Be the Change: Teen shares battle with eating disorder 

  • Brenna Martens Staff photo by Ben Conant—

For the Ledger-Transcript
Published: 7/7/2020 11:07:46 AM

When I was 12 years old, I lived in a place full of people who looked nothing like me. I went to a predominantly Asian school and lived on an island, which was a lot of fun, but it made me stick out. I was tall, very pale, blonde, and bigger than most of my peers. I had been bigger for most of my life, and it didn’t bother me until middle school, when looks became important to everyone. Unfortunately our society teaches kids that there’s a way you need to look, and if you don’t look that way you’re wrong. From TV to advertisements, the message is that to be pretty you must be skinny. This mentality pushed me into the downward spiral of eating disorders.

Though my journey started in middle school, it wouldn’t become a problem until junior year. I gained a lot of weight during the spring and was told so in the summer. My grandparents, my father, and the scale in my bathroom all said the same thing...I was fat. On the national scale I was obese, which is exactly what a 16-year-old wants to hear – “you’re obese.” We are taught in school health programs that obese people look a specific way. They are shown as examples of what not to be. I felt like an example of what not to be.

I decided to work out more and tried everything to drop weight. I needed to be different as fast as possible. I saw an ad for “miracle” weight loss pills. I was desperate, so I started taking them without telling anyone. It worked slightly, but still wasn’t fast enough – nothing was. I wanted to wake up in a different body. I wanted to be skinny and didn’t care how.

That’s when I decided the problem was food. I couldn’t stop eating, because people would notice, so I started throwing up after every meal. At first I tried to limit myself, but my body and mind became dependent on this. I wanted to do it; it made me feel good about myself for short, fleeting bursts. I was addicted. When I didn’t do it I would feel sick, run a fever, and get constant headaches, which felt awful, so I did it again. People were telling me that I looked great. It seemed like the benefits outweighed the consequences.

This went on for months before anyone found out. I told friends because I knew it was a problem. Telling them made everything easier, especially because a few of my friends had gone through similar problems. They all told me the same things. It didn’t matter because I didn’t believe them. I had this image of what I needed to be, and I wasn’t going to stop until I got there.

Until I threw up blood.

That was a game changer for me, because I never thought about what I was doing to myself. This “scared me straight” for a while. Until, someone called me fat. It was like getting kicked in the side with broken ribs. I went back to it and felt relief and artificial happiness. The cycle continued… until I got caught.

The person who caught me, took me aside and told me they had to do something. They convinced me to tell my parents. At the time I was really angry, but looking back if they hadn’t stepped in I might not be here. They referred me to a place that could help.

It hadn’t occurred to me until I went to this rehab facility that I hadn’t gotten my period in a few months. They told me I might have caused irreversible damage. I felt good after throwing up because my brain was releasing hormones. This caused an imbalance, and because of this, I was told that I might not be able to have children. That was a crushing blow. Not long after that I decided to stop. With the help of my friends and family I broke my addiction and got my body back on track. I was lucky. Many people who are diagnosed with eating disorders permanently scar their body and sometimes die.

Why am I sharing this? Because I have an opportunity to inform and maybe inspire.

Eating disorders are a brutal, agonizing war inside of someone’s body. This war is fought by hundreds of people because as a society we made them feel like they aren’t good enough.

There is no perfect body. You don’t need to be anything other than who you are. It is ok to want to improve yourself, as long as you’re doing it for yourself and not for others. It doesn’t matter what kind of body you have, you are beautiful. If you are currently fighting an eating disorder, please seek help. There are many resources out there. You are perfect the way you are, and I hope that reading this helps you see that.

The National Eating Disorder Helpline is (800) 931-2237.

Brenna Martens lives in Antrim


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