How My Sister’s Eating Disorder Affected Me

Published by Spoon University on February 27, 2016

It was like secondhand smoke.

My sister is a model. I am not. Cue the apologies.

“Wow, that must be difficult for you.”

Yes, it is.

“I bet you two get compared a lot.”

Yes, we do.

But this is not a sob story, and it’s definitely not an attempt to get your pity. I’m writing this for the people who have been, are, or will be in my shoes.

Photo courtesy of Lance Kelson

Photo courtesy of Lance Kelson

When I was 13, my sister signed with a modeling agency and subsequently developed an eating disorder. She didn’t all of a sudden drop 20 pounds – hers was gradual. To people who saw her every day, she seemed completely normal. It was undetectable, even by our parents, for a while.

I, however, saw it all.
Not only am I her little sister (which automatically means I watch every single thing she does), but I also happen to be pretty observant and sponge-like.

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I remember the day my sister switched to a smaller plate and started making salads instead of sandwiches. Slowly but surely, the salad toppings diminished, and before long, all that remained were a few bites.

I remember the post-agency visit tears and the abusive relationship with measuring tapes, scales, and mirrors. I remember the instructions from her doctor to buy her ice cream and cake and everything fattening. I remember the diet books, articles, and recipes that only masked her growing fixation with appearance.

I remember watching my best friend, the girl who taught me how to put on makeup and dance in the kitchen, wither away physically and emotionally. I saw her crumble under the literal weight of this world’s picture of perfection. It terrified me, and I couldn’t fix it.

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So, staying true to my sponge-like nature, I soaked it all up.

Before too long, I switched to a smaller plate and chose a salad over a sandwich. I sat in on the meetings with the nutritionist and learned the difference between good and bad fats along with numerous other valuable nutritional tidbits.

I wasn’t developing an eating disorder, but I was getting confused.

The confusion reached a new level when my sister started using MyFitnessPal to track her macronutrients. While I think it’s a fantastic tool for people who need it (i.e. my sister or people with other health issues), I didn’t have the right context for it. To my black and white brain, it went hand-in-hand with an unhealthy attitude towards food.

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