The reality star and mother of 19 shared her eating disorder battle with her daughters for their upcoming book, Growing Up Duggar, which hits stores on Tuesday.
"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," Jana, 24, Jill, 22, Jessa, 21, and Jinger, 20, write about their mom, initially disguising her name as Marie. Her " "teenage struggle for self-acceptance led her into some difficult emotional times and a very destructive habit that could have destroyed her health."
Michelle, 47, tells People that she wanted to share her struggle in the hopes of helping other young girls. "I found out that genetically I could put on weight easily, but with my activities, gymnastics and cheerleading, it was important for me not to," she says. "I would look around and compare myself to my friends, saying, 'Oh my, she's so small,' or 'she has such skinny legs.'"
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Michelle says she began to purge at 14 whenever she had eaten more calories than she thought she should. "I didn't tell any of my friends what I was going through," she says. "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."
Michelle credits her husband, Jim Bob, 48, for helping her overcome the issue when they began dating in her teens. "I would call him," she says. "He told me to call him anytime. 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."
The new season of 19 Kids & Counting premieres on April 1 at 9/8c on TLC.