LEARNING HUMILITY — DEAR BARBIE, YOU WERE NEVER MY FRIEND
Growing up, I had always taken pride in being thin. I could easily have been categorized as the under-eater, over-exerciser type of girl. My mom once told me that back in kindergarten I wanted to look like Barbie. She immediately saw a red flag waved. That was not something she wanted to hear from her chubby cheeked, six-year-old daughter with china doll hair. In spite of her efforts to steer me toward balance, my all-or-nothing personality eventually accepted the challenge and went for extremes.
Although a blast, my senior year in high school caused internal struggles. What started out as a wonderful last year quickly turned into a vicious battle with anorexia. When I began to lose weight for the homecoming dance, the desire to drop a few pounds seemed harmless.
I had the perfect dress in mind. It was short, three inches up from my knees, and strapless. The thin, maroon knit fabric was accented by soft, black lace. If I could drop about seven pounds in one month, it would fit me perfectly. I did the math and figured the best option to meet my deadline was to skip lunch while I continued to work out.
Looking back, health was not my primary concern, looks were. I had it in my head that I would look so much better if I lost weight. Driven by a false sense of control, the competitor inside of me said if losing seven pounds made me look better, then twelve must make me look really good.
It was a constant numbers game. I quickly acquired a love-hate relationship with the closet scale. If I had lost some weight, I'd be rewarded with eating dinner that day. If I maintained, then I'd have to skip dinner as punishment. I continued skipping meals and took it so far as to not eat at all for three days at a time.
What started out as a simple seven pounds turned into twenty. When you already have a “normal” physique, twenty pounds is a lot.
Thankfully, with the help of my family, I sought counseling although the issue of control didn't go away. Now when I see an old picture of me wearing that little maroon dress at the homecoming dance, all I can think of is how much I suffered inside.
My eating disorder carried on through college. I never went days without eating, although I limited my calorie intake. This lack of food led to binges, weight fluctuations, dieting, and chronic over-exercising. My body screamed for nourishment, but as long as I was thin, I didn't mind shutting it up.
After college, I worked with a personal trainer and spent way too much time at the gym. I ended up eating more and had stopped binge eating, but still didn’t grasp the concept of nutrition. Never mind the fact I had just graduated with a degree in dietetics. My focus was on weight, not health.
A few months after college I moved to a new city. Shortly afterwards, I noticed unusual bloating. With all of my conditions to working out, disordered eating, and unhealthy nutritional patterns, I quickly became concerned. I wasn't doing anything different with my diet or workouts so why would I get bloated? I wouldn't find out until a year and a half later.
Slowly, my health declined, and I lacked energy. I literally would fall asleep at the front desk where I worked.
My weight slowly climbed, so naturally I started working out more, twice a day and evenings. I looked in the mirror one day and noticed brown spots all over my chest, stomach, and back. Plus, I would awaken in the middle of the night with the lower half of my body drenched in sweat and the upper half freezing. Getting a cycle seemed so far out of reach because they were never consistent and soon stopped all together. I suffered from extreme constipation, unstable moods, and stomach pains so severe I would lay curled up in a ball on the floor and crying.
To make matters worse, I gained thirty pounds in one month, making it a grand total of sixty pounds. Blossoming from a size two to a size fourteen, my parents finally insisted I move back home.
I remember one of the last days at work before the move. As I walked to the restroom, a woman asked me when the baby was due. I was horrified to appear pregnant during what I considered to be the prime of my life. I ate healthy, exercised at least twice a day, and sometimes even walked on my lunch break. I had prided myself on being thin and had gone to extremes to achieve it.
When I told her “I'm not pregnant,” she apologized although the words had already stabbed my heart. I suddenly realized my fear of appearing overweight and pregnant had become my reality.