Kianna Garmanian, Staff Writer
Kindly and courageously, an amazing Saint Martin’s sophomore student shares his story and long-term battle with body image and an eating disorder, which he had experienced from a young age. This student loves music, plays the piano and trumpet, likes to exercise, and is from Washington.
How long have you been battling with disordered eating habits and body image struggles?
“I was in second grade when I started a new martial arts training program in taekwondo. My master for taekwondo would make comments about my size and promoted a super lean, muscular physique, so I began eating less. I was an average-sized 8-year-old, but I started thinking I was a failure by not being in peak performance.
I began exercising a lot while not properly fueling myself, which lasted until I was a freshman in high school. Due to time conflicts, when I began ninth grade, I stopped doing as much martial arts, but noticed that my perception of what I looked like was still much different from reality. I would often view myself as too big, too small, or not efficient enough, even after I had stopped playing sports. This negative and distorted mindset about my body that I had developed from taekwondo continued to last throughout my adult years.”
Tell me about the experience of disordered eating and body image. What goes through your mind? How does it feel? How does it affect your daily life?
“Depression came as a result of this conflict I had with eating. It was and has been a day-to-day struggle. I am a very extroverted person but because I did not know what was going on inside, I was unsure how to talk to people. I just felt like no one would understand and something was wrong with me and what I was experiencing was not common. Dealing with this dilemma hugely impacted my ability to remain happy.
Everyone has a deep sense of wanting to fit in. My concept of fitting in was being a ‘normal’ eater and having a normal body. I thought if I could keep a certain figure and not be on a roller-coaster of eating regiments (not eating at all, eating too much, etc.) that this would make me accepted. My body started shutting down- I would move slowly and get super drowsy all the time. People would ask me what was wrong, and I didn’t know what to say. I was stuck in this odd-state and was far too embarrassed to let anyone know how I felt.”
Describe to me a particularly difficult experience, day, or moment when you battled with disordered eating or body image. How did you get through it?
“I was in a live production of the Stations of the Cross in ninth grade. My teacher helped tie a rope belt around me and I noticed how small my waist was, since all my classmates were staring at me. My teacher commented, ‘maybe it’s best if you don’t wear a belt.’
I felt a lot of emotions- mostly embarrassed, a bit ashamed, and noticed that what I was doing to my body (not eating enough) was incredibly detrimental. Something needed to change, and it was this experience that really was the awakening moment and catalyst for me to get help.
After a conversation with my father, I began eating more and lifting weights to build back muscle and strength, which helped me feel more comfortable with myself. Later, I took a health class and learned about body fat and its importance. I started realizing that the perfect body, I imagined was not so perfect or healthy overall. This enlightenment occurred towards the end of high school, which was when I really started properly nourishing my body.”
How does being a college student impact your experience with body image and disordered eating habits?
“Being at college has really helped improve my symptoms. Sharing experiences with my classmates and knowing I am not alone has helped me so much. Other students and faculty members have gone through similar battles and are willing to help and listen. Because often, when you go through these struggles, you feel isolated- like you’re on an island. But really, you are not alone.”
Are there any resources or people on campus that have offered you support or guidance?
“I started going to the Counseling and Wellness Center (CWC) my freshman year. It has been very helpful to share my thoughts and get constructive feedback. I was reassured that these difficulties were not created in my mind or that something was wrong with me. My counselor has helped me work through these challenges and offer support and healing.”
What advice do you have for others who are battling with eating disorders and body image or similar experiences?
“Talk about it. Discuss your struggles out loud- even to yourself! When you keep all your thoughts in your mind, it becomes too overwhelming. Speaking helps put things into perspective, rather than just letting your thoughts become fixated in your brain.
On a deeper level, knowing Jesus has been so powerful in discovering my worth and the person I am. My faith means so much to me and has helped me immensely in this fight. Prayer has helped me become more content with myself and discover that these struggles do not define me.”
Any other advice, comments, or words of wisdom?
“Along with support, there is nothing you cannot overcome within yourself. There are others around you fighting the same fight and you will get through this. This struggle does not define who you are. With or without this difficulty, you are you. Knowing that you do have worth- this is fundamental to your healing and growth as a person.”
If you feel called to share your story and be featured in the Belltower, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be publishing mental health stories and cases from our students each issue to start these important conversations and bring new awareness to campus.
Never forget: You are not alone.