Wednesday Writing Prompt – I Wouldn’t Say It Was My Best Idea

I wouldn’t say it was my best idea, but when I was 17 years old, I decided to just stop eating.

It was surprisingly easy.  I set myself up so I didn’t have any choice.  I wouldn’t eat any breakfast, and then I’d go off to school with no money and no lunch. I’d spend lunchtime in the library or walking around talking to people in the cafeteria while they were eating, and the weakness and the stomach growling felt like victory.  When I got home from school I’d eat a can of soup or an apple, and at dinner time I’d tell my mother that I had too much homework to take a break, or I’d mention that I already ate before my parents got home.  No one noticed.  No one really seemed to care.

It was surprisingly easy.

I started out weighing 125 pounds, and at 5 foot 2. I was convinced I was hideously fat.  Eventually stepping on the scale turned into a game, and every time I would lose another pound, I’d tell myself that I wanted to see if I could drive it down even farther. And I could.  All I had to do was not eat.

It was surprisingly easy.

When my father saw me that summer his eyes sort of bugged out of his head and he told me that I looked like a waif, but he was the only one who seemed concerned. Everyone else told me how good I looked. My mother bought me new clothes, smaller and smaller.  We wore uniforms to school and I had to roll my uniform skirt up twice to keep it from falling down.  I bought myself a pair of the smallest shorts I could find, covered with stars, and I’d try them on every night in front of the full length mirror in my bedroom to make sure they still fit.  Then I’d pull down more and more things from my closet, trying on everything I owned, posing and preening in the small corner of my bedroom where the mirror was.  I could do this for hours, and when I was done, everything I owned would be piled in a heap in the bottom of my closet.  This was my favorite way to spend an evening. It made me feel calm, and beautiful.

There was a moment I will never forget as long as I live, when I stood up in biology class and one of the popular girls looked up at me, bitterly, and said “You are so skinny” in a voice tinged with envy.  It was one of the best moments of the entire year.  I keep it wrapped up, safe, in my memory, even now.

People were nice to me, for the first time.  Boys who had ignored me told me I looked good and kicked my seat, flirting.  I got asked to dances.   And I kept on not eating.

Eventually I started to feel sick, all the time, and that made it even easier not to eat.  I had a note and a doctor’s permission to eat in class, if I could, and I would eat one green apple, slowly, throughout the course of the day.  No one could figure out was wrong with me. I weighed 89 pounds.

This may have been when I first realized most doctors were idiots.

I still felt too fat to wear a swimsuit in public.

I wish I could tell you about the day I hit rock bottom, about how I smartened up and my brain got fixed and about how now I love my body now and happy happy joy joy, but that isn’t what happened.  No one ever said anything to me about my weight, and eventually I went off to college and I couldn’t keep myself from eating anymore, and i gained some weight and then some more and eventually I’d end up weighing almost twice that 90 pounds, and I’d be at the other end of the spectrum, wishing for the will power not to eat again.  I’d lose sixty pounds and then gain some back and then get pregnant and gain some more, and since that day I first decided to stop eating, I’ve spent the rest of my life feeling guilty over every bite of food I’ve ever put in my mouth.  Eating feels like failure to me.

I don’t know if I learned any lessons from starving myself into a skeleton. The sad truth is that I’ve felt fat since the day I hit puberty.  I felt fat at 180 pounds, when I was, and I felt fat at 125 pounds and at 90 pounds, when I wasn’t.  I feel fat now.  Before I had Eli when I running every day and I worked my ass off, literally, to get to my goal weight and I was wearing a size four, I felt fat.  There are always too many curves, too many handfuls I can pinch disgustedly. My body is never right.

So yeah, no magic answers.  The only progress I have made is that intellectually, I know that it’s not a good idea to just stop eating, and I would never do it again, no matter how much it may sometimes seem like a good idea. It’s not a good idea.

A good idea would be to learn to love my body at any size, but that’s one of those bossy little thing people like to just toss out at you, things like “calm down” or “You need to let go” or “Just relax” – but when they dispense this advise, they never tell you HOW. I am waiting to learn to love my body. I would love to just relax.  I need to know how, though, because I have no idea where to start.

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This Wednesday Writing Prompt was chosen by Jennie at She Likes Purple.

Other bloggers participating this week include:

Rantom Rantings – and she has the prompt for next week up as well.

American Family

Gentleman Savant

Raven

Let me know, either via a comment or email, if you would like to be linked here and I’ll add you.

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14 Responses

  1. Wow, doctors are not very bright.

    Beautifully written; makes me want to weep onto my keyboard.

  2. I wish I could tell you how, I can tell you that you aren’t alone. It sounds trite and not enough, even coming from someone that struggles with the same thing but it’s true. I don’t know that I will ever get to the point of loving my body and I’m skinny. Logically I know this to be true. Instead I have tried to learn to focus on making a body that can DO THINGS. It helps me to have an alternate focus, but every person is different and every person struggles with this problem in a different way.

