TRIGGER WARNING: THIS TEXT WILL TALK ABOUT DISORDERED EATING
I came back from Italy and had lost about 12 kilos. I managed to lose this weight through a mixture of stress, extensive physical activity and downsizing my food intake. Initially it wasn’t about losing weight or being skinny at all really. It was more about controlling something while being constantly on the move. While everything outside of me was changing, I needed to cling onto something and this just happened to be food. Very quickly this is how I identified myself. As the girl that didn’t eat a lot. And when I arrived home this is who I became. Now it was about being skinny because I wanted to stay that way.
no more than three
or else suddenly your thighs begin to inflate like the balloons
from all the birthday parties you couldn’t go to
you will learn to avoid celebration
because celebration means food
you will spend christmas day
fanaticizing about burying
your dissolving teeth into your knuckles
until your heart stops.”
Savannah Brown “Pretty girls bleed flowers” (2016)
The funny thing is that extremes are always and inevitably connected to the other extreme. I would starve myself for extended periods of time till my body went into survival mode and I would over-eat. I would eat so much till I wouldn’t be able to move anymore, till my belly was large and extended. I would feel sick and terrified by what I had done to myself. I felt disgusting because I didn’t realize that all my body was doing was trying to protect me. It had already stopped my period as no child of mine would be able to rely on this fragile body that could barely carry me up a set of stairs. It had grown thick hair on my arms and face, fingers and neck to keep me warm as I was constantly cold. Tights under thermal leggings under jeans and thermo-shirt under sweaters under jackets. Nothing would keep me warm. I was also constantly tired but never able to sleep.
And not only my body was fighting, my mind was as well. Food was all I thought about. I couldn’t listen to people but I could watch them eat. And I could judge them. Boy, was I proud. Look how much they ate and how little I could eat. Look how weak they were. Yes I would stuff myself with pickles and chocolate, bread and cornflakes, pasta and bananas, hummus and left-over mushroom risotto all in one sitting but at least I wouldn’t eat breakfast the next day. I was strong and they were weak.
I became an awful person. I was afraid to eat out and got angry at my mom for buying things like chocolate because it felt as if she was imposing it on me because I couldn’t control myself. I would nervously roam the kitchen when she was cooking, would argue over every single ingredient. Wanting to stay in control, stay skinny as desperately as I did made me selfish. Not eating and making my mom lose sleep over me made me selfish. I was irritated and angry, arrogant and terrified. My mind was so clouded. This is another thing: Starving yourself makes you stupid.
Yet I got compliments. “You look so beautiful, did you lose weight?”. A classic. “The perfect proportions just like a barbie”. Disturbing. “I wish I would have your kind of body”. My sister said that. My own thirteen year old sister who looks up to me. If she one day starts to starve herself, starts to vanish and crumble right in front of my eyes I will know where she has gotten that idea from. Or that ideal. This is what the media has done to us. Despite being clinically underweight, people perceived me as beautiful. Or at least some of the women did, I don’t think men care much for stick-arms and legs.
We are aware of what magazine covers and fashion models do to us and yet we still fall for the illusion of the beautiful child-women. It’s so easy to find beauty in what seems fragile and fleeting when it’s in fact flaky and crumbling.
To be fair, some people are my height and weight and probably perfectly fine. Some models are like that, they just happen to function perfectly at this weight but not me. When I found myself yet again crying on the bathroom floor, head leaning against the toilet seat and about ready to puke out all the food I had stuffed into myself earlier I knew that I had to make a change. That it wasn’t worth it.
My thoughts were very loud. I thought, no one would like me anymore if I would gain weight. I thought that no boy would look at me ever again. I thought that once I would start eating I wouldn’t be able to stop. I would eat and eat and eat till I would become overweight and miserable. And I did get hungry. Very hungry. Gaining weight from a place of dietary restriction is not easy. At first, my body demanded huge amounts of food to restore all the tissues and all the damage I had done. I got digestive issues. I got bloated. I got massive hunger attacks. Learning to surrender and to let go of control is something I had to fight for and I still do. I still struggle. I am very particular with food- everything has to be healthy yet my definition of healthy surely isn’t an overall accepted one. Eating out is hard for me. Being spontaneous about food is hard for me. Sometimes I get anxious and irritated and sometimes I skip social events altogether because I am anxious about what food is going to be there but it has gotten so much better.
The day I’ve gotten my period back I cried. Finally. My body had let down its guards and showed me that it trusted me again. I could bring a child into this world, this much is how it trusted me. Of course I have to ask myself, why I did all that. Why did I starve myself?
“don’t you wish you could shrink
don’t you wish you could have that control
don’t you wish you could make your mom cry
because she just doesn’t get why you’d do this
you don’t get why you’d do this
you’re smart but you just googled
how many calories are in tooth paste”
Savannah Brown “Pretty girls bleed flowers” (2016)
It came down to self-love. Not eating is synonymous with the wish to disappear. To be small.
Not wanting to be seen. Attempting to control life when life evidently can’t be controlled. There are a lot of things that have helped but in the end it came down to self-love. And I am still learning how to do that. Still learning to honour this body and not to fight it.
If anyone out there struggles with the same thing, please talk to someone. Surround yourself with people who preach body positivity and freedom. And know that you can be different. That you don’t have to suffer. That you aren’t the things you eat and the things you don’t eat. That people will like you if you’re happy and authentic, if you’re passionate about life and passionate about people. If you’re a good listener, a good friend, a good daughter. Not if you’ve skipped breakfast or eat less than everybody else or lose another pound.
You’re loved. I promise.