to certain beauty standards. Everywhere we look, in movies, TV shows, and magazines, women are very thin, sometimes to an unrealistic extent. Even naturally thin women are apparently not thin enough, and photoshop is used to make them even thinner. It’s as if women are expected to disappear. They’re pressured to be small and thin, and to take up as little space as possible. This obviously has a very damaging and negative affect on women’s mind sets, and how they view themselves.

    When being thin is idealized to such a great extent, and thin women are mostly all you see in the media (larger women, when they are included, seem to often be used for comedic relief, which isn’t good representation), it begins to wear you down and lower your self-esteem. Low self-esteem leads to self hate, which can result in very harmful practices, such as starving one’s self. Thankfully, however, times are changing, and there does seem to be an improvement in terms of body positivity. It’s not enough yet, by any means, but there is more positive representation for larger women, and this can help to change people’s mindsets. Celebrities speaking out against fat shaming and promoting body positivity are also a huge help. For instance, Amy Schumer, who has developed a healthy relationship with her body as you stated in your post, helps to inspire girls to love themselves.

    I am very glad you have learned to love your body, and am now at a place where you feel you are healthy both mentally and physically.

  10. vanessa velazquez

    All it took was the first sentence to know this post was going to relate to me so much. Yeah, like I have never been a skinny girl, or so I thought because about 4 years ago, I swore I was seriously overweight. I came across some pictures just recently and now I wish I could have the body I had then. Its crazy how our eyes can fool us. For example, the names listed above like Demi Lovato, Amy Schumer and Rhonda Rousey all have beautiful bodies, but they do not see it. Didn’t realize it was such a common problem amongst women, thought I was alone.

  11. I was feeling so bad for the girl while reading. Glad that she finally was able to take over her life and learnt to love her body, whatever shape it might be…

  12. Its a shame girls feel the pressure to look like the women they see in magazines, and little do they know that all of those pictures have been edited. I struggled with the same issue in middle school when people would make fun of me for being different. According to the girls around me i was over weight. I began losing only to find myself unhappy with my weight, in the end i decided to say “screw you” to those girls and do what would make me happy. I gained the weight back and never looked back. I think society has actually been getting better of promoting beauty in full-sized women.

  13. Great article Ms. Platts! Though this wasn’t much of an issue for me when I was 12, I have many friends who went through the exact same thing on the article. I would most certainly say that at an early age, society has already placed so much pressure (on girls especially) to conform to the beauty ideals of society. Though some may regard this to be just a “phase” in life, I would say that this is an issue that shouldn’t be taken lightly at all. I think that we should accept all body types instead of setting a “standard” in beauty. The last thing I would ever want to hear is this issue becoming even more problematic as I age through life.

    • Men are increasingly having this problem, too, now that we are objectifying the male body more. I look at some of these guys where they have a lot of muscle but almost no body fat and hope they are starving themselves

  14. I think the worst part of this weight thing is when girls are younger they are skinner than they think themselves to be.I remember thinking that I was so big my sophomore year of high school and had the fattest arms. Now, I look back at pictures and realize how skinny I was! I literally weighed twenty pounds less four years later and just wish I had appreciated myself more. Now, even though our society is shifting to liking curvy girls, it worries me because not many women have these naturally curvaceous figures like Kim Kardashian. It’s just always about idealizing and aspiring to look like women who are not realistic and that’s that saddest part.

  15. I think society does play a big role in lowering self esteem due to the fact that they are always portraying the perfect body by representing beauty as being thin. Magazines are always portraying thin, models and always including ways to lose weight. Like many teenagers, they look up to their favorite role models whether it’s an artist, model or singer, and simply want to look like them. I think that’s a main problem, some people are just so fixated on looking like others that sometimes they don’t realize what they are putting their bodies through. I know what it is like to want to look like others simply to “fit in” or to feel “pretty.” Like many, I have had my share of problems with food and they way I look because I was never happy with my body and at some point I starting eating less and hiding it from my mom always saying “I just ate” or “I was full” when clearly I wasn’t. But I think in the end, I stayed away from magazines and started realizing that it wasn’t healthy. Also having good friends helped me understand I wasn’t alone. No one is.

  16. Sad but true. A lot of girls go through this struggle. I have always struggled with my weight, but I learned to not care what others think. I think society has a lot to do with this situation of women struggling with their bodies. We are always watching skinny super models and actresses that fit that beautiful standard. We have been pushed to see that whatever we see on the media is the norm and the correct way to look. It definitely sucks, because it pushes poor girls to be unhealthy and harm themselves. I think if we did not have a “weight” beauty standard, there would not be beautiful women fighting for “plus sized” to become a norm. If we were able to see more “plus sized” women in media, girls would not feel the need to starve themselves.

  17. This post definitely hit home as I read it. I think that the idea of starvation and anorexia needs to be talked about more and taken more seriously. Struggling with body issues is such a common issue in girls lives. I feel that every girl could relate to having some sort of insecurity that relates to how they look. Coming from someone who has grown up struggling with her body, I can imagine how hard it is to struggle with weight and also having to doing it on your own. I feel that we as a society need to emphasize how dangerous this issue is, and try to create a new social norm. Today, we are use to seeing stick figure models and are trying to look and become them when today, the US has the highest obesity rate. We should be looking to find a new style and norm that will be healthy and not be unrealistic in our society.

  18. “Being obsessed and unsatisfied with our appearance leaves us missing out on a lot of opportunities for success and happiness.”

    Being unsatisfied with your appearance also leads you to take action so that you don’t miss out on a lot of opportunities for success and happiness. In this day and age more people are erring on the side of being obese rather than too thin, or at least unhealthily fat, which will kill you, and in the mean time you’ll feel lethargic. Don’t too easily dismiss the benefits of obsessing over your weight.

    • Obsessing over your weight isn’t a good way to lose weight. It tends to make people gain weight.

      I didn’t approve the comment you wrote to one of my students because it seemed intended to harm self esteem of young women, who are expected to meet impossible beauty ideals.

      I’m wondering why that is. Hurt people hurt people. Maybe trying to make others feel bad makes you feel superior in the moment but it doesn’t get to the root problem. Why not explore and rectify the root problem? You have some good qualities as I can tell from some of your posts that actually make a good point.

  19. That type of diet and exercise at the age of 12 is insanely unhealthy and dangerous. I believe female’s presentation to reality is a difficult process. Revuelta faced the “normal” hardships females face in school like starvation, low self-esteem, and bullying. I find it crazy how serious females take extreme measures so that they can feel accepted to society. Females like Revuelta should never experience that type of hardships. I am relieved that Revuelta got out of her situation and moved forward to a better quality of life. I agree with her when she stated that girls fall into the trap of looks because girls look up to beautiful figures as role models. It is sad that those girls do not know the truth behind the life of a model.

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