I Couldn't Stop Dieting

My fears of inadequacy were fueling an obsession with thinness—and destroying my marriage.

Iam solely responsible for the destruction of my marriage. I stared at the words I'd written in my journal and felt the sting of tears. After five years of marriage, Stan* would leave me. I'd be alone with my scale, my exercise, and my calorie-counting. It served me right—didn't I love my addiction to thinness more than I loved my husband?

Stan and I had met 10 years earlier while teaching at the same Christian high school. I'd been frighteningly thin, but Stan had ignored my emaciated appearance and befriended the person inside. He was a good friend, someone safe with whom I could talk. Early in our friendship, I told him about my history of anorexia, my two hospitalizations for the disorder, and the years I'd spent in therapy trying to get well. He was kind and understanding. Still, I couldn't bring myself to reveal the whole truth—that a childhood of verbal and sexual abuse had led not only to anorexia, but rebellion and promiscuity. Though I knew Stan cared for me, a little voice in my head insisted I wasn't good enough for him, and that I'd eventually lose him.

We began dating exclusively, and with Stan's loving support, anorexia seemed to loosen its hold over my life. I prayed that one day I'd be completely free of it, that it would be nothing but a disturbing memory.

Letting go of the disorder that had become nearly my whole identity was a frightening prospect. How would I deal with all my worries?

By the time he proposed three years later, I'd gained nearly 20 pounds. My gaunt face and body had become muscular and healthy, and my counselor assured me that I'd progressed to the point of no longer needing therapy. Soon, Stan and I were married.

Several months after our wedding, as I was striving to be the "perfect" wife, the anorexia re-emerged. Though I'd prepare hearty meals for Stan, I carefully restricted what I ate, panicking any time I hadn't exercised "enough." Stan's career change only added to the stress, and my weight, the only thing I could control completely, slowly began to drop.

As I started to wear baggier clothes to hide my weight loss from Stan, I knew I was treading into dangerous territory. "God, heal me," I pleaded. "Keep me from this distorted thinking." Feelings of guilt enveloped me; I felt sure this weakness was all my fault.

One day Stan caught me changing clothes and saw my thin frame that was beginning to resemble a pre-adolescent's. "Why are you doing this?" Stan asked me. "I married a warm, laughing woman. You're acting like a child; all you can think about is yourself and what you want. You're even beginning to look like a child!"

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Diet; Eating disorders; Food; Health; Marriage
Today's Christian Woman, Summer, 2005
Posted September 12, 2008

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