Today’s post is by Cassandra, another incredible woman who happens to be a long time friend. (How did I get so lucky to know all these amazing women?) We got to talking online one night about body image and – this is the result. I had no idea this was Cassandra private journey. Her words are raw and powerful. Chances are, someone in your life is fighting the same battle and needs to hear this story from someone who is learning to see herself for the beauty she is, from the inside out. Meet my friend, Cassie.
5 foot 7, 115 pounds.
Soaking wet. These are Numbers that I would have at one point sold my soul to the devil for. (At least the Devil Who Wears Prada.)
I was never the “skinny girl” growing up. But I never EVER felt like the “fat girl” either…
I ate whatever I wanted, when I wanted, and I wore a size 12. Let’s be honest, I bought 10’s that I had to lay on the floor to zip up. And, I was happy. No one ever mentioned my weight or criticized how I looked, I was just me. And it was amazing.
Then one day I went with my best friend to one of those “cattle call” modeling seminars…
You know the ones? Where they’re just trying to get you to pay 1500$ for pictures and teach you how to not trip on a catwalk. My friend looked like a Giselle. Tall, slender, blonde, high cheekbones…perfect fit for a runway model.
And – surprise, surprise. My friend made it through the first round as I sat outside on a curb waiting for the seminar to be finished and her mom to come pick us up. What a crazy feeling to look back 15 years later and realize how such a seemingly small event would create ripples and tidal waves of doubt and image issues that would echo to this day.
I remember the first time I made myself throw up.
I chose a salad With Italian dressing. A salad??? Total amateur move. It digests before you can even hiccup! I didn’t know any better. I didn’t even realize the toilet was a much more appropriate place to do that than in the shower. But from that day on, there was a voice in me that said “you’re not good enough. And you never will be.”
And so it began. All through high school it’d be a constant battle between “I love food SO much” eating an entire bread bag of donuts in 2 days and “just looking at food makes me disgusted”….even through my college years I got bigger-not smaller—using food as a comfort blanket, never connecting it with deeply rooted insecurity…
Let’s add more fuel to the fire and fast forward to my move to Nashville.
My first job was an omelet chef –yes, we do exist— working for a catering company (surrounded by food oddly enough).
One night I’m all dressed in my little catering tuxedo to work at a fashion show benefit, when someone starts freaking out saying one of the models didn’t show up.
Next thing I know someone grabs my hand, says “put this on and don’t fall”, and I’m shaking down the catwalk in a skin tight couture gown.
Pandora’s box opened, and within the year I had landed work in fashion shows, print, commercials, music videos, and film…but with every audition and booking, my insecurities grew tenfold. All the girls around me were 6 inches taller, 20 lbs thinner, and 5 years younger.
Modeling turned my growing fascination with size into a full blown obsession.
I kept extremely detailed Food diaries including the time of day, brand, even counting out the exact serving sizes, then putting back 2 or 3 pieces to know I was eating less calories than what the package said. I weighed myself every time I went into the bathroom, wearing plastic “sweatsuits” at the gym IN the sauna. I soaked cotton balls in oil and swallowed them to stay “full”. I punched smaller holes in my belts and wore them as tight as I could under my shirts to squish my stomach and make it hurt so I wouldn’t want to eat. I became a “pro” at sliding forks and straws up my sleeve at restaurants so I could purge within 5 minutes of consumption.
Sounds so glamorous, right? Lol
All that to say – It had consumed me. Nothing was ever good enough.
I had become so impatient with “imperfection” that I felt like no one else was living up to their potential.
I tore apart any small career successes I had and was generally an unpredictable, angry, hot mess.
But I “looked great”…I wore a size 2, I was tan with long blonde hair, booking international campaigns, and I didn’t have to be an omelet chef anymore. Yet I was miserable and those closest around me knew it. The saddest part about being a “smart” person with an eating disorder is that you can fool even the person you live with. My friends just thought I was super stressed with school and working 2 jobs and modeling until it got to the point where people started wondering if I was on drugs.
And this sounds really backwards, but I was so far into that hole that all their “concern” would have done was justify my isolation and convince me that no one had a clue what they were talking about.
My breaking point? I was having so many stomach issues I ended up in the hospital to have a bunch of tests run.
I had burned not only my stomach lining but also my esophagus and vocal chords from the stomach acids I was overproducing to make up for all the acid that I expelled with each meal. I had ulcers, acid reflux, a raspy voice, the enamel on the insides of my teeth were eaten away, and the blood vessels in my eyes broke from the pressure of puking.
