Michelle Duggar reveals struggle with bulimia

Feb 26, 2014 at 9:53 p.m. ET

In her new book with her oldest daughters, Growing Up Duggar, Michelle Duggar reveals a personal struggle she had with an eating disorder.

Photo credit: Scott Enlow/TLC

19 Kids and Counting star Michelle Duggar is opening up about a very personal battle she struggled with as a teen. The mom-of-19 and her oldest daughters have written a book called Growing Up Duggar and that's where Michelle exposed her secret.

The four girls, Jana, 24, Jill, 22, Jessa, 21 and Jinger, 20, talk about a girl named Marie who had a hard time as a teen.

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They wrote, "On the outside, Marie had what everyone else wanted, but on the inside, she felt sad and empty. 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."

Eventually, Marie's identity is revealed as their mother.

Michelle shared to People, "I have been open with my struggles with the kids before. 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."

As a high school student, the 47-year-old reality star participated in gymnastics and cheerleading, but she found it difficult to keep in shape.

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"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 said. "I would look around and compare myself to my friends, saying, 'oh my, she's so small,' or 'she has such skinny legs.'"

Her issues with bulimia began at 14 and continued until she met her now-husband, Jim Bob, when she was 16.

"The freedom came when I talked about it. I met Jim Bob and he and I were in a dating relationship and I loved this guy and wanted to marry him. We were talking future together and I remember that I felt like I had to tell him everything, everything about myself. 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," said the TLC TV personality.

They worked through her eating disorder together, even though it would bother her years later. Today, she maintains her health using the point system from Weight Watchers which is a simple plan of accountability for Michelle.

"That solid accountability with another human being, a deep love and strong focus, was where I found freedom," she explained. "I was willing to be accountable before God and man. But the struggle was still there. That accountability was powerful."

Her new book comes out March 4.