I wrote this in my senior year of high school. I’m reminded of this piece every time I go on another diet. I’ve been doing pretty well with my most recent venture . . . for the past two weeks anyway. I’m hoping to be brave enough to post more about that soon.
I was a little girl once, so long ago. I dreamt of growing up and seeing the world through a woman’s eyes. I wanted to put my hair up nice just to impress a boy. I threw away my Barbie dolls in hopes that I would one day become one. I longed to be beautiful with a woman’s smile and a woman’s hands, and yes, of course, a woman’s body. I craved long legs and firm breasts, a flat tummy and graceful arms. I thought of being the center of attention each time I walked into a room. When all the kids in elementary school would tease me about being fat, my mom would tell just to wait until high school. She said that all of those same boys would be knocking down my door for dates.
When I was 14 and 203 pounds, I decided to give up on becoming a Barbie doll. In fact, I protested the whole idea. I told all my friends that being beautiful didn’t matter, that my personality was more important. I had my goals set on teaching every little girl to grow up and be themselves, not to strive after a supermodel image. Inside, I still desired that woman’s body.
At 15, I made the decision that I was going to be thin at any cost. At school, I’d either claim to be sick or spit my food into a napkin before swallowing. The spitting always worked the best . . . that way no one ever knew that I wasn’t eating. Fasting became too much, so instead I found my head over a toilet after each meal. When sticking my fingers down my throat got to be tedious and rather disgusting, I started stealing laxatives from K-mart. I was always too embarrassed to buy them. Running to the bathroom all day starting getting suspicious, so I used diet pills to help me fast again. I also discovered that smoking works great for appetite control, and if I had a cigarette every time I was hungry, I’d eat less.
I knew what I was doing to my body, but I didn’t respect myself enough to care. I wasn’t anorexic or bulimic; it was never that out of control. I just wanted to be beautiful, and I thought beautiful meant thin.
I stopped fasting and purging later that year. It wasn’t because I reached my goal or loved my body. After watching my mom go down to 95 pounds, due to the cancer and chemo and morphine, I realized that sometimes healthy is better than thin. I remember watching her walk down the hall of the hospital. She looked like a stick figure in a gown. I remember how proud she would be when she’d gain a few ounces. I remember how devastated she’d be when she lost more weight. “But I ate a lot this week!” she’d protest. It was eye-opening. After she died, I threw away my laxatives and diet pills.
I’m 18 now and 160 pounds after two years of incessant yo-yo dieting. I’ve tried suppressing my need to be thin, but it always surfaces up again. I’m just trying to do it healthy this time. I haven’t taken a diet pill in nearly 6 months and a laxative since I threw them away. I’ve realized that being beautiful doesn’t mean I have to be thin . . . and those boys never knocking down my door doesn’t mean I’m unattractive. I can look in the mirror now and see a young woman who, although may not be a Barbie doll, is still gorgeous and appealing in her own way.
Today, I love myself. I couldn’t honestly say that before. Today, I know that the numbers on the scale don’t determine who I am. I am beautiful and as long as I remember that, no smart-aleck ten-year-old from my past can tell me any differently.
It’s almost funny to me now. At 160 pounds, I thought that I was so fat. 160 pounds is actually my goal weight right now. Hell, I’d even settle for the 203! Slowly but surely. Progress not perfection. I’m working on ending that incessant yo-yo. 13 years after this was written and I, once again, am working on getting healthy . . . not just thin.