I can remember as early as elementary school being afraid to wear shorts because my legs were "fat." I have never been overweight or heavy in my life. My mom was sure to raise me on homemade, vegetable filled meals. I was one of the smaller girls in my grade. When I was finally brave enough to wear shorts for the first time in fifth grade, a boy in my class told me I needed to shave(I really shoulda told him off for that one). I was so proud of myself for wearing shorts that day, I was telling myself "wow this isn't that bad." But his comment made me completely tear myself down.
Silly of me to let another person's opinion affect me the way they did but all I desired was to be accepted. Bullying was another factor that I couldn't stop. Taylor, my beloved childhood bully, thank you for pinching handfuls of the skin on my leg and twisting as hard as you could no matter my pleas for you to stop or threats to tell the bus driver. I'll never forget the times you told me I couldn't do things. Thank you for making me doubt and hate myself at such a young age. Maybe it was the people like you that made me feel like I was out of control.
Don't get me wrong, I've always had my close friends and I made more but I still didn't see my life going in the direction I wanted it to. I wonder if I targeted my body as the one thing I could control. The daily and nightly standing in front of the mirror and pinching my stomach, deciding it was all fat and crying emotionally drained me. I wanted change and by now I was reading health and fitness articles in magazines which lead me to links on Pinterest. Those links suggested I eat 1500 calories a day to lose belly fat.
My 103 pound sixth grade self agreed and mastered the art of counting calories. Everything that went into me was a number and that number mattered. In as little as a week, I saw results. My stomach was flatter, although it was to begin with. Then I was exposed to sugars, bad fats and sodium. All terrible things for the body, those must be avoided every moment possible. The goal was to be "healthy." My mom quickly noticed my change in behavior and confronted me about why I wasn't eating this or that. I would shrug her off saying I'm not hungry or it just doesn't sound good right now.
Soon I was down to 1200 calories a day along with a list of workouts to complete after each meal. But that wasn't enough, I craved the feeling of being able to inhale deeply and my stomach to not expand. Before I knew it, I was down to 700 calories a day. Now 90 pounds and five foot four. Mom definitely was concerned. There were at least two occasions when she pulled me to a different room and told me to stop doing this. She grabbed my wrist and said, "Look at this. Do you see this?" I hadn't realized how bad I had gotten and pretended to not know what she was talking about. "This didn't use to be this way," she told me while her eyes welled up with tears as she gestured to the bone my wrist had turned to. I had holes in my wrist, I could see every bone move and my skin stretch to keep it covers because there was nothing else there. Experiencing my mother cry and knowing it was because of me hurt more than anything. She was monitoring what I ate at home so I would tip toe out into the kitchen each morning before she was out of her room to eat a piece of fruit. So that I could tell her yes, I already ate breakfast and lie about what I ate. It got to the point where I would leave obvious signs to pretend that I ate something such as leaving the loaf of bread or peanut butter open that I never used on the counter.
After I calculated that thirteen grapes and three glasses of water were equivalent to about 80 calories I went to the salad bar at lunch to avoid eating. I would fill my tray with salad that I never touched, it took up space so it looked like I was eating. Then, I would get an apple and one tablespoon of peanut butter. Baby carrots were always a good option and if I knew dinner was going to be lower in calories than usual, a spoon or two of potato salad. I had all the math figured out, a "perfect" routine. Then I would go home, eat the dinner that mom made,pretend that I wasn't going to hate myself later for it and do at least thirty minutes of intense working out before mom and dad came to see what I was doing in my room. Hiding food became a talent.
A doctor's appointment caused my first anxiety attack. I knew they would comment on my weight loss. Especially when I knew I was only supposed to be gaining it at this time in my life. 90 pounds, five four and a quarter. You know those line graphs they make for your child to see their height and weight grow over time? The drop in mine was extreme. My parents felt like they had failed at raising their perfect, healthy child. What did they do wrong? They tried making me only clean meals so I would eat them but even that didn't work. After questioning from my doctor, I was scheduled to get my blood drawn the next week. I was and still am terrified of needles. I tried to eat more. Discovering that I could still keep a minimum calorie intake when eating school lunches. I figured I would have perfect blood results. The anxiousness in that waiting room was unbeatable. The needle was in my arm for what seemed like forever. Watching my own deep red blood flow into a tube disgusted me. After that I was back to my old ways. I thought that if my blood results proved fine, then I could keep living this way, the only way I remembered how to handle food.
When the nurse told us that I was extremely malnourished, dehydrated and lucky I wasn't dead, I still wasn't convinced. Probably because I didn't care. I prayed to die. I repeatedly stabbed myself with pencils until I drew blood and had red welts for the next day or two. I wasn't human anymore, I was being controlled by Ana. And she wasn't alone, depression and anxiety had become a serious issue. Mom decided I needed to see a dietician, that since I was so worried about being healthy, we could see what she thinks. The dietician told me to cut out all exercise and to eat three meals a day with a snack before bed. Acting like I didn't care and agreeing with the dietician was so difficult. Like pretending that she didn't just tell me to stop doing the only things that comforted me.
I cried once we got to the car. I was beyond embarrassed of my situation. I never thought I'd end up where I was. My nights consisted of thinspo and reading dieting articles. I created an anonymous Twitter and Tumblr account because I didn't want people to notice my depressing posts. I had hit rock bottom with my relationship with God and my closest friends. I had never felt more alone and like no one was on my side. My parents threatened to send me to a mental hospital in California where they specialized in eating disorders. I didn't want to be known as that person. So my mom started taking me to counseling at a place in Lawrence. It was a big building and I felt like everyone knew about my problems as I walked past them. I had become so paranoid about the littlest things; that people would feel how thin I was when I hugged them.
The last time I weighed myself before counseling I had reached 89 worthless pounds. In all honesty, therapy didn't help. It served as a wake up call and the last push to decide to get better for me. One day at breakfast I just decided to stop. It was easy, it was freeing. All the things I had been doing in the past were released through the one act of just not doing anything. I told myself I would try it for a day and see what happened. When a number popped into my head, I would force myself to erase it and if I added anything up, I would make myself lose track and screw it up. I shouldn't say it was easy, it wasn't. But once I made that decision it began to brighten up. Once I had finally started to gain weight back, I told mom to stop taking me to therapy.
That, too, was freeing. It was like I was held captive by this eating disorder that made me think I was in control when really it was. So once I was myself was back in control, the feeling was pure bliss. I was trying to become normal again. Of course there were times when I was tempted to relapse. And yes, I then began to struggle with binge eating. Because now that I've allowed myself to eat. Overeating became the new control. I told myself it was okay because you have to gain the weight back anyways when really it wasn't healthy at all. Almost equally as unhealthy.
That summer was a blessing, it gave me time to sort out my situations and I could come back to eighth grade at a healthy weight and have a chance at being normal. Eighth grade was so fun. Life isn't that bad it turns out. Towards the end of eighth grade, I got my first period. Something I had never gotten to experience when all the other girls seemed to get theirs. Without my family pressuring me into getting better, I would not be her today. Or not near as joyfully or healthy as I am able to live life today. It really is a decision you have to make for yourself. You can do it. Today I am at a healthy weight with friends, I am involved in my high school, I get good grades and I have a boyfriend, Jesus and a loving family.
I hope I can inspire at least one person to make that decision today because it is so so worth it. It's hard, I know. It will be but you won't regret it! Please seek help and choose to recover today.