When I was 13, I stopped eating. I kind of know where it stemmed from, but at the same time, not really. I remember sitting in home economics (when it still existed) with my table of three other girls, who were a head shorter and two pant sizes smaller than I was at the time. They told me that if you couldn’t fit your finger and thumb around your wrist, you were fat. So when I tried, the horror on their faces immediately told me my prognosis from their dietician junior high selves: obese. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to middle school, but let me tell you, its basically the worst fucking place on earth – and with the looming fact that I felt like I was actually overweight; it was hell. I was a size 4.
The next couple years would be the obsessive checking of calories, force-drinking gallons of water, and crying uncontrollably when confronted about how thin I was. In all honesty, I was not restricting THAT bad, but it became the concern of others and I turned it around… but in a 180 degrees, the complete opposite type way. In two years following, I went from a size 00 to a size 8. Again, horribly unhealthy, under the supervision of no doctor, but the advice of my body and 15-year-old self telling me, “you can eat candy; you’re a size 00” until I was no longer a size 00… or a size 2… or a size 4. It only dawned on me how much my body had changed when I had to buy a prom dress, which found me in a Nordstrom dressing room, freaking out over my preconceived notion that I was still a size 00, when I was really an 8. Still not overweight. Still nowhere close.
My relationship with food has been tumultuous. I cannot identify with people who consider themselves “foodies”, though I wish I could. I can’t socialize over how good pizza is or where the best ice cream in town hides. I wouldn’t know; I don’t eat it. Food makes me sick. Looking at it comes with an overbearing dark cloud of guilt and negativity. I can see where bread makes dimples on my thighs and know whipped cream is going to cause me to lose a job. That’s how my mind works around it. Its more like punishment than a place of nourishment or health. If you don’t know how that feels, you most likely never will and I can’t tell you the amount of envy I have for you.
Right now I’m sitting in a café in Sydney, leeching off the shoddy wifi, trying to quietly type this up without disturbing the patrons enjoying the silence. To my right sits the plate of spicy avocado mash I painstakingly ate about twenty minutes ago. Three pieces of bread, a napkin, and a fork are all that’s left. There were four pieces of bread. I ate one. I probably won’t eat again today because of it.
On my walk over here, I watched a girl with thighs you could see through walk across the street, green smoothie in hand. I marveled over how slender she was, wishing my body could look like that, imagining how many jobs I could get if I could just get it together already. I vacillate aggressively between eating and restricting, but never long enough to look how my industry wants me to look.
Sometimes I imagine my young teenage body, how I would look in the mirror, stare at my collar bone and cry. I remember the compliments and then the snide remarks. This shit is unfair. At times, I feel a great deal of jealousy for the younger me. She would go so far in modeling, but she was so unhealthy.
People applaud my self control. They also applaud how “fit” I am. I realize I have to feed myself or I turn into a low blood sugar monster. I realize I have to feed myself to fuel my runs and my workouts and my brain. I do that for my body because I love my body. If that doesn’t get me ahead in my job, then that’s okay. Because the job will end and time will seal its closure, but my body will live on and so will the consequences of how I treat it now.
I can’t tell you when eating won’t feel like a task or a sin, but I look forward to that day. Food shouldn’t be a reward. It also shouldn’t be a punishment. I’ve yet to balance that line… but I’m working on it.