Michelle Duggar, 47, has documented her life on TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting for years. On the show, she is portrayed as super mom, caring for 19 kids without ever having to raise her soft voice. She is always in good spirits, which is why you would never guess that someone like her would have some deep dark secrets of her own.
Revealed in the new book Growing up Duggar, written by four of Michelle’s daughters, Jana, 24, Jill, 22, Jessa, 21, and Jinger, 20, was Michelle’s struggle with bulimia while she was in high school. When the girls discuss their mother, in the book, they refer to her as ‘Marie’.
“On the outside, Marie had what everyone else wanted, but on the inside, she felt sad and empty,” the excerpts, obtained by PEOPLE, read. “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.”
Michelle has kept this secret since she was a teenager, and explained to PEOPLE why she chose to tell the world now. “I have been open with my struggles with the kids before,” Michelle said. “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.”
Michelle was very active as a teenager, and even competed in cheerleading in gymnastics. However, she explained that she managed to put on weight very easily. At the age of 14, Michelle began making herself throw up her meals, in order to maintain her weight. She hid her disorder from everyone, until she met her husband Jim Bob.
“We were talking future together and I remember that I felt like I had to tell him everything, everything about myself,” she explained. “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.”
Michelle credits Jim Bob for her recovery. She explained that he helped her through her urges, and eventually she was able to stop. “He told me to call him anytime,” Michelle revealed. “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.”
Thankfully, Michelle no longer has to fight this battle. Now, she manages her weight using Weight Watchers and other safe methods.
Image via Wikimedia Commons