The Duggar family has experienced everything from joy with the birth of kids and grandkids to tragedy with miscarriages over the past seven seasons of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting.
But it turns out there was still one family tale that had yet to be told: Mother Michelle battled an eating disorder as a teen.
“Mom wanted to lose weight—and to reach that, she became bulimic,” reveals daughter Jill, 22, in an exclusive interview with Closer.
The Duggar gang
That’s the biggest revelation in Growing Up Duggar: It’s All About Relationships, a new book penned by the clan’s four eldest daughters — Jana, Jill, Jessa and Jinger — which hit shelves March 4. “It’s the story of my mom wanting to be perfect,” says Jill.
Michelle confessed that despite exercising at least three hours a day, she easily put on weight. By the time she was 14, she started forcing herself to throw up. “I was doing it sometimes on a daily basis, or sometimes I would go a week,” Michelle recently revealed.
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But all that changed two years later when Michelle met the man who would become her husband. The 16-year-old didn’t want any secrets between them and told Jim Bob everything. The two began praying together and Michelle would call him “every time I was struggling” and felt the need to purge.
Miraculously, she triumphed over bulimia within months of opening up to Jim Bob, and the couple was married soon after she graduated from high school.
Michelle with Jim Bob
While Michelle’s case was textbook in some ways, her cure was not. “Usually, you need medical help,” says Stacy Kaiser, a psychotherapist and author of How to Be a Grown Up: The Ten Secret Skills Everyone Needs to Know.
“You need someone to monitor your body and intake and outtake. You also need a team of therapists.”
The family is rallying around each other and treating this disclosure as a teachable moment rather than a tragedy. “Mom is saying, ‘I’ve been through this! There is hope! God gives hope!’” Jill explains to Closer. “You can learn from other people’s examples of what not to do.”
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