The first time I became concerned about my body I was fifteen years. I was five feet two inches tall and weighed eighty five pounds. Needless to say, I was a skinny, bony teenager, and my doctor was still pushing me to eat more meat to try to gain weight. At that point in my life, I didn't like the flavor of most meat and would pick at any that was put on my plate.
I wasn't big on vegetables unless they were in a salad, so I mostly ate soups and salads and breads, and very little of that because I didn't have much of an appetite. The doctor, Dr. Wasserman, was concerned that I wasn't going to ever reach a healthy weight. (Boy, was he wrong.)
That summer, right before I turned sixteen, my grandparents took us (my sisters and myself) to Florida to spend a week at their time share and go to Disney World. We used to live in Florida, but it had been six years since we'd been there, and just as long since we'd gone to Disney World, so we were all excited to go.
It was on the way back when we stopped at a restaurant in Louisiana called Frog City that my life changed forever. We were eating, and my older sister looked at me and said, "God, Chanel, your arms are getting fat. Don't eat so much."
Her comment didn't really bother me much, but it pissed me off enough to warrant a response. I said, "Shut up and leave me alone."
And that was my fatal mistake. My grandparents jumped on me quicker than a duck on a June Bug. "Don't you be rude to your sister, Chanel. She just told you the truth. If you don't want to be told you're getting fat, stop eating so much."
Until that moment, I'd been proud of my growing appetite and the fact that I'd managed to gain the five pounds over the year that the doctor wanted. And suddenly it felt like my gaining weight wasn't something to be proud of, and my body went from abnormally thin to grotesquely overweight in my mind. Something vital inside of me shifted, and from then on I was always worried about getting fat.
I know it seems like they were being harsh, and they were. But that was the way it always was, and it still is. If my sisters pick on me, no matter how mean they're being or what they say, it's completely acceptable. If I say something back, I'm either being too sensitive or a bitch or I'm in denial of the truth. No matter what I do or say, it's wrong. And that's why I don't go visit home much. My mom and my grandparents all favor my sisters. If I want to get the best treatment, I have to go see my dad, who I love and who always tells me I'm beautiful and I don't need to lose weight, but he lives in Virginia and it's too expensive to go up often. Maybe if I had grown up with him, I wouldn't be a basket case like I am now.
After that day in Louisiana, things were never the same for me. One morning I woke up and I got ready for school and when I looked in the mirror I swear I saw my mother standing where I should have been. I was so distraught I didn't go to school. I didn't want to be seen like that.
Of course, as I grew taller, my weight grew with my body, but at seventeen I was five foot five and 106 pounds, and I couldn't get any heavier. Dr. Wasserman was mildly pleased, but pressured me to put on another ten or so pounds. I never tried after that. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I was convinced I was fat. I'd taken to wearing big t-shirts over my swim suit, if I could be convinced to put on a swim suit at all.
I started wearing long sleeved shirts to cover my skin, blue jeans to cover my legs. I'd wear baggy t-shirts sometimes or pajama shirts to school to hide what I thought was a huge gut and flabby arms. Sometimes I'd see pictures of myself, and I wouldn't recognize myself sometimes. because I thought I was fat and ugly and the girl in the picture was thin and pretty. The second I realized I was looking at me, even if I'd thought the picture was a good one, I'd immediately start seeing flaws.
I went off to college and I lived at the bottom of the biggest hill on campus. I'd have to trek up and down that monstrosity every single day. It was so irritating that sometimes I'd decide it wasn't worth the walk to go get something to eat. So I started eating once a day on the days I had class, and the days that I didn't have class, I ate a banana or I just forgot to eat altogether and studied all day. One day in early October I was walking with my roommate down a flight of stairs and I fainted and fell down thirteen stairs. The campus clinic admonished me for not eating enough and told me I could have really been hurt, and I was lucky, and that I needed to eat more so I wouldn't faint again.
I went home after my first semester weighing one hundred and two pounds. I checked my meal tickets. I'd started out with two hundred and fifty. I'd used a grand total of forty five. In the four months I'd been at school, I'd eaten forty five times.
That scared me. So I started eating again, three meals a day. And within a couple of months I'd reached one hundred and ten pounds, and while I didn't like the way I looked in a swim suit, the doctor told me not to lose anymore weight, so I just let it be.
I was eighteen then. Now I'm twenty two, and when I weighed myself this morning the scale said one hundred and nineteen. Almost one hundred and twenty pounds, the weight the doctor wanted me to be, and I feel gross.
It's the same problems as before. When I look in the mirror, I see fat thighs and a gut so big I don't even have the natural curved waist that marks me as female. I see fat arms with disproportionately bony wrists, and a fat face sitting above a flat chest that doesn't stick out as far as my gut, reaffirming my belief that I'm fat.
This morning a co-worker was playing with my camera and snapped a picture of me while I was demanding he give me my camera back. This is the picture in question. And I know that I'm not fat. It's easier for me to say I'm not fat when it's not my face attached to the picture. Notice that he cut my head off in this picture. But when I went back for a second look at the picture, it didn't look like the same picture. I saw, and still see, fat thighs, huge arms, and I have no waist. I'm so fat that the curve is gone. And I have no boobs to overpower the fat parts so it's like that much worse.
And I wonder how on earth Boyfriend can love me when I'm so gross looking. And how did he not notice that I gained five pounds? How could he not see it or feel it when he touched me? The new weight is so obvious I feel like it's sticking its ugly face right in front of mine screaming "BOO!" at me. It's mocking me, taunting me, trying to drive me insane.
I find myself wishing Boyfriend would be just a little more supportive. It was his turn to do dinner last night, and he went out and bought a pizza at Little Caesar's. When I said I would just make myself something healthier, he acted offended and like I was being completely ungrateful and unreasonable. Rather than argue about it, I just ate a piece of pizza. But when I started to put the leftovers up he nagged me about only eating one slice.
So I ate another to get him off of my case. And I felt completely fat afterward and I compulsively jumped on the exercise bike (I call it the Hamster Wheel) and started going at it. Boyfriend nagged me about being obsessive, so I stopped.
I think I probably need to start seeing a shrink again before I wind up so insane that I actually do manage to convince myself starving is the best way to lose weight. I fear obesity, but I fear an eating disorder more. And I suppose that's a good thing, in a way.