I am writing this for women or girls who are having or have had unhealthy thoughts about their weight and are considering taking drastic means to reduce it (especially starvation or over-exercise). If you have a loved one who seems like they may be taking on some bad habits, please slap them over the back of the head now and distract them with a productive activity. We anorexics are nothing if not goal-oriented.
I have had anorexia nervosa since the summer before my sophomore year in high school. I am now 23. I am still struggling with it, so everything I say in this article comes from my personal experience. It is my intention to inform — not sugar coat or idealize.
Everyone knows anorexia is a disorder, but many girls still wish they could have the “will power” to develop it. You can tell someone they aren’t fat or they are the perfect weight a billion times, but those words are about as effective at preventing disorders as a Vogue magazine. No 13-year-old girl unhappy with her body, desperate for some kind of control over her limited amount of freedom, is going to listen to their mother or gym teacher when they say, “you’re too thin” or “it’s just a little baby fat.” Because in the end, the only people they care about impressing are other girls their age. It can become a status symbol — “Look at me! I don’t have to eat. I’m a size zero, I’m not a pig like you.” It’s an instantaneous message, the lure of which attracts thousands of young women (and men), to eating disorders every year. The effects of a toxic adolescent environment are nothing new.
As a child, I was chunky. As early as second grade, my weight disgusted me, and it was always in the back of my head. When I hit adolescence, I grew to above-average height and stretched to normal-size, but in my head, I was still the fat kid. This would be the part where a normal recounting would make some self-pitying comment about how sad it was that I couldn’t be happy with myself. I say I was a delusional, gullible idiot who listened every time some mean girl or idiot boy called me fat because I didn’t have that stick-thin, pre-maturity body that most of my female peers did. Yes, they were cruel to bully me, but I was the fool for believing them, and thinking that I needed to follow their standards for beauty. They didn’t take the food from my mouth, and they still made fun of me in high school after I had dropped to a cadaver-status physique. If you’re searching for a sense of control in your life, take control of the way you react to harsh words and bullying. Don’t ever let them see you upset, and work on taking a step outside the situation. I’m not saying it’s easy, but your body will thank you for it in the long run.
The health and psychological factors have been explored, but here are the frivolous, unsavory facts of the daily problems a struggling anorexic girl must subject herself to. I would like to approach the discussion of anorexia nervosa from an honest perspective — unsavory as it may be.
Everybody’s mind works in different ways, but the body’s needs are all generally the same, so let’s review what you can expect as a self-starver:
1. You cannot hide it. No matter how many layers of baggy clothes, people can tell right away. And they will judge you for it. And it won’t be out of envy; it’ll be out of disgusted pity, not unlike how people look at homeless people. You wouldn’t want to be them, and you feel bad for them, but there is a part of you that is afraid to get too close because they could be contagious. This is one of the many ways that anorexia coincides with overeating. Both people who suffer from these diseases lack the ability to hide the ill health of their bodies, both hate their bodies, and both think about food an inordinate amount of the time.