    *HUG*

  3. I know a guy who has fought anorexia. He calls it “The Cheater’s Diet” which makes me laugh in a sad, sad way. He calls it that because you’re not really on a diet, you’re just starving yourself, thus cheating.

  4. I agree with the “DO THINGS” notion. Pick something you want to do, instead of something you want to be. For instance, say you want to run a marathon without stopping or benchpress 100 lbs or be able to do the scorpion pose or to be able to swim the english channel. Just pick something that would make you be in awe of yourself and then research a plan to get there. For me, this is so much more rewarding and attainable than counting calories and lamenting that I ate a candy bar. And I find that when I think about that candy bar as a barrier between me and an actual tangible goal vs just another notch in my belt (literally) it seems more powerful.

    So get on it, pick yourself a fitness goal. Weight loss will come along with it, of course, and by being able to control your body to achieve whatever amazing goal you select I’ll bet you start to get little tinges of pride about being you, curves and all 🙂

  5. I knew if tried to write anything serious, I would never be able to keep up with you. And I was right. And I have been there too.

  6. Hi there, I found your site through American Family.

    I can relate to what you went through–I spent years of adolescence trying to keep from eating and, when that didn’t work, to abusing diet pills and laxatives. I was heavily into ballet at the time, and I’m sure that the environment I was in had a lot to with my self-loathing.

    Well, many, many eons later, I am now a clinical psychologist. When I work with people (including myself!) about body image issues, one thing I always ask is, “Where did you learn that skinny is ‘good’ and fat is ‘bad’? Where did you learn that it is NEVER ok to like yourself for who you are, regardless of what you weigh?” For most of us, this learning sometimes came from our family, and almost always from the culture at large. The trick is to continue to ask yourself if you wish to give so much power to cultural factors that absolutely DO NOT have your best interest in mind, that don’t care whether you feel bad about yourself as long as you buy their product. If not, you are at the point where you could start to change the way you think and feel about your body, and the way to do that is to practice, as with any other skill. Practice–often–deliberately thinking over the things you have been taught to feel about your body weight, and keep asking yourself where they came from and if ithey are, logically, valid reasons to feel badly about yourself. If not, try suggesting to yourself that you are going to refuse to feel guilty about this. When the old thoughts come back (and they very likely will), keep challenging them. Basically, the “how” of this process is to have an ongoing internal debate with yourself.

    Good luck. This is a really hard one. I STILL struggle with it sometimes. But, it can get better.

  7. Wow. Well written. I did this a little in college, but not much. I do remember, like you write, the warm feeling of people complaining about my thinness.

    I put my own Wednesday prompt up. http://wonderspot.net/2008/07/30/under-the-influence/

  8. You’ve got a gift with words, Princess Nebraska, and the world is a far more interesting place with you in it.

  9. I put up a writing prompt post of my own. Thanks for the inspiration. 🙂

  10. I stuck with puking my guts out, which ended up not losing a lot of weight, all things considered. I always hated myself for not having the willpower to not eat.

    The only thing that has ever really worked for me was asking my husband. Not so much the “Does this make me look fat?” but more subtle. When I dressed up, he’d check me out appreciatively, like we were still dating. I’d wear something dirty to bed and he couldn’t wait to get it off. When I’d diet, he’d say, “Please, don’t lose too much weight — I love that you’re not breakable. Just be healthy.” I’m not saying it made me love my belly and my thighs and my upper arms, but it *did* make me want to make him happy, and knowing he thought I was attractive was good enough. In time, the yo-yo diets happened less and less frequently. Now they only happen every now and then.

    First time at your blog — followed Wonderspot’s link. I think I’ll be a regular. And I think I may participate in the weekly prompt.

  11. Delurking to say thank you for writing this. I’ve struggled with my body and my weight my entire life and I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t matter whether you’re too fat or too thin. An eating disorder is an eating disorder and I’m my own worst enemy.

  12. Oh lady. You’re incredible.

    I always say one doesn’t recover from an eating disorder. It’s been (technically) five years since I stopped throwing up on a daily basis but it’s still an option. It’s still a choice I could turn to. I’m not fixed or better. I just make the choice not to.

    This was so good. And so true. And so heartfelt.

  13. Man.

    Is it corny to say I can relate? I can. And I wish I had time to write so much more… because, strangely enough (we’re related and all that via marriage), in more ways than one.

  14. I’ve been reading your blog and several others. I was intrigued by the writing prompt so I decided to try it. I don’t know who to tell… you or She Likes Purple or Random Rantings or Gentleman Savant… anyway, pass it on and keep me posted on any new ones. Thanks! 🙂

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