Michelle Duggar Reveals Struggle with Bulimia

February 26, 2014

19 Kids and Counting star Michelle Duggar has revealed that she struggled with bulimia as a teenager.

The reality star opened up to People magazine about the eating disorder, which is also revealed in a new book written by her daughters called Growing Up Duggar: It's All About Relationships -- hitting stores March 4.

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"On the outside, Marie had what everyone else wanted, but on the inside, she felt sad and empty," Jana, 24, Jill, 22, Jessa, 21, and Jinger, 20, initially write in the book as they disguise their mother's identity as a teenager named Marie. "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."

Duggar, 47, told People she didn't feel the need to keep her illness a secret to her children or her husband Jim Bob, whom she told early on while they were dating. "I have been open with my struggles with the kids before. We talk about how God has brought us out of different things along life's way," she said. "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."

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Duggar revealed that during her school years she discovered she had a genetic tendency to put on weight easily, but this didn't fit in with her gymnastics and cheerleading activities. "I would look around and compare myself to my friends, saying, 'oh my, she's so small,' or 'she has such skinny legs,'" she said.  

She said she was battling an internal struggle that she had to look a certain way and be a certain size to feel worthy, which led to her forcing herself to throw up whenever she'd eaten more calories than she thought she should, or after she indulged in sweets. "I didn't tell any of my friends what I was going through," she says of the habit that began when she was 14 years old. "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." 

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