Thursday, February 27, 2014

Michelle Duggar's Battle with Bulimia; Hopes to Help Others


In an interview with People Magazine, Michelle Duggar opened up about her struggle with bulimia as a teenager. 

Her oldest four daughters talk about their mom's battle in their book, Growing Up Duggar, which comes out next Tuesday. (The book tour starts March 12; click here for the full schedule.)

The girls introduce their mother's story by disguising her identity, but they eventually reveal who Marie really is:

On the outside, Marie had what everyone else wanted, but on the inside, she felt sad and empty. She began to envy the girl who tried to control her weight through what turned out to be a destructive eating disorder. Not realizing how dangerous it was, Marie thought it might work for her, and soon her obsession to stay thin started controlling her life.

"I have been open with my struggles with the kids before," Michelle, 47, told People. "We talk about how God has brought us out of different things along life's way. When the girls were writing their book, they brought this up and I thought, if my sharing it is going to help another young lady, then I want to share it."

As a teenager, Michelle spent an average of three hours a day involved in school sports but still struggled with her weight. In her search for self-acceptance, Michelle said she found herself consumed by this emotional battle.

"I found out that genetically I could put on weight easily, but with my activities, gymnastics and cheerleading, it was important for me not to," she said. "I would look around and compare myself to my friends, saying, 'oh my, she's so small,' or 'she has such skinny legs.'"

At age 14, Michelle began forcing herself to throw up after consuming what she deemed to be too many calories, believing that she had found a solution to her struggle with weight.

"I didn't tell any of my friends what I was going through," she said. "I was doing it sometimes on a daily basis, or sometimes I would go a week. I felt this was the answer to my problems."

At age 16, Michelle Ruark started dating her future husband and knew she needed to tell him about her battle with bulimia.

"The freedom came when I talked about it," she said. "I met Jim Bob, and he and I were in a dating relationship, and I loved this guy and wanted to marry him. We were talking future together and I remember that I felt like I had to tell him everything, everything about myself. You can't keep secrets from the man you want to share your life with. I shared this struggle with him, and he said he would help me and help keep me accountable."

And Jim Bob kept his promise. He became Michelle's accountability partner and would even join in on sweets-fasts with her. The future mother of 19 said that whenever she was tempted to force herself to throw up, she would call Jim Bob.

"He told me to call him anytime," said Michelle. "I just know that I would be tempted and I would have the crazy thought that I wanted to throw up, not hold onto the calories. Thank God it didn't go on longer than it did or I could have done horrible damage to my body."

Michelle admits it was a difficult time for her and that the struggle did not end immediately, but her her battle with bulimia helped her grow closer to her future husband. She and Jim Bob will celebrate 30 years of marriage in July, and Michelle, a lifetime member of Weight Watchers, thanks God for her health. 

"That solid accountability with another human being, a deep love and strong focus, was where I found freedom," she says. "I was willing to be accountable before God and man. But the struggle was still there. That accountability was powerful."

46 comments:

  1. Michelle is so brave for going public with this information. I have a whole new level of respect for her.

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  2. Wow, I respected Michelle Duggar before hearing this, but now, I respect her so much more. Just the fact that she is willing to talk about this personal struggle of hers makes her more human, not the perfect mother of 19 we see on TV. Thank you, Mrs. Duggar, for sharing!

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  3. Wow, this was very convicting for me. I didn't know that she had this struggle! I struggle with an eating disorder as well, but by the grace of God I can overcome all things, through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

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  4. I think Michelle & Jim Bob had a beautiful love story when they were young, so it bothers me that they would deprive their children of that same emotional intimacy by not allowing them to date.
    There are some things you just can't say with chaperones around, or in monitored phone conversations and texts.

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    1. Annie - God bless you. I believe it is the kids choice to not date rather than their parents.

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  5. She is the most beautiful woman ever. Her smile is so joyful and full of Christ's love. She gets lovelier with age! It's amazing to learn she struggled with her image!

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  6. What a brave thing to do, sharing something that one might be ashamed to admit. If this admission helps just one person then it was worth it 100 fold. I would never have imagined that this amazing mom had such a difficult struggle to deal with. It proves we're all vulnerable & we all face challenges & difficult situations in our lives. I commend her for sharing & wish the Duggar girls all the best on their book tour. I wish they were coming to Seattle. I'd be thrilled to meet them.

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  7. at least she seems like a real person now and real stuggles not some fake person.

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  8. Thanks for sharing, Michelle! I'm sure that was hard to share with the world, but I'm sure so many young women and men will be helped by your courage to share.

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  9. I, like millions of others, had no idea Michelle struggled with this. She is going to help many people by bringing this to light. How awesome of her to do so.

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  10. Oh wow I am so glad Michelle met Jim Bob or she might've been much different. I am so glad that she didn't suffer further harm

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  11. I admire Michelle so much for showing that even she has things that she had to work on in the past... what a nice thing for people to read and know that you CAN beat these problems with God's help... brava, Michelle!

