She beat an eating disorder and now loves her curves

Willie Grace | 6/17/2014, 8:40 p.m. | Updated on 6/17/2014, 8:40 p.m.
In 2011, Brittany Miles considered food to be her enemy. Having been tormented by schoolmates for being overweight since she ...

In 2011, Brittany Miles considered food to be her enemy.

Having been tormented by schoolmates for being overweight since she was 7, she decided to fight back the only way she knew how.

At the beginning of her senior year of high school, at a size 18, Miles began compulsively dieting and exercising. By the time she started college the following year, she was down to a size 4 and was obsessed with losing weight.

"Our society and my peers told me that I wasn't loveable when I was fat. That when I was fat, I couldn't be anything else," said Miles, now a senior and a biology major at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. "So, I was determined to be the farthest thing from fat possible."

She began what she called a war against calories, and it quickly spiraled out of control. She limited herself to 400 to 600 calories and did 90 minutes of intense cardio daily. Yet at her lightest, Miles never dropped below a size 4.

"Just because my bone structure stopped me from being the size 00 everyone pictures, doesn't mean that I wasn't in an incredibly unsafe and unhealthy place," she said.

Although she was 15 pounds underweight, no one caught onto her habits because they were too busy praising her for her weight loss.

"We constantly push people to lose weight, but sometimes that's not right for everyone," Miles said.

In the United States, some 20 million women and another 10 million men suffer from a clinical eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia, according to the National Eating Disorder Association. Many people also struggle with some form of body dissatisfaction or unhealthy eating behaviors that can lead to the development of clinical disorders. Studies suggest half a million teens are suffering from eating disorders, and that their concerns about weight begin as young as 6.

Miles says she didn't treat her body like she loved it when she began to lose weight.

"I deprived it, punished it and tortured it," Miles said. "I was convinced that a smaller dress size was the key to happiness."

Breaking the cycle

The day after Miles moved into her college dorm, she said hello to a girl down the hall who was moving in with the help of her family.

Her hall mate's sister noticed that Miles was unnaturally thin. A recovering bulimic who was studying to be an eating disorder psychiatrist, the sister had a feeling about Miles and asked the hall mate to keep an eye on her.

After only a few months, the hall mate realized that Miles wasn't in a good place, mentally or physically. Her restrictive diet and obsessive exercise was obvious, so she confronted Miles on the issue, finally allowing her to get it all out.

"The thing about eating disorders is that you realize you have one. You don't need someone to tell you that you're sick," Miles said. "What I needed was someone to understand and to help me understand that weight gain was OK."