* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.Subhead: When high school student Yaritza Soto saw how her eating disorder was tearing her mother up, she committed herself to recovery. A version of this story was originally published on Proud2BMe (proud2bme.org). Byline: Yaritza Soto
Health student Yaritza Soto is happy to report she enjoys three meals a day – including hot dogs.
Credit: Courtesy of Yaritza Soto
(WOMENSENEWS)--In eighth grade the "popular girls" made me feel bad about myself and how I looked. Even eight years later I can remember all the bad things those girls did to me and how it made me feel. They would say, "Why do you wake up and come to school if you are so ugly and fat?" and tell me that I "should be embarrassed because I made my whole family look horrible." They pushed me around and told me to kill myself. They told everyone I had lice so no one would talk to me. They were so cruel. I never wanted to go to school because I was tired of all their criticism.
By the time I moved on to high school, their words still haunted me. I was insecure about the way I looked. My friends were skinnier than me. Feeling like the fat one in the group made me feel uncomfortable, like I was making them look bad. Soon I stopped eating. Once a day I allowed myself a piece of fruit but that was it. When people asked me why I wasn't eating, I told them I wasn't hungry. They would offer me food and I would say that I had already eaten or that I was already full but the truth was that I hadn't eaten all day.
I lied to my mom, family and friends. When I did it, I immediately regretted it. And no matter how much weight I lost I was always unhappy about how I looked because I was constantly reminded of the criticism from my past. Many people told me that I was perfect the way I was, but I didn't believe them. I was scared they were lying to me.
To turning point came in sophomore year. Instead of people teasing me because I was fat, all anyone could talk about was how skinny I was. People told me that I was too skinny but I never listened. I thought they just wanted me to become that fat girl from middle school and make fun of me again. Sometimes my cousin would joke around and say "stop being anorexic and eat" but little did he know that I was. I knew I needed help.
That's when I decided that my life had to change, but not to please others but to please myself, be happy and love myself.
I knew I was not going to be able to get over this by myself but I was scared to approach my mom. Was she going to get mad at me for lying to her all this time? Instead of making me feel weak and little, my mother saved me. She said she didn't want me to suffer anymore she wanted me to be happy. She cried when I told her about the bullying. It broke my heart to see her suffering with my pain.
A few days later my mom brought my whole family together with a few of my friends and they all told me how much they loved me. They shared their concern that what I was doing to myself could kill me. They said they wanted to see me happy and love myself. The intervention was hard for my mom. She didn't understand how I could do this to myself. She thought it was all her fault.
Desire to Change
Seeing how helpless this was on my mother made me want to be a better person for her. It was a struggle but with my mother by my side 24/7 I was committed to recovery.
At first it was hard to eat a full meal, even with my mother sitting at the table with me telling me how beautiful and wonderful I was. My stomach had gotten use to me eating so little that I could not eat as much as I should have. My mother made me my favorite foods in small portion sizes and every week she'd add a little more food. She made me sit in front of a mirror and helped me learn to see how beautiful I was. Gradually, I changed the way I saw myself. It happened slowly and it took a lot of work.
We didn't do it alone. My mom made sure I had a doctor and a therapist to keep me on the right track. I learned that people's words could only hurt if you let them. I learned how to become a new person who was happy with myself, no matter how I looked.
Now I eat every day, three times a day with a snack in between. I exercise daily and feel great. Yes, sometimes I still want to lose a few pounds but now I know the right way to do it. I also learned that we are never as alone as we think we are. We need family and friends to guide us through the tough times. If it wasn't for my mom, who knows how my life would be today?
This story is part of Teen Voices at Women's eNews. In 2013 Women's eNews retained the 25-year-old magazine Teen Voices to continue and further its mission to improve the world for female teens through media. Teen Voices at Women's eNews provides online stories and commentary about issues directly affecting female teens around the world, serving as an outlet for young women to share their experiences and views.
Yaritza Soto, 21, is a health administration senior at California State University, Northridge.
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