"I thought the skinner I am, the prettier I am..."
UPDATE: Gabrielle appeared on the cover of Cornerstone Magazine with a feature story about her amazing recovery from a life-threatening battle with anorexia. Here’s a link.
Gabrielle Fitch was 16 when she entered the high fashion modeling industry. She was sought out by top agencies from around the world, but slowly began to fall into in the traps of anorexia. At 5’11”, her lowest weight was 70 pounds. Doctors told her that she had no hope, but God prevailed. Due to Christ’s faithfulness, her willingness to live for Him, and the power of prayer, Gabrielle is ready to share her miraculous overcoming story with the world.
Tell us about getting into the modeling industry.
I went to SHINE Summer 2010 and got close to five callbacks from agencies in NY and Dallas. I went to Dallas first and visited many different agencies around the area. I signed and was with a Dallas agency for around six months to a year. I thought that if I started in Dallas, I could get a lot of experience and it would look really good for the agencies in New York. I did a couple of runway shows in Dallas before I visited New York.
What happened while in New York?
In the Winter of 2012 I went to New York for three days. I was just planning on visiting and meeting with different agencies then going home and talking everything over with my family. While in New York, I visited with four top modeling agencies. After that, I got immediate response from three of the four, all saying that they wanted me to sign contracts. I was ecstatic. It felt like a dream come true.
They said that they needed a decision right away, so my family and I began praying about what agency to sign with.
How did you first slip into anorexia?
Throughout this whole process, even in Dallas, I was trying to be model-skinny, and I had reached that goal. When I got to the agency I chose to sign with, they told me that I was still a little too big. That lowered my self-esteem dramatically. They signed me anyway, and told me that I needed to lose more weight. I was very determined to become a model no matter what the cost was.
And it went downhill from there?
I started doing everything I could. I started exercising like crazy and eating very little because I thought it was what I was supposed to do. A few things did not go right with my agency– they started asking me to do things that I was uncomfortable with – so with the help of AMTC, I cancelled my contract with and switched over to another top agency.
The new agency said “You’re too small. You need to gain like five pounds.” However, I had an ego built. I decided that I would stay the size I was because I did not want to be any bigger. By that time, I was too far into the eating disorder – I didn’t even know I had it yet.
I was eating less and exercising more and more. I even went over seas to London for fashion week and signed with two major London and Paris agencies. Unfortunately, I became too sick (with anorexia) in London to continue to model, so my agency sent me home. Things really went downhill from there. There were certain days that I would legitimately exercise all day long and eat 500 calories, if that. The disorder spiraled out of control.
Did your family or friends notice that you were struggling with an eating disorder? Did anyone confront you about it?
While in Dallas, before I went to New York even, my mom did confront me about it. She thought I was losing too much weight. I told her I was fine and “if I get below a certain point then I will think about it.” I did get below that certain point, but by that time my ego was built. I was in a state of mind that made me think that my parents did not know what they were talking about, and I has everything under control. My dad, aunts and uncles became very worried and would talk to my mom about it. My parents tried to talk to me, but I was 18 and made my own decisions. Lexy and Glynis, Carey’s daughters from AMTC, had been walking me through my modeling career and also became worried about me being too skinny.
If you feel comfortable sharing, what were your height and weight at the lowest point of anorexia for you?
My height is 5’11, almost 6 ft. My lowest point was 70 pounds. I pretty much lost half of my body weight. I was 140 when I started modeling.
What kind of physical toll did this take on your body?
When I was at 70 pounds I was so weak that I couldn’t hold a eating utensil for more than two minutes. Every part of my body was sore. I was told by all the doctors and hospital that my bones were as fragile as a ninety-year-old’s. My BMI got down to 9.8 and doctors say that a 13 BMI is deadly and 10 or under causes permanent brain damage. Because of God’s grace he restored my body along with my brain and thinking.
What do you think was the driving force in your eating disorder?
I had built up this mental belief that the skinnier I was, the more successful I would become. My whole goal was to get the modeling going and be extremely successful to show people that I could do it. I saw all of these girls with 23-inch wastes who were booking all these jobs, so I would strive for a 22-inch waste, thinking that I could book more jobs than the other girls. It was a cycle of “the skinnier I am, the prettier I am and the more successful I will be.”
How did Actors, Models and Talent for Christ help to walk you through this?
AMTC has a prayer group, and my dad always shared things with that group about what I was going through. Prayer is the most powerful thing, so that helped drastically. During this time, I was not even at home. I had moved to a rehabilitation center in Dallas. While I was in rehab, Adam She, who is the president of AMTC, called my dad and asked if there was anything they could do to help me. They all knew that I was in the hospital, extremely sick and about to die. My dad, Adam and several more people from the AMTC family went on a three-day fast for me. That was definitely a huge factor in me getting through my disorder. All of the encouragement, prayers and fasting that AMTC poured into me are what helped me make it through.
