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.
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.
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."