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  12. Thank you so much for sharing! I am currently trying to battle an eating disorder (eating the same foods everyday for several days... Fear of other foods because of past food allergy to shellfish) I pray every day for help. Sharing your story has helped me realize that these things take time & I can also over come this. Thanks again for sharing :) do you have any advice uou could give that may help me overcome this? Thank you....

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  13. Wow, thank you for sharing your struggle with bulimia. I, too, struggled with it in high school and college. It's funny how I kind of shoved it back in my memories, and how reading your story brought it all back to me. It's nice to know that other Christian women have struggled with this, too. I have three beautiful, young daughters. I want to be as honest as you are with them. I think it can be of great help to them someday when they become more aware of their appearance. Good bless you. You are a phenomenal woman of God. I have give children all together and want to live my body with all its stretch marks and sagging skin. You are a true inspiration to me. God bless your beautiful family!

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  14. Wow! This was a very unexpected read. What a wonderful partner she was able to find, I applaud her courage for speaking out about this. I am happy everything has worked out for them, it is a tough battle that a lot of people face. They are a wonderful couple.

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  15. So sad that so many of us have such negative feelings about our bodies, though we are "fearfully and wonderfully made..." I recall watching one of their early shows and Michelle was talking about their modestly standards and drawing attention to the girls' countenance rather than their figures - seems like a much healthier attitude.

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  16. Why is this info coming out now? Interesting they have kept quiet about it all this time. And that it is just coming to light before a new season starts. An attempt to boost ratings maybe? What's next, she reveals she has a secret superhero identity?

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    1. They dont need to boost ratings they are loved. Does it escape you that her daughters wrote a book and that's why she shared? She wants to help others. PS. she IS a superhero.

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    2. Speculation speculation, u have no idea what her reasoning is, if u had any knowledge of the family at all then u would know its not for ratings.Some sad folks always have to find something negative in every post.Be happy and love thy neighbor.Godspeed darlin ;*}

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  17. Before a couple is married they should really have nothing to talk about that needs to be said in private. At least their kids, when they marry, will not have to worry about regret.

    It is up to the individual when they reveal information about themselves. We have no right really to know anything about them. They reveal what they want when they want. There are things about each of us that we are not about to reveal to others.

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  18. I am very proud of Michele for coming out with this information, its not easy. The Duggars keep trudging on with their helpful ways to reach out to those in need, who knows how many people who this might help. Sometimes when u can identify with someone whom you look up to it opens up peoples courage to come out and have the strength that they might not have had if it wasnt for her honesty.

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  19. I would think this is coming out now exactly why she said it is, and that is the girls were writing a book (aimed at girls growing up/teens) and if her sharing it would help another girl then she wanted to share it. I would agree that the timing of the book release and the new season premiere would definitely be to tie in with ratings, as things go in the world of TV, but Michelle putting her story out there through the girls book appears to be very genuine to me. I would think the girls had guidance writing the book where they may have been told to think about any real life situations in their family that they or other family members may have gone through that people didn't already know & that would help the family/girls be even more relatable, esp. to tween/teen girls. Michelle stated that the girls were the ones who brought it up to her, and Michelle realized that she would want to share that experience if it would help someone else.

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  20. I never even thought she had troubles like this. I am going thur the same stuff right now. thanks mrs. Duggar, you really encourage me:)

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  21. Interesting story. Thanks for sharing.

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  22. @Annonymous at 10:52pm: Put yourself in Michelle's shoes - none of us are perfect. We all have aspects of our past and present that we'd really rather not share with the entire world. It takes maturity and grace to share such a story and I respect her for doing so, no matter what the motive! I, for one, believe her when she says she chose to share this part of her past in order to help others - that just sounds like something she would do, honestly and humbly! :)

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  23. Michelle, thank you for your courage in sharing this struggle. I, too, worried about my looks as a teenager and young adult, so much so that it became an obsession. When your show came on, I was able to see a family who concentrated more on living for the Lord and His Word, than for the culture, and it really helped me get my priorities straight. Thank you for the show, and for being real and providing so many of us with a Godly role model in the midst of this world's environment.

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  24. That was possibly the meanest thing that I've seen written on a blog. And then you didn't have the courage to say your name "anonymous". Thank you Michelle for being a Godly example for so many. You show grace and dignity! :)

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  25. WOW what prompted THIS TO COME OUT? NOW since book coming out to be revealed? We all have crosses to bear some bigger than another, why kept under wraps. also why so MANY SURPRISED she is KNOW different than you or I know surprise here. Mary Herschberger Middlefield , Ohio former amish

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  26. I am Annonymous commentor #16. I have actually spoken to the Duggars several times before and have followed their show very closely. My family and I are big fans. And we share many of their beliefs. I find it somewhat odd that they seem to share what I would consider more personal info more readily, but take almost 10 years to share info like this. And that's their choice and yes, it coincides with what's in the book. But it is also possible it us in part being used to keep interest up with the show. I found it more interesting when Michelle was the one having the babies. I could be completely wrong and I hope I am.
    And trust me, that's not the meanest thing that I have heard being said about the Duggars.
    And yes, I agree. Women with that many children are superhero's lol....

