Unfortunately, I know all too well how easy it is to fall into the trap of an eating disorder.
As a kid, I was obsessed with Barbie dolls. I had tons of them. My mom and I collected special Barbies as a hobby, and they lined my room.
Along came puberty and the leap to middle school. Suddenly, I was entering my teenage years, and I was expected to start looking like a woman. As a perfectionist, the kind of kid who gets straight As and kicks himself or herself when he or she finishes second at the spelling bee, I wanted to be like those dolls — thin.
I was going for seconds on macaroni and cheese one night, and my mom said to me, “You don’t need anymore. You’re getting fat.”
That’s all it took. I ran upstairs to my room, and as tears streamed down my cheeks I did 100 sit-ups.
The next morning, I devised a plan. I was only going to eat six grams of fat and 1,000 calories a day. It was easy to stick to my plan with a house stocked full of fat-free items purchased by my diet-obsessed mom.
A fat-free yogurt for breakfast, a fat-free hot dog for lunch and a plain baked potato garnished with ketchup and mustard for dinner was a typical day for me. It was summertime, so no one was there to monitor my eating habits.
No one was there to watch me obsessively exercise to television workouts, either. I played the same video workout so much that I wore it out in two months.I weighed myself every day. And I lost weight. I went from 120 pounds to 100 in a little over a month.
But strange things started happening to me. When I would stand up, I would get dizzy and nearly blackout, a condition known as orthostatic hypertension. My hair was dull and began to thin. My nails got brittle. I stopped menstruating.
I finally quit eating that way after a couple months because I didn’t feel any better about myself at 100 pounds than I did at 120, and no one had really noticed my weight loss or given me any positive reinforcement. Fortunately for me, my common sense overcame my need to be perfect. I settled for being healthy.
In college, I discovered that a lot of people had similar experiences. A good friend of mine once shared her tale of disordered eating. She was 13 and taking ballet classes. The constant comments about weight from her dance teacher made her self-conscious, and the pressure to be thin overwhelmed her.
“I would go in the bathroom and turn on the shower, but I wasn’t really showering,” she said. Instead, she was forcing herself to vomit.
“About the third day of doing it, I popped a blood vessel in my eye. My friend pulled me aside in dance class, and knew what I had been doing, and begged me to stop. I did, because I realized you don’t have to be unhappy just because you’re not what everyone wants you to be.”
It’s important to realize that having an eating disorder is pretty common. Not everyone is able to overcome their eating disorder alone. If you need help, it’s out there. You can make an appointment to speak to dietician Kim May at the Student Health Annex, located beneath the bookstore next to Kinko’s, or any counselor at the Counseling Center for Human Development in SVC 2124. Counseling is free for students.