The Fight for Beauty- Chapter 6- Living with a Monster

I welcome you to join me as I share my story of my own fight for beauty!  I’ll be posting once a week a new chapter of my journey, from beginning to end.  I’m going to share the good, the bad, the ugly, and the embarrassing.  My hope is to remove the veil and misconceptions that people have about eating disorders while offering hope to those struggling that there really is a way out.

With that said, here is Chapter 5 of my story.  To read chapter 1, click here.

“I don’t know what you’re so worried about. I mean, I can see your hip bones through your shirt” my co-worker said to me as I looked over the menu of the cafe we worked at.

It had been two months since I met with Jeff and I was about to fly out to Atlanta to record a new demo.  Despite working out for three hours a day, I was only able to lose a few pounds.  I counted every calorie and was careful to not exceed 500 calories per day.  In fact, I still remember my exact diet day in and day out.

Breakfast: 1 Cup Decaf Coffee with Sugar Free/Fat Free Hazelnut Creamer and 3/4 C Special K Cereal.

Lunch: 1 slice of ham on lettuce with 1 tbsp of fat-free Italian dressing.

Dinner: A can of green beans. 

Despite my limited diet, I became even more obsessed with food.  I loved watching other people eat and I found great joy and satisfaction out of cooking and baking high calorie meals for others.  I would bring home shakes from the cafe I worked at for my sisters and watched them as they drank it.

“Is it good?” I would ask.

“What does it taste like?”

It was as if I was overwhelmed with living vicariously through them, wishing I could eat what they did while at the same time being disgusted by them for taking in so many calories in one sitting.

People at church began noticing my weight loss and simultaneously praised me for it while secretly asking my mother if I was okay.

I was tired, yet the attention I was receiving for my weight loss made me feel more alive than I had felt in years.  Perhaps ever.

 March 22, 2006

Here I am in Atlanta.  I can’t believe I’m going to record with Mariah Carey’s producer! He’s so nice.  I went to his house last night and I think we are going to record tomorrow.  I’m excited but at the same time I’m scared.  What if I don’t ever become a famous singer? After I left his house I went to Walmart and I bought a huge bag of almond M&M’s and I ate the whole thing in the car. Then I went to Chikfila and ate waffle fries.  I bought water pills and ex-lax.  Now I feel sick to my stomach.  I hate myself soooooooooooooo much. I’m so disgusting.   I wish I could just be like a normal person and never eat sugar. Lord help me not eat bad foods and help me lose weight so I can be a singer. 

They say that everyone reaches a breaking point. Mine was in Atlanta.  I made the trip alone and I stayed there for about a month driving back and forth from where I was staying to the house I was recording at.  From 12am- 6am we would record. I’d sleep from 8am-2pm where I would then awake and be forced to find ways to occupy my time.  My days normally consisted of working out and then fighting the urge to binge.  The first few days, I was successful, however it became clear that my body had lived in starvation mode for long enough and it was retaliating by giving me urges to eat everything in sight.

It’s hard to explain what it’s like.  To be out of control of your own brain, your own body, your own actions.  Most people who have never struggled with an addiction don’t understand that you can’t just stop.  You can’t just “not do it.”  When I would confide in friends or family members who’s only token of advice was to just ask God to help me stop, I would want to scream, “DO YOU THINK IT’S NEVER OCCURRED TO ME TO PRAY? DO YOU THINK THAT IF I COULD JUST STOP THAT I WOULD? DO YOU REALLY THINK THAT I LOVE LIVING FEELING LIKE I CAN’T CONTROL MY OWN GOD-DAMNED BODY? DO YOU THINK THAT I LOVE WAKING UP FEELING AFRAID OF MY OWN SELF?”

It’s hard to explain to someone that you feel as though someone else, something else has taken over your entire body.  Your mind becomes fixated on this one thing it wants.  Just one more time. Just once.  And everything else around you fades into existence until you can get your hands on this one thing.

For some it’s drugs and alcohol. Others it’s sex.  Mine.  It was food.

It goes without saying that going to Atlanta did not catapult my career of being a famous singer.  It’s hard for me to look back on that trip without flinching as I remember the days and the nights where I drove around crying because I felt out of control of my own body.

I came home from Atlanta, broken and depressed.  I continued to spend my days fighting the urge to binge and purge. I woke everyday with food being the first thing on my mind.  I would have dreams about working out at the gym only to ruin it by eating large amounts of pizza.  Each day started and ended with a promise to myself to do better next time. I never did.  I began smoking because I read that cigarettes helped curb your appetite and make you lose weight.

“What are we going to do about Rihanna’s eating disorder?” my best friend asked my mom one night.  The anger and annoyance I felt was only overshadowed by the fact that I secretly loved that she thought I could possibly have an eating disorder.

She was wrong.  I didn’t have an eating disorder. I wish I had an eating disorder because those girls are beautiful and are so thin that you can see their rib cage! I could only wish to be that thin!

A few weeks went on and my family and best friend both pleaded with me to get help. I finally agreed to begin seeing a therapist who later insisted to my parents that I needed more help than she could provide.  My mother, knowing that I would not agree to go to a treatment assessment, told me that she had arranged for me to meet with a dietician who would give me a meal plan that could help me lose weight.

Finally!  Finally someone was willing to help me the way that I needed. A little self-control was all I needed to get back on track.

I drove to a little office where I met with a middle-aged blonde woman who gave me pages of paperwork to fill out.  She seemed to watch me as I filled everything out, and not in a way I was used to.  It was as if she was studying, analyzing me.

When I was done, she took me into her office where I was excited to finally go over a list of foods I can and can’t eat.  She began asking me questions and I felt comfortable around her.  I confided that I had recently learned how to make myself throw up and how I seemed to have lost all control when it came to food.

She left the room for a bit and when she came back, she sat across from me and said, “Rihanna, it’s clear that you need impatient treatment.”

My head began to spin and my heart started to race.

“Wait…why?” I asked.  “I thought I was here so you could give me a meal plan.”

She explained how my behaviors and my food obsession were not normal.  How girls who use laxatives as much as I do often times end up with colostomy bags. She went on to say how it’s not normal for people to weigh themselves multiple times a day.  She explained how I’m not normal.

I drove home with a rage inside that I hadn’t felt before.  My ears burned and my eyes welled with tears as I thought about having to go into inpatient treatment.  I didn’t have an eating disorder.

“Ten days.”  my mom pleaded. “Just give us ten days and you’ll be done.”

Ten days.  I agreed to ten days.  I packed my bags, got in the car and blissfully began my journey to inpatient treatment.

Ten days, I thought to myself.  All of this will be over in ten days.  Little did I know that the journey was just beginning.


Stay tuned for the next chapter!

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