NATE MOULTON/THE HOYA Throughout high school, Robbie Ponce (COL ’17) underwent a harrowing period of self-doubt and self-discovery as he battled with anorexia.
NATE MOULTON/THE HOYA
Throughout high school, Robbie Ponce (COL ’17) underwent a harrowing period of self-doubt and self-discovery as he battled with anorexia.

If you asked my best friends and family, they would all agree that I am a very extreme person.
I’ve always thought I was born to be great; I have always been a dreamer, and, from a very young age, I have been my own biggest critic. I have struggled for a long time with the expectations I set for myself, my body and my life. Although this may surprise most people at Georgetown, I admit I am probably one of the most insecure people that you know. This is my story.

Although I may have appeared to be a stubborn and pompous kid, when I was younger, I was never very confident. As a sophomore in high school, I was captain of the varsity soccer team, class president and a passionate student, but I never felt truly happy with myself.

When I was 15 years old, my grandmother, who had lived close to me since I was a child, passed away suddenly on a warm Saturday morning in May. My grandfather was diagnosed with cancer when I was 16 years old.

When my grandfather was sick and going through chemotherapy, my family moved him into my house. Just two doors down from my room, the man that I loved wasted away before my eyes. On some days, he refused to eat or drink anything, no matter how much my family implored him.

As my grandfather grew frailer until he was barely clinging to life, I stopped eating.
Then, just after my 17th birthday, my life spiraled out of control.

After years of struggling with my skinny body image and a lack of confidence in my physical appearance,

I developed anorexia nervosa.

On so many evenings, when I heard my grandfather coughing down the hall, I would lie awake in my bed. These sleepless nights were accompanied by days when I had no appetite whatsoever. I remember feeling sick and lightheaded and having to skip track practice because I had hardly eaten.

One of the scariest things is that, for a long while, I didn’t even realize that I had a problem.
At school, I would organize leadership seminars and presentations for middle schoolers, but at home, I would lock myself in my room so that I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone. I became accustomed to keeping up this happy facade, acting as a role model to the younger kids I mentored in high school, even though none of them was ever aware of how unstable I was and how much I was hurting.

At my worst, I was 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighed less than 115 pounds. I refused to look at myself in the mirror, and I had never felt more alone. My grandfather was suffering from his illness, my older sisters were living their lives away from home and my parents were juggling their jobs and trying to care for my grandfather.

Meanwhile, I was drowning.

I felt selfish because I couldn’t make my grandfather better.

I felt helpless because I didn’t have anyone to talk to.

Worse than anything, I felt like I was living a lie. Through the many days and nights that I spent unsure of how to turn my life around, I continued to lose weight and was skinnier than I had ever been. In the spring of 2012, I used to wear sweatshirts every day so that people wouldn’t notice how much weight I had lost.

When my grandfather died after months of chemo and radiation treatments, I finally opened up to a few friends about my eating disorder. I even brought a few of them to tears when I told them about my struggles with weight and self-image. That’s when I realized something that changed my life — so many people loved me more than I loved myself.

On a night when I desperately called a friend, hoping she could get through to me, she uttered the words that have left an impression on me to this day.

“If God leads you to it, He’ll lead you through it.”

I don’t think that there was any day in particular when I suddenly turned things around, but with the coming of each new day in April 2012, I started to take steps in the right direction. I started eating more frequently, and I slowly stopped obsessing over my physical appearance. I started lifting weights and tried to improve myself in all aspects of my life.

For the first time, I was actually becoming confident.

Today, my perspectives of myself and my life have come full circle. Every day, I work to become the best person that I can. I push myself in the classroom, on the field and in the gym.
Instead of skipping meals and having friends constantly telling me to eat more, I go to Leo’s between four and five times a day, and my friends are continuously amazed by how much food I consume on a daily basis.

Since April 2012, I’ve gained over 55 pounds, and I am truly living my dream. I go to Yates every day and enjoy pushing myself to get stronger and faster. Every day, I do strength training, and I try to find new ways to push myself at the gym. As a member of the men’s club soccer team and an intramural basketball team, I continue to pursue team sports.

Today, I am the healthiest that I have ever been. I am proud of my body and who I have become.
After my battle with anorexia and my many struggles in high school, I have recognized how hard I have worked to be where I am today. Though I haven’t always been sure of what I want to do in my life and my journey has not been easy, I am stronger emotionally and physically because of my experiences.

Every day, I wake up at one of the country’s best universities, surrounded by ambitious people and compassionate friends. These are only a few of the many blessings that have the power to make me break into a cheesy smile anytime, any day.

Let’s face it — I am nearly 20 years old, and I have no idea what I am going to do with the rest of my life. But, one thing is for sure: I am not done growing and learning.

Every day, I try to have a positive impact on the people around me and remember those who have had a positive impact on my life and on my personal journey. I may never reach perfection, but I have my sights set on leaving a distinct impression on the world. I can admit that I was more than apprehensive when faced with the prospect of writing this piece, as I know that many people who know me will be surprised by what they’ve read. At the present moment, there aren’t many people with whom I’ve shared these personal struggles.

Although I’ve made some of my best friends in my last year and a half at Georgetown, only one of them knows the slightest bit about my anorexia. Of my friends from high school, only a few are aware. And, to this day, even my parents, sisters and closest family members don’t know about the troubles I encountered as a 17-year-old.

But, I no longer feel afraid or embarrassed to share my story with anyone. These things are a part of my past, but I’ve taken measures to make sure that they are never a part of my future.
To my friends who may be reading this, I hope you were startled by what you have read. If anything, perhaps knowing my story will help you realize that anyone you know could also be struggling with a significant malady or disorder.

Everyone has a story, and mine is no more important than yours — I just hope that in reading about my life, you find that even in your darkest hour, you can find a spark of happiness and self-love that can help change your life.

You are a product of your environment and a sum of your experiences. You have the power to make something incredible out of your life. Look for beautiful things every day, and make the most of the many opportunities you’ve been given.

If you are tired of feeling alone, or you’re struggling to overcome depression or an eating disorder, you’ve got a unique chance to make a change. Work hard and you’ll find a new appreciation for the life with which you’ve been blessed. Know that you are not alone.

Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life.

Make it count.

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2 Comments

  1. this is amazing. thank you for sharing so honestly and openly.

    you look great now. i hope you feel that way, too.

  2. The article does an incredible job of explaining your mindset, and it describes the progression to your triumph authentically. Inspiring stuff

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