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  27. I have never struggled with and eating disorder but a college roommate did and it made her literally lose 5 years of her life. It was so sad to watch a smart beautiful girl go through such a struggle. I'm glad Michelle recovered and wants to speak publically about it to help others. I'm just curious how she must have felt about Josh's weight gain and why she didn't get him help earlier. I know on the show she and Jim Bob and some of the older girls go to weight watchers. I also realize it must be hard to cook for 20+ people with filming, traveling, and homeschool but I would think mom that struggled with eating disorder would cook healthier. My husband came from a family larger then the Duggars and his mom had a crock pot going with meat and a rice maker and pots of steamed vegies. It didn't take anymore (maybe even less) work then tater tot casserole. I Hope Michelle admission and story helps others, it seems like it already has on this board.

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  28. Der Lily and Ellie,
    any comment from the Duggar's regarding Bill Gothard's leave due to sexual harassment/assault at IBLP?
    Thanks!

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  29. The story is interesting and relevant to many people. I think that the strong emphasis on her relationship with Jim Bob is something that not everyone can relate to. It is true that everyone can and should pursue a relationship with the Lord Jesus and as people persist in doing this God will draw close to them. That is the point that encourages me the most in this story and the direction I want my life to go, even if I do not have a loving partner to share everything with.

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  30. Thank you for your honesty, Michelle. I am inspired by the gentle and loving way you correct your children. What a wonderful legacy to pass on to them. They learn by example. Anna demonstrates the same parenting with her children.

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  31. patricua edwardsMarch 1, 2014 at 5:49 PM

    Your very awesome and much loved by God, family, friendsand strangers.keep your head held high

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  32. I met Michelle and Jim Bob several months ago when they visited Gastonia, NC for an appearance. They were guests at my church. I was overly excited to.listen to them speak and to hear their story because I've watched then since they came in air. I have to say I was nervous too because anytime you meet a celerity you never nice if they will be nice or completely rude, fake or mean. I was THRILLED to know they were absolutely absolutely the nicest people I've ever met. Genuine, caring, living, godly, encouraging, strong, humble, I could go on and on. It.completely set my mind at ease to know they have zero hidden agendas. None. I say all of this to make a point that I believe they everything Michelle and her family do is done for the Lord and only to please him no one else.

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  33. @AnonymousDo you honestly think this is an appropriate spot to discuss that? Why don't you email the Duggars yourself or google the answer?

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  34. Cammie (poster no. 30), I always thought the Duggars ate healthily, from what we have seen on the show and on some 'webisodes'. Yes, they eat dessert, and some high-fat foods, but also eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. Josh did not gain weight until he married Anna, so that would not have been due to Michelle's cooking, but to Anna's. Anna has admitted as much, and said on one of the weight-loss episodes that she was going to have to change her cooking habits, as they had both gained weight since the wedding. I don't see any of the Duggars as really being overweight.

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  35. It's interesting that she decided to come out with this at the same time her daughters are promoting a book. Is this her way of staying in the spotlight since it is unlikely that she will be announcing a pregnancy? And of course she had to credit Jim Bob with saving her. I also find it interesting that she says she had to stay in shape since she was involved in sports-something that she never encouraged her daughters to get involved with. I find it selfish that she was involved with cheerleading and gymnastics while attending public school but her daughters were forbidden to do any of that.

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  36. @hello@ anonymous 38, so if their mother had smoked or been into alcohol or drugs is it still selfish and unfair that she won't let her daughters do the same? What a silly statement. Sports aren't everything. I sincerely doubt they will suffer long term damage from not being involved in sports.

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  37. I have never seen fresh fruit or veggies on the show. All canned.

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  38. @mmolsey- comparing letting your kids get involved in sports and doing drugs and drinking is ridiculous. My point was that Michelle was apparently allowed to make the choice to get involved in cheerleading and sports and she didn't allow her kids make their own choices growing up. While they wont suffer long term damage from not getting involved in sports I believe they will suffer in the long run by not being allowed to make any life choices on their own.

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  39. Thank you SO much Michelle!!! I struggled with anorexia and bulimia from age 13-16. It was a time of isolation and major control problems. The only way I made it through was with my family, and most importantly, God

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  40. How is it that there are no overweight Duggar kids? That's a secret that we all need you to share.

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  41. Love her and love their approach to parenting. Her honesty on this will help so much for young girls.

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  42. I am so encouraged by reading this. I love you guys and you are such a light... Your family is an inspiration of a family who walks in the truth and is not afraid to do that publicly. I honestly was quite surprised to read this, but I think it is wonderful that Michelle was able to share her testimony of how the Lord healed her from her bulimia, and I know it will help so many other young ladies. I have a similar story, where I struggled with an eating disorder from age 15- about 21 and the Lord delivered me from that, and is still delivering me from that as I surrender my body, and it is wonderful that she shared this. Keep it up Duggars. You are wonderful

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  43. @Anonymous Probably one reason none of them are overweight is because they don't have a TV, and they have lots of playmates and space to run around. Wish I could kick the TV habit, but some shows are to good to give up.

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