It’s so strange typing this all out for the first time, but I know there are so many people out there who struggle too so I want to be specific.
I think if I could talk to that version of me now, I wouldn’t know what to say.
It’s such a consuming process that feeds off of becoming a lone wolf and thinking that you alone can tend to your wounds. That no one could ever really get it because its so “commercialized” now and “everyone goes to rehab”… You don’t want people to feel sorry for you and look at you differently because you’ve had an “E.D.” (Eating disorder) label branded into your forehead. Or freak out every time you’re just straight up not hungry.
The ED underworld has a term called “ProAna” (like a proponent of anorexia). It’s a community of people who bond together by seeing the beauty in “thin”. “Ana” becomes a character that is your friend. She talks to you and tells you how good it feels to be hungry. How beautiful your collar bones will look if you stop eating anything with salt, or take laxatives to flush out the puffiness. She is the Devil Who wears Prada. And to someone living in the E.D. World, she is the most beautiful thing that has walked the earth.
Pretty much this world is hell on earth, yet feels like heaven when you hear things like “you’re too skinny” and “wow, have you been working out?”.
Let me pull us out of all these specifics and get to the point:
Why am I dragging out these skeletons???
To feel sorry for myself? To get pity and confirmation from others?
I had to stop here for a minute and truly think of my motive.
I’ve realized if I’d had someone in my life willing to be blunt and honest about their own struggle with this, it would’ve given me a better perspective.
I may have been TOO detailed and honest for most of you. But my heart is instinctually being uninhibited on the off chance that just one person reading this has swallowed oil soaked cotton balls. Or sat on the steps outside feeling like a failure. Or has a voice inside them telling them they are nothing but a waste.
Truth is, I still stare at the big jar of cotton balls.
And I still find myself moving my scale to certain parts of the uneven bathroom tile so it’ll show me a lower weight. I still judge people in my industry who “let themselves go”. I still own a pair of size 25 jeans that won’t zip up so I can put them on every now and then to torture myself.
But the new chapter I’m in is starting to reveal that it’s not a numbers game. It’s not the 5’7, 115 pounds that will give me peace. And it’s also not eating whatever I want, as much as I want.
It’s about being truly healthy according to your body type.
So maybe someday I will be 115 since my bone structure is labeled “small” and that’s what my grandma weighed. Maybe I won’t.
Maybe I’ll eat the perfect amount of protein and carbs and blah blah blah, and end up heavier than what my mind thinks I should be.
But at the end of the day, when all is said and done and I close my eyes, I just want to go to sleep and dream about my future, without being terrified of waking up and stepping on the scale.
Or obsess over what I can’t eat…because I come from Italian blood and we LOVE our food. Hahah!
While I don’t scarf bags of donuts, eat entire boxes of cereal in one sitting or go for days with drinking only broth and laxative tea anymore, it’s still a battle to see all of these skeletons gracing the covers of magazines and reading about how Beyonce lost 30lbs for a movie being on the “Lemonade Diet” (and yes, I’ve tried it and it SUCKS! Haha).
Day by day, I’m doing research on how nutrition works and listening to what my body needs.
I’m realizing I feel a BILLION TRILLION times better when I eat LOTS of whole foods instead of processed foods, pair veggies and fruits with high protein intake, and even try recipes involving my arch nemesis: KALE.
I’ve never eaten this much in my life yet my body is responding realllllly well.
Let’s be real, I’m still gonna eat pizza, ice cream, potato chips( all of which I’ve had this past week), but I’m slowly weaning myself off of them so it’s a “special occasion” and not a “cheat night”…
I guess my hope is that someone reading this super long novel–thinking that “Skinny is the New Black”, will hear these words echo back to them in the mirror…black clothing makes everyone look skinny anyway.
Whether God made you a size 2 or 22, being truly HEALTHY physically and mentally should be our New Black.
Let’s DO this!!!!
Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, Cassandra is now a full time musician and songwriter in Nashville, TN and is part of the Warner/Atlantic group “The Railers” with her husband and brother-in-law as well as a Staff songwriter for SonyATV. Beginning her southern adventure as an omelet chef and server for a local catering company, it’s been a ten year journey in Nashville that evolved into many detours along the way. Her acting and modeling credits range from runway and print modeling for Women’s Day, Victoria’s Secret, NorthFace and Hannah Montana to videos with Allan Jackson, Keith Urban, Blake Shelton and Lady Antebellum. Her heart found its way back to her first love: music. Between touring and songwriting, she enjoys gardening, journaling, cooking, volunteering at the Humane Society, and working with The Special Olympics.
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