My body has always been a topic of conversation for my peers. I was made fun of when I was stick-skinny in middle school, and then was a spectacle when I grew curves in high school. I was taught at a young age to hate myself. Pretty princesses lived happily ever after and ugly stepsisters were doomed to life as a spinster. I would go shopping with my mom (who, mind you, has the body of a small Olympic athlete to this day) and I would have to reassure her twelve different times that you could tell it was her jeans making her shirt stick out and not her stomach. If she, of all people, felt others were viewing her as fat, then how were other people viewing me?
Much to my surprise, when I got to college, I defeated the Freshman 15 and I lost ten pounds in two months from all of the hills on campus. I then found those 10 pounds and a few extra by winter break. I was so afraid of gaining any more weight that every bite of food became a math equation. I would have a running count of how many calories I consumed that day as well as how many I had left. I couldn’t pay attention in class because my growling stomach would distract me. I couldn’t go out to dinner with my friends because I had too much for lunch that day and I didn’t have enough calories to spare. The magic number haunted my every move.
Addition alone was not working for me. I was hungry, miserable, and insatiable. So one night, after a guilt-filled trip to McDonalds, I discovered subtraction. I threw up my chocolate milkshake and dollar fries and felt a wave of relief come over me. I no longer felt the weight of those extra calories around my waist. I felt immediately lighter. I knew it wasn’t healthy, but neither is McDonald’s, right? I didn’t think much of it. I continued to focus only on my addition problem, but the satisfaction of subtraction crept in the back of my mind. I had a particularly gluttonous meal at the dining hall, it was pizza and french fries night, and I could not stop feeling like the pizza was oozing straight to my thighs. So before it could get there, I got rid of it. The same feeling of relief came over me. It was addicting. I could eat so much more when calories didn’t count. I would eat 600 calories worth of food, get rid of half, and be left with only 300 when my body thought it was more.
I started taking advantage of this new loophole. I was still absolutely tormented by calorie counting, which was only made worse when I started drinking more. I would throw up my dinner so I had enough calories to drink, which meant I was drinking on an empty stomach, which would make me throw up even more. In my mind, it was infrequent enough to not cause a problem. I would do it a few times one day, skip a few days, do it another, and only do it at dinner the next night. But my rationalization allowed me to do it more and more. I had not lost a single pound, but the crippling fear of gaining weight would give me a panic attack whenever I felt like I had ate too much. My heart would palpitate and my world would spin, and only after I got rid of the excess calories would I feel at peace again.
I lived under the delusion that I was fine for a year and a half. I learned how to hide it from my friends, my family, and my roommates. I knew how to hit the side of the bowl so it didn’t make a sound. I acquired acute hearing abilities to know when anyone was passing the door. I knew to clean the underside of the toilet seat to get rid of any evidence. I knew to play off my watery eyes and hoarse voice as symptoms of a coughing fit. It was all very strategic.
It was a very conscious effort which was foiled when my mind became unconscious. I blacked out at a party, and ended up passing out in a bush in a pool of my own vomit. Sounds like a rock star move, but it was the opposite of glamorous. Luckily, my ex-boyfriend happened to spot my feet sticking out of the shrubbery and sat me up. He wiped the dirt and puke off of my face as I fully body sobbed to him about how badly I had been feeling about myself. I told him if I wasn’t going to be happy, I wanted be skinny. He sat with me as I shivered and cried and for the first time, I admitted I had a problem.
When he repeated to me what I had said to him, my conscious self was still in denial. I wasn’t in need of hospitalization, but I still wasn’t normal. I was stuck in a gray area between sane and sick. Eventually, I got help. I went to a therapist once a week, and eventually just whenever I was feeling urges to keeping doing my mental math equation. I wasn’t admitted to an intensive rehab, but I still got myself to be normal again. My front tooth chipped because of all the stomach acid that eroded my enamel and that’s it. I got really lucky. 1 out of 4 women suffer from an eating disorder and only 10 percent of them get treatment. The face of an eating disorder isn’t always bony or bloated. It can be the face of any girl (or boy) without you even knowing.
Even your own..
If you (or someone you know) are struggling with an eating disorder, call (630)-577-1330, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders website and helpline for more information.
To take a confidential, eating disorder screening created by the National Eating Disorders Association, click here.
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