Stephanie's Bulimia struggle
It's not every day you meet a beautiful, healthy twenty-two-year-old who is happily married and in a successful career with nothing but a bright, happy future ahead. This young woman is none other than my sister and my friend.
It wasn't always like this though. There was a time of hardship in my sister's life that affected our whole family. It all began in 2004 when my sister Stephanie was a teenager.
When you're a teenager you face trials and make mistakes. I watched my sister face a tough trial that affects 5% of teenage girls in Australia. Now she is ready to share her story in the hope to inspire young girls who may be facing a similar problem.
Stephanie had bulimia, a disease that involves binge eating and then making yourself throw up. The majority of people affected by this self-image-distorting disease are young girls.
"I was throwing up at any chance I could," says Stephanie. The disease had her wrapped around its little finger and she was unaware of the effect it was having on her body and the people around her.
As a teenager Stephanie was struggling with peer pressure and self-esteem issues. "I was finding it hard to find myself," she says. These are common teenage struggles and Stephanie fell into the trap of trying to conform to what she thought was the perfect image.
"I was constantly being bombarded with images of thin and beautiful, flawless girls which I saw everyday plastered on magazines, buses, billboards and TV."
At first nobody had noticed Stephanie's rapid weight loss because, as she says, "there are many websites out there that teach you how to hide it." She was very careful around mum and dad and would put several layers of thick clothing to hide her true self. Finally though, it wasn't hard to see what was happening, and over several counseling sessions and doctor's appointments Stephanie was diagnosed with bulimia.
Road to recovery
As a family we had to help Stephanie overcome her disease. We hid our bathroom scales from her because she was obsessed with weighing herself and she had reached sickeningly low weights that were extremely unhealthy for a 16-year-old. "I weighed myself at least three times a day," she says. We monitored her trips to the bathroom and she wasn't allowed to go to the toilet after meals, even if she actually needed to go.
Recovery was a huge struggle, but as friends and family supported her Stephanie slowly realised that starving herself wasn't the answer. "It's very sad," she says. "Bulimia affects someone so much physically and mentally. When I looked in the mirror I didn't see what everybody else saw. I thought I was bigger than I actually was. I was also feeling guilty and gross after eating something and thinking I'd get fat from eating something."
Together we tried to put our finger on one of the main influences on Stephanie that led to her developing bulimia. When I asked if media influences were an important factor in developing her illness, she replied confidently, "It does play an important factor. It did for me. I still struggle to look at magazines, and you definitely feel the pressure from the people in them."
This strongly suggests the way women are being portrayed in the media is dangerous because almost every image we see is digitally altered or enhanced in some way.
Looks don't define value
Now after six years Stephanie is a healthy role model to young women. She lives in her hew own house with her husband. The road was tough but now she is confident in herself and happy in her career choice, working as a national sales estimator with a company that manufactures sliding and collapsible doors and walls. She is sure of her goals and in the future would like to have a family of her own. No longer does she feel the need to fit in she is happy to be an example and stand out.
I asked Stephanie if, after experiencing bulimia she believes that looks define a person's value. "Looks don't define value," she says. "It's about who you are, your personality and what's inside. If I hadn't realised that I wouldn't be where I am today. We to need raise awareness of the horrors bulimia creates. The way it can ruin a life and a family is ridiculous and the media needs to re-evaluate the way it is influencing all these young beautiful, unique girls."
Words of advice
I asked Stephanie what words of advice she has for women out there comparing themselves to thin, unblemished women. "Learn to love your body and do the things that make YOU feel happy and healthy," Stephanie says. "Don't get caught up in magazines and the pressure to be unhealthy and skinny, because it's just not worth it."
If you are suffering from bulimia, you should know that there are people like you. You are not alone and you can turn your life around just like Stephanie. Just remember who you are.
Articles Written by Jordana
Reviews written by Jordana
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