What is the number one thing that Christ revealed to you through everything?
Anything is possible to get through with Him. I know that is so cliche, but that is definitely what I have come to realize. The thing is, at my lowest point of 70 pounds, I felt hopeless. I felt like overcoming the disorder was impossible; there was just no way to get through it. I saw all of these other people with success stories and just knew that it would never be me.
Scripture does say that God won’t give us anything we can’t handle – you have to lean on him to get through it – that is so true. You can overcome anything that this world will throw at you, but you just have to be determined, aligned with God and rely on Him alone.
How did you begin to overcome anorexia?
It started at the rehab house in Dallas. At that house I started to regain, then lost six pounds in two days. They sent me to the Baylor Hospital and at Baylor, for the first three days I wouldn’t eat. I was a robot, laying in bed all day.
They transferred me to the twelfth floor and after a while they told me “the reason you are on the twelfth floor is because they have given up on you. No one can help you and you are going to die. There is nothing we can do to save you because you are 70 pounds.” This took me by surprise and was a wake up call for me: the fact that I was actually dying. Everyone had been saying it, but now it was the doctors and hospital.
I was in the hospital for a month but the food was not doing anything because it wasn’t sticking. Eventually I chose to get a feeding tube put in. I had the tube in for about two-to-three weeks at the hospital and, besides God, that feeding tube is what saved my life. That was the only way I could get the nutrients that I needed.
I could have refused the feeding tube, but I felt God telling me to take it. The feeding tube was the last thing I wanted because it was painful, uncomfortable, irritable and just unimaginable to have. Now I am so thankful that I chose the tube. I am also beyond thankful that a handful of the doctors did not give up on me when most of them had walked away.
You have really been improving! What steps have you taken to be at such a healthy place? How is your recovery coming along?
Well it is definitely hard and not an easy path at all. Even now, there are so many days that I’m like “Okay, I’m just going to quit. I can’t do this anymore.” It is still ridiculously hard because for four years I trained myself not to eat, I trained myself to exercise. Anytime I get the urge not to eat I just start praying that God would give me strength and hunger to eat.
The body changing is very hard because I was so used to skin and bones. Now I see all of this other skin on my body – it gets overwhelming. That is when I have to say to God, “You are in control of this situation and I am going to trust You to make my body the way you want it to glorify You.” Our bodies are a temple of God, and I want mine to be healthy so it can glorify Him. Anytime I feel something, I give it to Him. It sounds easy to do, but is really is not.
People say, “How is it hard to just eat? You just eat.” But just eating is not the case. It’s a new lifestyle and the only thing that keeps me going is Christ’s strength. There is no way that my own strength could get me through this.
A lot of girls, when they go through a recovery from anorexia, have a psychiatrist, support team, nutritionist, dietician and doctor. Those are great resources, but I know there are girls in my situation that don’t necessarily have the finances to have those things. When you don’t have them, the only thing you have to lean on is God. He is the only one that can heal the disorder.
Do you feel that the fashion industry has good qualities? If so, what are they?
There are many good qualities that the fashion industry has to offer: such as giving individuals a chance to become financially successful at a job they are passionate for, and can have fun in what they love to do. The industry also instills determination, discipline, willpower and self-confidence, while continuously strengthening their character throughout their careers, and for life. Also, let’s not forget about all of the amazing people that you connect and work with along the way.
The industry has its good qualities, but also has bad qualities. If it is getting to the point where it is an idol in your life, you need to reconsider what you are doing.
What advice would you give to girls who want to go into modeling?
Anyone who is passionate about modeling and would like to pursue a career in the industry should definitely go for it. Remember is to maintain a strong mind that pressure cannot crush, and be watchful of yourself and others so you can stay clear of the dangers involved (just like in all other businesses). The fashion industry is beautiful and will open many opportunities for you to grow yourself as a successful and prosperous individual.
Do you have any advice for girls struggling with eating disorders?
I know exactly where you are. I know exactly how miserable, terrified and hopeless you are. I understand your pain, I have been hospitalized three times for it, I have been told that I would not survive. But there is hope, there really is. The determination that you used to get to where you are, you need to use that determination and willpower and turn it the other way. Everyone deserves a life to live. God made us to live life – not to see food as this terrible thing – but to be joyful in everything. It is possible to beat an eating disorder even though it does not seem like it is. Your new life is happy, carefree, you’re not thinking about food 24/7, you’re not worried about calories. It’s a healthy, happy relationship with food. That is what every anorexic and bulimic person wants in the end – a fearless relationship with food. You just have to lean on Christ, get right with Him and He will help you. He loves you so much that He will help you as you are taking the steps towards Him. It is hard work, but I know that in the end it is worth it.