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Stuck in the Middle

Karsen Leek - Stuck in the Middle

By Karsen Leek – Collegiate Staff

My whole life I have always been somewhere in the middle, a middle student, a middle child (with three brothers may I add), and even when it came to my looks. I always felt just stuck in the in between of being too heavy to be thin but too thin to be considered heavy. As I grew up I realized that meant that I was “thick,” but I did not always take too kindly to the term. For those of you who don’t know, thick, according to urban dictionary means, “a girl who isn’t fat or skinny, but is well-proportioned, has enough meat on her bones in all the right places.” I mean I was a 15-year-old girl went from a small town school with a class of 75 to a larger city with a primarily affluent population. My school had so many skinny girls, and even more athletic girls that I idolized. At that time, being curvy is not what I wanted to be.

I remember it like it was yesterday. The first time I purged. I was a freshman in high school, I hopped off the big, yellow school bus, tummy grumbling because I hadn’t eaten since the night before. At the time I had already been down five pounds in three weeks because I refused to eat meals. I walked into my warm, cozy home, a cinnamon candle burning on top of the stove. I checked in the fridge, like I always did. I warmed up a Little Caesars breadstick and munched on it eagerly as I danced around the kitchen. Then I saw that my dad had bought honey smacks cereal, which was one of my favorites. I ate them eagerly but was overwhelmed with guilt once I realized I had eaten over 500 calories in less than 15 minutes. I felt like I failed myself, but I remembered seeing something in health class about how girls would purge to get rid of food they would binge eat. This one incident would spiral into about a four-year, secret epidemic where I would develop bulimia, depression and even self-harm tendencies.

But my story isn’t like most. I went almost four years untreated. And to this day, I haven’t been treated. Up until recently, my family didn’t even know. I wish I would’ve gotten treatment. I wish I would’ve called out for help. I know that once I recognized that I had a problem, it would have only gotten better. Throughout my journey, I developed depression and anxiety that I was treated unsuccessfully for. I tried therapy, medication, nothing really worked. I didn’t get the big moment where I felt healed, I didn’t have a huge breakthrough. I worked on myself, and it was a slow process. I mean a journey to self love is a process, we all know that. But it was effective. So when I turned 17, I developed a three steps to self-love, that I live by until this day. So if you struggle with self-love, eating disorders, Body Dysmorphic Disorder or any other mental illness, in addition to professional treatment, here are my Three Steps to Self Love.

Step One: Negative words bring negative thoughts. Get rid of them.

I found myself saying out loud to myself and even in casual conversation about how much I hated the way I looked, with comments about how ugly I was and how fat I was. My friends started pointing out how much I would say nasty things about myself. So one day I decided to treat myself how I treated my closest friends. To treat myself with love and care, to be sensitive to my own feelings. I noticed a change right away, I smiled more, I laughed more without being insecure about my smile. I found myself being kinder to other people. Be kinder to yourself and it opens the door to being kinder to other people.

Step Two: Healthy Body = Healthy Mind.

The thing I did that helped the most was watching what I ate and regular exercise. Exercising releases endorphins to the brain which increases brain activity. I always felt more energized and ready to tackle the day after a good hour workout. When you feel your body getting stronger, your mental health gets stronger too, because exercising strengthens all parts of the body. Eating right also helped. No, I didn’t meal prep, or count macros. I just ate everything in moderation, I bought energy bars and lots of fruit and veggies. I encouraged my parents to eat better too. I bought reusable water bottles from the dollar store and refilled it at least 4 times a day. You might not become the next Instagram famous fitness guru, but you may find a little bit more self confidence in the fact that you take care of your mind and body.

Step Three: Be Yourself.

Yes it’s cliché, Yes, it’s the same thing your mom’s been telling you your whole life, but it does work. You are the only person you spend every day with, from the moment you are born to the moment you die. You spend nearly a 100 years with yourself, so why spend it hating yourself and your body? Why spend the little time we have wanting to be someone else? So find what you love and do that, spend time with positive people, be a positive person. Smile at strangers, or don’t, it’s up to you, as long as you stay true to yourself. Life is about the little things, not the few big things. Once you discover who you are, and love every inch of that person, flaws and all, nothing can stop you or break you down.

What helped the most in this process was the positive words I got from people in my life. My friends and family would always tell me how healthy I looked! It made me so happy to finally have control over my body. But what hurt the most in my recovery was putting weight back on, I cried and cried every time I weighed myself. Seeing that number go up made me feel so defeated. It was so bittersweet, I was happy to be defeating my eating disorder, but I felt like we had become friends. It kept me beautiful, and I kept it alive. But no little girl should make friends with self-hate. It hurt to let go of my eating disorder, but it felt even better to finally be free from its grasp.

I am 20 years old now and I have been relapse-free for a year. I am an advocate of kindness. I didn’t get to this place because I wanted to be thin and beautiful, I got to this place because I wanted to be comfortable in my curvy size eight to ten jean size. Looks do matter but like my mantra says. “I’d rather be soul food than eye candy.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder please seek help. 

Here are some resources around the Grand Rapids area. 

Eating Disorders Support Group at Forest View:

2nd and 4th Mondays, 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

For more information, please call 616.942.9610.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline:


For Teens: Teen Eating and Body Image Support Group

For Adults: Eating and Body Image Support Group

Calvary Church

707 East Beltline, NE

Grand Rapids, MI, 49525

Contact: Jennifer Lane

Email: mieatingdisordersalliance@gmail.com