Eating disorders are a very serious issue in this country and around the world. Here are some alarming facts from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders:
- Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness
- Women are much more likely than men to develop an eating disorder. Only an estimated 5 to 15 percent of people with anorexia or bulimia are male.
- An estimated 2 to 5 percent of Americans experience binge-eating disorder in a 6-month period.
- About 50 percent of people who have had anorexia develop bulimia or bulimic patterns.
- 20% of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder, including suicide and heart problems.
Meet Kirsten. To look at her, you would never imagine such a stunning person would ever struggle with feelings of inadequacy. Kirsten is a long time friend of Whitney J’s and we had the pleasure of interviewing her about an issue that is HUGE in our society. Kirsten Czernek struggled for years with a very severe eating disorder and was able to find freedom. This is her story…
Why do you think you developed an eating disorder?
I believe that eating disorders are so multifaceted, so for me there were many contributing factors as to why I began struggling with anorexia. I was thirteen at the time and was undergoing a lot of changes.
My parents got divorced and we moved from New Jersey to Florida. This meant new school, new friends, and a new life. Looking back I know I felt really out of control and everything felt so chaotic. Throughout this time, I had gained some weight and decided that I wanted to lose it. It began with healthy goals and it was very innocent. Shortly after I shed the unwanted pounds, but it still did not seem like enough. I liked the results! I liked the attention! And I LOVED seeing that number go down! Finally something was going the way I wanted it to! [pullquote_right]And I LOVED seeing that number go down! Finally something was going the way I wanted it to! [/pullquote_right]
At this point I began to minimize my calories to where I was only taking in a few hundred a day (I tracked and obsessively wrote down everything!). I would weigh myself any chance I got. Lying became natural and I would make excuses to everyone as to why I was not eating. Diet pills and laxatives became the norm, while exercising to shed those few hundred calories a day became my greatest aspiration. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before my behaviors spiraled out of control. Weight loss and being “skinny” consumed my life.
What was your lowest point?
I remember the feeling of never being good enough in every sense. My self-esteem when down the drain. I strove for this unattainable perfectionism that was consuming my every thought and behavior. [pullquote_right]My weight began to reach scary levels[/pullquote_right] My weight began to reach scary levels and at some point I noticed I was not the one in control anymore. I could not stop.
How did you recover?
Recovery was not a one stop deal for me. There were so many layers and it has been quite the process. At eighteen years old, when I finally realized I could not get better on my own, I started to seek help (one of the most humbling times in my life). This landed me at Mercy Ministries in Louisiana.
Mercy is a Christian rehabilitation residential home for young women struggling with a variety of different problems and addictions. I went through the program for six months and encountered a life changing experience. It was the hardest but most rewarding six months of my life. The strongest impact it had on my life was in regards to my faith. I left there a new person, but still had to be extremely cautious not to slip into any old behaviors.
After Mercy I ate well and exercised but I was very careful to not allow myself to get above a certain weight. I still ate most things branded “fat free”, “sugar free”, and highly processed (yucky chemicals!!) and swore by the products!
About two years ago I started to do some research and learned a ton about eating clean. This prompted me to make some huge dietary changes and live a more “crunchy” lifestyle ! (as you ladies like to put it) Now I am WAY more concerned about how food is fueling my body and I always try to make choices with this in mind! I LOVE exercising and started going to Pure Barre classes, which is a mix of pilates, dance, and strength training (check it out!).
I have been out of Mercy for about eight years now and my life is completely different. [pullquote_left]I can honestly say that I do not struggle anymore[/pullquote_left] I can honestly say that I do not struggle anymore and have a really healthy and balanced outlook on life! I am so thankful to be on the other side but can easily sympathize for people who are not there yet.
What advice would you have for someone who is struggling right now?
Ask for help!!! You are not alone and your life does not have to be consumed by an eating disorder, if you make the steps to change it! Life is short and beautiful and it is so important to embrace as much of it as possible! Don’t waist anymore time! Don’t live in denial and make excuses, see the problem for what it is and do something about it! Sites like The Snap Mom are awesome because they offer so many healthy alternatives. Counseling is also an amazing tool (I am a little biased as a therapist) but it helped me so much through my recovery. Take it one step at a time and before long you will be able to look back and see how far you have come!
We want to thank Kirsten for sharing her story.