When I was eight years old, my best friend told me I’d never be a ballerina. She pointed at my belly and said, “My instructor would make you do push-ups until you lost all that weight.” That year, I went on my first diet and my family bought Wii Fit, as the rest of them wanted to lose weight too. However, true weight loss never occurred to me until I reached 10th grade, when I started calorie counting and working out. I would watch Youtube videos about weight loss for most of my day: I obsessed, planned and was inspired. After all, it was a step toward good health, right?
On the second month of my journey the results hit me — I was 10 lbs down. Skipping a workout left me anxious, sometimes I would do them twice a day. My calories were strict and there was absolutely no eating after 7 pm, sometimes after working all day without time to eat, I would make myself go to bed hungry.
Thirty pounds down, my ritual was to lift up my shirt and check my stomach every time I was in front of the mirror. Sometimes, in class, I’d sneak out to go to the bathroom and analyze my appearance. Even though I had lost 30 lbs, I felt bigger than ever. I was hiding myself in baggy sweaters with self-consciousness. People were noticing this change– my friends were in awe over my new body, but all I could see was the same chunky girl from elementary school.
One day, it all snapped. My body couldn’t take the restriction and over exertion and I was consumed by hunger. Boxes of cookies, packages of chocolate bars, slice after slice of pizza. My body was so malnourished that it took its rage out on me. During this period of binge-eating, I was so depressed I would lock myself in the house and gorge myself on all my restricted foods. I couldn’t go three days without a binge episode. I was so desperate for a quick fix to this problem without ever questioning the cause, I soon lapsed into bulimia.
Binge, purge, starve, repeat. I spent my sixteenth birthday eating and puking– my friends wanted me to come over and celebrate but I was so fixated on my ritual. I told myself that if I wasn’t at my goal weight by my seventeenth birthday, I would finally kill myself. I spent Halloween doing the same thing while my friends were at a party I was suppose to attend. I remember crying all night and wondering why I was such a wreck, why I couldn’t just be normal.
The voice in my head chanted over and over, ” You aren’t sick, you aren’t skinny enough to be sick.” It was true– I have never hit underweight in my life. But that doesn’t dismiss the fact that my body was shutting down on me. I couldn’t work out anymore, for my muscles were deteriorating and my heart would race and skip beats. Sometimes I would stand up too fast and the room would spin around me, and my body would tremor and sweat even in the cold. Despite all the physical signs, I denied that I had a problem since I was still at a normal BMI.
The sad part is, nobody ever knew that I was suffering. When the heavy person gets thin, people tend to glorify them and use their before-and-after photos as inspiration. They are something that is praised in the weight loss community– Youtubers and public figures tend to talk down about the “before” portion of their photos, which sends out a terrible message. Now that I think about it, I was much happier with myself when I was bigger for the sole reason that I did not put the pressure on myself to look a certain way.
I was happy with who I was.
Eventually, I realized I was a lot happier before my eating disorder and after that, my lifestyle began to change. I was voluntarily hospitalized for planning to commit suicide and the hospital put me into eating disorder treatment. It took months of trying to recover and then relapsing; it took months of encouragement to finally get help. The first thing I did was unfollow the weight loss influencers that I had worshiped for so long, and I limited the time I spent envying models flexed and posed to “perfection.” I’m nowhere near recovered yet, but I am so much better than I was back then, My body is strong and so is my mind. In fact, last week was my seventeenth birthday and I spent it having fun with my friends.
I want you to know that dieting can trigger eating disorders, especially when our perception of beauty is so distorted. The diet industry profits off of our self-doubt and in turn affects our mental health. I want you to know that your life shouldn’t be dedicated to losing weight, because you’ll realize that you have missed out on so many things just like I have.
Eating disorder have the highest morality rate of any mental illness. Stand with me and refuse to become another statistic.
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