By Bayley Patterson
Heather Peters, class of 2006, went through eating disorders, anorexia and bulimia, at a very young age. Peters always thought she was overweight as a child, and her thoughts grew to become a bigger problem once she started high school. Peters comparing herself to the popular students and high school dances played a huge role in her self-confidence about her body.
“Everybody’s dieting to lose weight before high school dances, and of course, I’m a perfectionist, so I wanted to lose weight [too] I was very good at it,” Peters said.
To become the ‘perfect weight,’ Peters would starve herself, make herself throw up and participate in extreme dieting and exercise. At her worst point, Peters threw up over 100 times in a single day, however, some days all she wanted to do was eat. She learned some of her eating disorder tricks in a health class at Stow. In the health class, a video was shown to the students about eating disorders, and Peters was intrigued by one of the solutions someone made who had an eating disorder.
The first time Peters ever made herself throw up was in eighth grade when she was full and it disgusted herself. Once she made herself vomit she realized how easily she could continue the act. She tried to refrain from eating but starvation become a problem.
“Most eating disorders aren’t just one set thing because your body and your mind take over when you’re starving yourself. Then you usually end up gaining weight because of eating so much because you are so hungry, and even if your gonna throw it up, your body is still going to get the calories,” Peters said.
After high school, she became very skinny, and her old friends were convinced she was doing cocaine. A rumor began to spread that she was a cocaine addict.
“It was kind of like they were noticing that I was skinny, but I didn’t like how they thought I was doing cocaine. I was so depressed and was not hanging out with many people anyways, so it didn’t really matter,” Peters said.
Her father played a huge role in the destruction of her self-confidence. Her dad had a mindset of “you’re only pretty if you’re skinny.” Still to this day, her dad thinks she chose to have an eating disorder and chose to not accept her own body.
“I think a lot of it was my dad’s perception of accepting me and thinking people are beautiful and smart based on their weight and size. Self-consciously I think I was in that mindset because of him,” Peters said.
Peters’ dad would say negative remarks to her about her body size and weight.
“The first time I starved myself my dad told me, ‘Oh you don’t look like a muffin top anymore.’ That encouraged it and I was like I just won’t eat ever again,” Peters said.
She was diagnosed with depression after high school because she started to realize there was an actual problem rather than being in denial. In college, she realized she did not have control over the disorder at all.
The stereotypical way people think poor-self image is influenced by magazines and social media, but Peters explained how magazines and social media are just a side note to the whole thing and is not the reason people have very poor image.
“[Poor-self image] usually comes from control, not accepting yourself, becoming too caught up in someone you’re not or not recognizing the little things in life,” Peters said.
Peters had this eating disorder for 12 years and quit the habit in 2012. She went through many different efforts to help the problem but did not start these efforts until six years into the disorder. Peters went to inpatient therapy, outpatient therapy and counseling. She continued counseling on and off for about three years, and she also went to a dietitian because she precieved unhealthy food as healthy. Peters went to rehab for a month her first year of college, and then she went again to California in 2009. Rehab helped her realize she had a problem and made her notice that she needed help.
“I think it got to a point where I just realized all the lying that I was capable of. [That life] is like you’re living a double life when you’re so attached to how you look and how much you weigh,” Peters said.
The first time she told her mom about her habits when she ate two dozen donuts and was trying to throw it up, but she could not. After that, she called her mom and told her she overdosed on drugs and needed to be taken to the hospital. Peters thought she could fool the hospital in order to have the hospital pump her stomach. On the way to the hospital, she started to cry, and it came out that she had a problem. This instance was the beginning of how she received help.
Peters self-harmed one time because she became overwhelmed by how hard the obstacle was to get into rehab including the requirements. She cut her arm one time thinking she would feel her pain go away and that she would not feel anything. Luckily, the next week she was accepted into rehab.
“It was one of the greatest days of my life because I wanted it so bad. I was done internally, and I wanted it to be over. I knew I needed help,” Peters said.
Peters was healthy for nine months but then relapsed. She began to not eat and started to eat more junk food instead of healthy food; she started to not feel good again. Once she knew something was wrong, she went back to counseling and was put on an antidepressant.
Peters became disappointed at herself because she never thought she would relapse. She kept fighting anorexia and bulimia for three more years until she was finally out of the eating disorder.
Although she had many hardships throughout her journey, she had support from the ones who loved her. Peters mom and sister both helped her through this struggle. Her mom would go to all of her appointments and meetings with her so she would not back out on the way there. She also had her two best friends from middle school supporting her even when Peters denied the problem. They were relieved when she went to rehab and received help.
Peters’ recovery began when she decided to throw away the scale. This action was a huge turning point in her life because she depended on the scale and it was very important to her.
“I think that’s a very important part of your self-esteem because so many people put their self esteem in their heads as a number,” Peters said.
Today she thinks the scale is pointless and inaccurate, so she does not weigh herself and does not care what her weight is. All she cares about is being healthy and self-confident.
“People need to get confident [about] their body and not their number,” Peters said.
Peters does not want to know her weight because she is scared she will begin to let the idea control her again. If she saw what her weight is today, she would be scared she would want to decrease the number no matter what number showed up. Her disorder will always be apart of her life, and she realizes that it can come back into her life very easily and she does not want to test the possibility.
Today, she is active and in shape by doing outside activities like hiking and kayaking. She maintains a healthy diet which makes her feel more positive. Peters, although very healthy, is able to have a treat every once in awhile whether it is a piece of cake or a soda. She can now acknowledge that eating unhealthy is okay every once in awhile.
Peters is better than ever and is very content with her body image now.
“It’s like when you get to the other side and all of a sudden the things that you hated are now beautiful. All of a sudden everything is so wonderful and even now I have to step back and ask myself why am I stressing about this when it could be worse,” Peters said.