Persevere Gone Too Severe
“No one will love you because you’re fat.” Those words still replay in my mind when I look at breakfast, like a record that just keeps turning. Although the statement was not directed to me, I still felt shame for having a bulging stomach, and thighs that brushed against one another as I walked. I told myself if I lost 20 pounds, then maybe boys would like me. If I lost some weight, maybe I would like me. It turned out that no matter how much weight I lost, I would never like me.
It started off with the basics- eat less, exercise more. I counted my calories and did an hour of cardio daily. Although pistachios did make an amazing snack, I began to ask myself if I really needed them. I cut out protein bars, crackers, and fruits. They all tasted good, but didn’t help me lose weight. Those foods were sugary and had too many carbohydrates for my body. No more snacks, just three meals a day. One of those meals had to be dinner. My mother always cooked us dinner during the week, and usually I would eat them. She would make us casseroles, pulled pork, tacos, and sometimes even cheesy rice. The taste was impeccable and I looked forward to dinner each night. However as time went on, I began to make my own dinners. Hers simply were not healthy enough in my mind. Added sauces, cheeses, and dressings were unnecessary calories that held no nutritional value. Those extra condiments would surely pile onto my stomach or into the pocket of fat under my armpit.
This worked for a while. My body was shrinking, and I became more physically fit. Running didn’t leave me feeling out of breath anymore. People at school began to notice that I was becoming thinner and would compliment me on how good I looked. People were paying more attention to me, and for a while it made me feel better. It felt like I had just finished building the Statue of Liberty, I was so proud of how skinny I had become. I walked down those halls with my chin up and stomach sucked in. The compliments were nice and made me want to keep pushing myself. Yet still, I found that when I looked in the mirror, I was still too fat to be worthy of approval. I had to be perfect.
Breakfast and lunch were no longer apart of my day. I was able to function throughout the school day with my stomach growling by chewing gum and drinking massive amounts of water. When I got home in the afternoon, I ate dinner. Alone. I had either a cup of egg whites with spinach and feta cheese, or a half a serving of pasta with butter. Afterwards, I would hit the treadmill. My body could no longer handle running, so I cranked up the incline and walked as fast as I could for 45 minutes. My hips ached, but it was worth it to see them stick out under my skin. The number on the scale became my obsession. As the number of calories I consumed decreased, so did the flashing red number on my bathroom floor. Every morning and night, I would weigh myself to be sure I didn’t somehow gain weight overnight.
My weight plateaued. Even with my calories dangerously low, I struggled to get below 115 pounds. My body was holding onto water and the small amount of food left inside. My solution was to make sure there was nothing in it to hold onto. I began to take laxatives, three times a day. It did the job and I finally reached my goal weight of 110 pounds. To me, I still looked like I was 30 pounds heavier. All I saw was a desperate girl, trying to be skinnier. My stomach still poked out, and I could still grab onto the skin around my thighs. It didn’t help that my mind was constantly thinking about food, and those around me. I finally had a boyfriend, and a good group of friends. I believed that if I gave in and gained back the weight, they would see the disgusting girl I was trying to hide. Every time someone walked by with chocolate or a slice of white bread, it was all I could focus on. Not once did I allow myself to have any.
Until one time, I did. After I went to go get my haircut, I decided to eat a blueberry muffin. The entire drive home, I cried with regret. Immediately, I ran up the stairs to my bathroom and tried to make myself throw it up. It was too late. I sat on my bathroom floor crying over the toilet bowl. I could practically feel the fat forming in my full belly. That muffin had more calories in it than I had consumed on the daily. Goosebumps covered my ashen skin, all the way up my spine to my neck. My makeup covered the dark circles under my eyes, and highlighted the tips of my hollowed out cheekbones. I thought I looked dainty and elegant with my collar bones constantly creating a shadow. In reality, I looked the way I felt… Hungry.
I knew I couldn’t live my life like this. Spending all my time calculating calories and exercising, missing out on wing night with my friends, not going to birthday parties to avoid cake. My life revolved around losing weight. I remember my dad sitting on the edge of my bed, watching as the words poured out of me. He took me to see a doctor who diagnosed me with anorexia nervosa and sent me to see a therapist. I knew I needed help, but I didn’t exactly want it. I was forced to gain weight. My stomach adapted to having only one meal a day, and could hardly handle all the food I was reintroducing back into my life.
More than once, I wanted to return to restricting. I was gaining weight back, and I feared I would return to being the fat girl that no one loved. All my hard work was going down the drain. Each bite I took, I chewed at least 30 times. I still had to workout everyday, in order to earn dinner for myself. Every bite made me feel foolish. I felt like I was settling myself to be looked at as the gross friend, yet again.
After about six months, I began to cut back on my meals again. This time, I made sure I ate three meals a day. The catch; each meal had to less than 300 calories. Most days, my breakfast was some of fruit, lunch was a protein bar, and dinner was a packet of instant oatmeal. I bought more laxative tea and drank it after every meal, chugging it with a bottle of water. It worked its magic, like always.
Since my body was finally adjusting to eating more, previously, the second round of restricting took an even bigger toll. My mother and I spent our mornings together on the couch during the summer. One morning right as we were getting ready to go for a walk, I stood up to put my blanket away. Instead, I took a few steps then collapsed on the floor. I will never forget hearing my mom shout my name and see her rush over to help me sit up. She repeatedly asked if I had hit my head and I told her to relax, that I simply just fell. “No, Jenna, you didn’t. You didn’t fall. You passed out. You just passed out,” she cried to me. I looked back down at the floor, noticing that my glasses flew off my face and into the corner. “Jenna, please,” she begged, “start eating more. You have to. I won’t let you be passing out, now.”
I knew she was right. What I was doing was doing more harm than good. I had made both of my parents cry, pushed away my friends, shut down my social life, and quit my job just to have more time to workout. I was wasting away. My world kept turning, but my body stopped giving me the strength to keep up. Soon enough, it would stop giving me any strength at all if I kept this up. I decided I never again wanted to hurt those who loved me, and I wanted to start living my life again. I wanted to love me, and love my body. I went back to therapy, and stuck to it this time.
Still, some days are easier than others. I find my mind adding up the calories of my oatmeal and bananas in the morning, and I try to tell myself it’s simply fuel for my body. Food is no longer my enemy, but instead a tool. It allows me to go throughout my days without feeling dizzy and cold, or tired and irritable. It allows me to go out with my friends and enjoy my time with them. It allows me to sit down with my family at dinner and discuss our days, not count the amount of times I chewed my chicken. Life is too short to spend it starving.
Jenna Thomas grew up in South Jersey and is now attending West Chester University in Pennsylvania. She currently studies English, with a focus on Creative Writing. Jenna tends to focus her work on poetry and short stories, but is working to add songwriting to her pieces. Her favorite things to write about are nature, outer space, and personal experiences that she has dealt with so far. Jenna hopes to continue to pursue writing with her future.
Copyright © 2020 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.