These 3 Christmas stories helped me get through my first Christmas with a binge eating disorder. I had gained a significant amount of weight that had my confidence at it’s lowest point it had ever been. Three beautiful people in my life helped brighten my Christmas during this tough time. 

Story 1 | She Missed My Laugh

December 2008, I came home from my 1st year at University, praying I wouldn’t have to face any friends and family. I was uncomfortable in my own skin, depressed with who I had become, and completely at a loss on how to avoid binging.

My best friend, Ashlyn, called me while I was on my six-hour drive home from Oklahoma. She begged me to give her an idea of when I would be home so that she could be the first to see me. Not wanting to display my new big body to Ashlyn, I lied and said I would be getting home to late for her to even bother stopping by. Ashlyn, knowing me as well as she does, could hear the lie in my voice, and I found her camped out on my sofa the minute I walked through the backdoor.

We compared stories about colleges; I did all I could to act like my life at Oklahoma City University was all well and pleasant. My mom, Ashlyn, and I even discussed my weight gain and all the things that might be causing it. It was like having Ashlyn there made me strong enough to admit how unhappy I was with my body, even if I was far from admitting the truth about my binge eating. My mother floated around the possibility that it might not be what I’m eating that was causing my weight gain. She decided she wanted to have me tested for any possible thyroid problems. Even though I knew the truth about my weight gain, it felt good knowing that for at least the next few days I could put the blame of my weight gain on something other than food.

Ashlyn and I hung out on the sofa talking for hours that evening. Even though Ashlyn had been my best friend since I was three years old, we had not talked that much or that long in three or four years, not since before my ED began. As I was walking Ashlyn to her car that evening, we practically laughed the entire way to the door. When I went to hug her goodbye, she looked into my eyes and said, “Lana, I have missed your laugh! I’m so glad it’s back.” 

Story 2 | You Look Healthy

I had nothing to wear to Christmas because nothing fit. I had no confidence, because it disappeared when I gained that last 30 pounds. Worst of all, I had no holiday cheer! I begged my parent’s to let me stay home from the family Christmas party, but my dad absolutely refused. He didn’t agree that not having a dress was a fit reason to stay home alone on Christmas.

To the family Christmas party I wore a black skirt that didn’t zip up all the way in the back, a stretched out tank top that barely covered the unzipped zipper, and a poncho that had been hanging in my closet for years. I was embarrassed to show my face, my weight, my outfit, and my obvious lack of confidence to my family.

Near the beginning of our celebration, I was relaxing on a bar stool when my cousins wife approached me. She whispered in my ear, “For as long as I’ve known you, you have never looked so healthy and beautiful.” I had met my cousin’s wife during my anorexic days, so that Christmas party was the first time she had seen me at a weight above ‘starving.’ Although I still spent the rest of Christmas praying for my old body back, her words meant the world to me. For at least a few minutes I felt that I would be okay. When I look at her, still today, I think of those words and remember how the smallest compliment can make the biggest difference.

Story 3 | Happy & Laughing Again

My friend from high school and her mother have been two of my biggest supporters for as long as I’ve known them. They have always been there for me whether I needed a shoulder to cry on or a friend to make me smile. Even when I was at my most anorexic stages and doing all I could to hide from the world, these two ladies did all they could to remain apart of my life.

Over the holiday break, they were one of the few other friends, besides Ashlyn, I didn’t hide from. Near the end of one of my long visits with them, they repeatedly told me how nice it was to see me happy and laughing again. They loved having the Lana back who wouldn’t shut up even when she has run out of things to talk about. They had not seen me that energetic since the beginning of my sophomore year of high school, right before all the dieting began.

People love me, regardless of my size.

Until Christmas 2008, it never occurred to me that people would love me no matter what size I wore. I assumed the world would see what I saw when I looked in the mirror: someone who eats too much and has a face far to round. I was happy to find out just how wrong I was.

My friends didn’t see the weight I had put on; they saw the smile and laughter that had been missing from my life for the past few years. It most certainly never occurred to me that anyone would find me prettier than I had been in high school. But lucky for me, I had family that not only saw what I was blind to, but also took the time to tell me how happy they were to see me healthy (by healthy I mean a weight that wouldn’t have me hospitalized due to a lack of nutrients).

Although everyone’s words did lift me up so that the holiday break was bearable and a bit fun, I unfortunately returned to college just as displeased with my body as when I had left. However, the words they told me five years ago still mean a great deal to me today and always will.

Remembering their words is a great reminder that outer beauty isn’t what makes up our friendships. A true friend loves you regardless of your dress size, hair color, or chin line.

A true friend will stick by you even when you seem to be trying your hardest to shut them out of your life. Most importantly, a best friend knows exactly what to say to make you feel strong when you are weak. Even if your strength only last a minute, it’s sixty seconds longer than you would have had without them in your life.

Thanks to my battles with ED, I know who my true friends are and am blessed to have them in my life. They have given me the best Christmas gift I could have ever asked for: the strength to carry on and recover.