‘No one wants to be the loser kid in high school,’ Sophomore Brittany said as she went through her Facebook photo gallery. She said she wanted to be popular, so she began to focus a lot more on her appearance.
“All of the popular girls looked and acted the same,” she said. “They had skinny bodies and long hair. As a result they had a lot of friends and a lot of boyfriends. The only time a fat girl was popular was because she had a big personality to match.”Brittany said she had an eating disorder while she was in high school.
“I started when I was in the ninth grade,” she said. “I didn’t think it was a serious matter, but eventually it got worse.”Brittany said she started making small changes before she took drastic measures.
“I would start to eat better and take more care of my skin and nails,” she said. “But that wasn’t enough. I got a job during my sophomore year and spent a lot of money on clothes, make-up, diet pills and hair accessories. It was normal for me to go in a store and spend $100 on cosmetics.”
After watching TV shows such as America’s Next Top Model and reading magazines such as Elle and Vogue, Brittany said she was feeling insecure about her body.
“On America’s Next Top Model you would look at these skinny girls being critiqued about being too fat or gaining three pounds,” she said. “So when models are being called fat, you can’t help but to look at yourself and be like ‘well what am I?'”Brittany said she started throwing up her food once a week.
“I knew that I ate the most on Saturdays because I was at home all day,” she said. “So I would sleep in so that I didn’t eat breakfast and when I ate dinner I would just throw it up. I didn’t see any results right away, so I went from once a week to twice a week and so on.”
Brittany said she didn’t know she had a problem until she got to the point where she could throw up without eating anything.
“At first I would have to stick a pen or the handle of a toothbrush down my throat a couple of times in order for something small to come up,” she said. “After a few months it came naturally. I then started to throw up blood because I would try to purge without eating anything.”
Brittany said she lost 15 pounds during her sophomore and junior year.
“I lost a little weight, but it wasn’t enough for some reason,” she said. “That’s how I knew I had a problem. I didn’t tell anyone because it was my business, but I did slow down on the purging because I didn’t like the sick feeling I would get afterwards.”
ETMC First Physicians Clinic MD Stephanie Eijsink said people who have eating disorders have what is known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder.
“People with Body Dysmorphic Disorder don’t see the shape that they really are,” she said. “They could be totally normal but they see themselves as fat or obese. It’s as if they are in a form of denial and they are convinced that they are totally overweight.”Eijsink said there are different eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. She said anorexia is when you starve yourself and bulimics make themselves throw up.
“People with anorexia restrict themselves to what they eat and they are really compulsive about it,” she said. “Bulimia is more of a psychological eating disorder where people binge and then vomit. They overeat, and then convince themselves to get it out of their system. These eating disorders can become an obsession. And they are hidden very well.”
Eijsink said vomiting or taking laxatives gets rid of your sodium, potassium and magnesium. She said all of these things control the muscles including the heart.
“In my youth, there was a singer named Karen Carpenter,” she said. “She died in 1983 from anorexia. They didn’t know a whole lot about it at the time but she suffered from heart failure from chemical imbalance. It’s a tragedy. People who have eating disorders don’t know how serious it is.”
Adam, another sophomore, said he would also risk his health to get the perfect body.
“Guys who are more metro sexual do all of that throwing up and stuff,” he said. “I wanted to get bigger and have more muscles. It’s what intimidates other males and gets the females.”
Eijsink said she has had patients come in while they were on steroids. She said they take them to develop their muscles.
“I had a patient who was taking steroids come to me because he had begun to develop breasts,” she said. “The steroids were causing the production of more testosterone that was converted into estrogen. However, he didn’t want to quit the steroids. He wanted me to prescribe him Tamoxifen to counteract the breasts so that he could continue to take the steroids.”
Adam said he began taking steroids when he was 15 years old.
“My dad took them because he was a professional body builder,” he said. “He was always working out and going to competitions. Eventually I wanted to do the same thing so I started taking a few of his pills without him knowing.”
Adam said he was not aware of the dosage he would take. He said that eventually led to his addiction.
“I thought it was a muscle pill where the more you take the more juiced you get,” he said. “But the side effects became worse as time went on.”
Adam said he began to have mood swings that affected his family and relationships.
“I lashed out over small things and my girl friend broke up with me,” he said. “As much as I cared about how I was treating them, I also cared about my performance in sports such as football and wrestling.”
Adam said he would do anything for steroids, including purchasing them illegally.
“I would go online or go overseas during wrestling matches and purchase them on the black market,” he said. “I didn’t see them as being too bad because they served a purpose to me and that was to be successful. It’s not like weed where you get messed up for no reason.”
Adam said he continues to take steroids but has limited his dosage to what he feels is necessary.
“I’ll take a shot once a week or something like that,” he said. “I won’t stop taking them anytime soon. A lot of guys, including professional athletes, take steroids or some form of it; even if they don’t want to admit it. It’s the same as a diet pill but the only difference is that it works.”
Eijsink said steroids come in the form of pills, injections, patches and shots. She said steroids cause side effects such as high blood pressure, acne, depression and premature baldness.
“The left part of the heart can become overdeveloped,” she said. “Guys can also get testicular atrophy ,which means their testicles become small and don’t work. They can also have psychiatric effects such as mania (energetic), they can start seeing and hearing things, “roid rage” where they are easily frustrated and may attempt or commit suicide.”
Eijsink said the media is one of the causes of eating disorders.
“People are so immersed in the media and the materialistic world where they care more about what everyone looks like and not what they think,” she said. “No one should take steroids or have eating disorders, but you can’t just tell young people ‘no.’ The frontal lobe of your brain doesn’t mature until you’re 25 and that’s the decision-making part of your brain. So young adults are going to do whatever they want to do.”
Eijsink said that contacting a doctor would be the best thing to do if anyone suspects an eating disorder.
“Having eating disorders and taking steroids is a foolish thing to do,” she said. “It’s playing with your hormones and that’s a big part of how you think and act. If you know anyone who has an eating disorder or takes steroids do not leave them alone. Go with them to the doctor, hold their hand and be with them physically and spiritually.”