A 20-year-old’s difficult but worthwhile battle with eating disorders
Overcoming bullying and her insecurities, Jasmine is now happier, healthier and an aspiring baker.
I wasn’t even happy when I weighed just 33kg. I wanted to hit 28kg.
Those were the words of 20-year-old Jasmine (not her real name), who was diagnosed with severe anorexia at 19. Her unhealthy eating habits began when she was 17, when she started to search online on how to lose weight.
“I only ate food I considered was healthy and clean, and made sure I didn’t eat any chocolate or snacks. I then started to restrict myself, not eating for long periods of time, (basically) starving myself,” she shared with Youthopia.
“If my parents bought me food, I would throw it away when they weren’t looking. I also exercised excessively, swimming for three hours everyday and walking a lot, even under the hot sun.”
Jasmine’s battle with anorexia might have started when she was in Primary school. As a middle child, she felt uncared for and unloved by her parents. She also constantly compared herself to her sister, whom she thought was skinnier and prettier.
At 11, she found herself in envy of her schoolmates who had skinnier legs.
Jasmine said: “I felt so fat… like I was occupying too much space. I thought that maybe if I was prettier, my parents and friends would love me more.”
It got worse for Jasmine when she entered polytechnic at 17. Jasmine did not enjoy the nursing course she was enrolled in and as a way of coping with her stress, she used starvation as an outlet.
The bullying she faced from her classmates in her second year of polytechnic exacerbated her problems. They insensitively asked about her frail appearance and made snide comments such as “putting a tube in (her) and force feeding (her) milk” to make her gain weight.
Because of her gaunt appearance, Jasmine often got left out by her classmates who also made things hard for her during hospital attachments.
It got to the point where Jasmine would feel guilty for even eating a slice of cake.
Jasmine recalled: “I felt like I had to do something to lose that weight. So, the more bones popped up, the happier I was. I felt happy if I had a thigh gap or saw my bones sticking out of my neck and arms.”
Jasmine lost a whopping 16kg in just three years and weighed just 32kg at 19. She grew quieter, the worry of eating too much constantly on her mind. When gastric wasn’t hindering her sleep, nightmares would plague her every night. Her period also stopped coming for three whole years, but visiting the doctor never came to her mind.
In Jan 2020, Jasmine was out for her stroll one day when she had suicidal thoughts. She felt the urge to kill herself when she got home and that was when her mother realised something was amiss.
“I didn’t know what to say. My whole body started shaking like crazy and I began shouting for help. I kept crying and screaming because I was exhausted. But my mum hugged and prayed for me which helped me calm down. She even called a pastor,” Jasmine shared.
Jasmine was eventually sent to the National University Hospital and warded into a psychiatric ward.
“Despite all this, nothing motivated me to recover then… no matter how scary everything was,” Jasmine said, with a tinge of regret.
Recovery is an arduous process that takes time and time was what Jasmine needed on the road to recovery.
She also discovered a passion for baking, which helped her in the recovery process.
“I realised my love for food when I wasn’t focusing on the calories it had. I especially enjoy eating pastries and desserts, so it’s only natural to want to learn how to make it,” Jasmine cheerfully said.
“I came to terms that if I wanted to have the energy to do things I liked, I had to get well. If I didn’t want to be warded again or forced to take milk supplements, I have to eat. My friends would also accompany me for meals which motivated me to eat more.”
Jasmine also credited her mum as her “biggest support”.
“She would listen to me cry and rant, and encourage me to eat. She would even accompany me to eat stuff that she doesn’t like, as she prefers (traditional) Chinese dishes while I like pastries and cakes.”
The recovery process wasn’t smooth sailing though. There were moments where Jasmine slid back into her old habits.
As she binge ate trying to gain back weight, there were times when she would feel guilty and swam excessively to lose those weight again. The negative thoughts would return too, and she felt uncomfortable not skipping meals.
Thankfully, the love and support surrounding her helped her to power through it. Now weighing a much healthier 46kg, Jasmine’s learned to accept her weight gain. She also harbours hope of becoming a baker.
While Jasmine still faces body image issues and cares about how others view her, it does not affect her greatly.
Jasmine said: “It’s hard to tell someone with eating disorders to just get over it. Don’t ask them to eat more or gain weight because they know what to do and how to get well. The problem is that they just don’t want to. You need to be there for them. If they want to cry, let them channel out their emotions.
“It’s tough but I believe everyone (facing it) will recover one day. Find your passion and remind yourself that you need energy to do that. You can recover and reach your goals.”
Learn to manage your emotions better during these unprecedented times by ‘Braving The New’.