Ana And Mia, My Two Good Friends

To most people, food is just a form of sustenance, perhaps a source of enjoyment. But for me, it was an evil.

Ever since I was eight, food was always associated with guilt and regret. I remember my grandfather commenting on how I should stop eating so much, after I had just eaten 15 McNuggets and a packet of fries. That used to be a normal meal for me. Even as I type this, I can relive the shame and disgust I felt toward myself after hearing that snide remark. He probably didn’t mean any harm, but to me, it just meant that I was a fat little girl with zero self-control. From that day on, I decided to control my food intake.

Ana

When I was 13, I went on my first serious diet. I wasn’t fat to begin with: 5’4”, 125 pounds. But it wasn’t all about weight. Eating less than my friends made me feel superior and special. No one had more willpower at resisting food than I. For over three years, breakfast was a fruit and a soft boiled egg. Sometimes, if I were lucky and my mum wasn’t looking, I would break the egg and wash it down the sink. On rarer occasions, I would throw my orange into the neighbor’s garden. An empty stomach usually meant that the day was off to a good start. I had not sinned. Lunch never existed. I would sit with my friends, order a drink with ice cubes, and chew on the ice. I always made sure that I was busy talking, at the center of attention of all conversations. Too busy talking to drink, let alone eat. Dinner was easy to escape. I would tell my friends I had to go home for dinner, and then tell my parents I had already eaten with my friends. Stomach rumbling? That’s just the sound of success. On top of that I would run everyday for almost an hour. It’s amazing how I never once passed out.

Of course, my social life started to suffer. I had my first boyfriend at 13. He was taller but skinner than I was at that point of time. However, he never made me feel fat. In fact, he idolized my larger-than-average boobs and toned legs. I broke up with him after six months, as our relationship came down to nothing but petting sessions. Friendship-wise, I slowly realized that I could not hang out with friends. What if we were going out to eat? I could not risk gaining any weight. My second boyfriend, a really sweet guy who I was not interested in but had no heart to reject him outright, brought me to a pizza buffet to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Come to think of it, it just showed how little he knew about me. All I had was a few pieces of pineapple and chicken picked off a slice of pizza, and some watermelon off the desserts section. I felt really bad for making the meal awkward, but nothing was more important than not gaining weight. It’s amazing how once you take food out of your life, there really aren’t many social activities that you can partake in.

I fell into a downward spiral of avoiding friends and feeling like I was too weird for them. However, I valued the physical effects of not eating far more than the loss of my social life. In school, people started to talk about my eating habits. It only spurred me to push myself further. The isolation was bearable, as long as I did not gain weight. After all, I was superior to all those lazy, weak-willed fatties. I fully embraced the anorexic lifestyle, allowing it to consume my entire being. My already-altered skirt, 22 inches at the waist, was too loose. I can never forget my measurements at my thinnest: 19-inch waist, 13-inch thighs and 69 pounds of muscle and bones. I loved feeling so clean, so pure, so perfect.

When I was 15 and looking like a walking skeleton, my parents decided to force me to eat. The more they tried to supervise my meals, the more I tried to get rid of the food they made me eat. I would stuff food in my pockets, in my underwear, inside the sofa stuffing, you get the idea. One day, when I was feeling so frustrated at being forced to eat, I decided to commit suicide. I sat on the 11-story parapet of a condo, legs dangling in the air. Deep down inside, I knew I did not have the guts to jump, but I was so afraid of the thought of eating normally. I didn’t jump in the end, the police came and took me to a mental hospital.

That was a turning point in my anorexia. I don’t know how or why, but on Mother’s Day next year, I just thought, f-ck it, I’m just going to eat. To this day, I cannot explain the sudden change in mindset, but I think it saved my life. I gained 70 pounds in the following month, and wasn’t too upset about it. Who knew eating could be so easy?

Mia

For a few years, I maintained a slightly above average weight. I didn’t hate myself for it, but I avoided taking photos. However, as much as I hate to admit it, my attitude toward food was still far from normal. Having deprived myself of food for so long, I wanted to eat everything and anything. It’s amazing how much I could eat. In a day, I could easily consume three normal meals, with a pint of B&J’s, a packet of Doritos and perhaps a few Nestle Crunch bars. There was no holding me back, the insatiable monster in me had been awoken. I had an all-or-nothing mindset. This continued on an almost daily basis, and it’s amazing I don’t have any health problems now in spite of the copious amounts of sugar and salt I consumed.

When college started, I began my quest to eat healthily and lose some weight. I didn’t intend to get back to where I was; my goal was just to fit comfortably in a size 2 or 4. Ninety percent of the girls at my college were stick thin, and that alone provided enough motivation to lose the flab. I had continued my habit of running on a regular basis, and increased my mileage to about 35 miles a week. For the first month or so, I ate very cleanly; fruit for breakfast, salad for lunch and a well-balanced meal for dinner. However, with the self-imposed pressure to get top grades, find a real boyfriend and have a social life, I had no place to escape from myself. On top of that, my efforts to lose weight healthily didn’t seem to be working well. I lost a few pounds and that was it.

On a particularly rainy night, at 4 a.m., I woke up due to an irrational urge to eat. Anything would do, I just had to have some flavor and texture in my mouth. Having only fresh fruit with me, I ate an apple. At that point, I thought, I’ve already eaten when I’m not supposed to. Screw this. In the pouring rain, I walked out to the nearest 7-11 to satisfy my cravings. A loaf of bread with Nutella, a pint of B&J’s and a packet of crisps. I inhaled the whole lot in less than half an hour. It felt so comforting, but in less than five minutes after eating, no words could describe the fear and disgust I felt. I could not let that whole load of calories erase all my hard work for the past few weeks.

I decided to do what I told myself I would never do. And I had to be quick. Not so to not wake others up, but because the calories would be absorbed if I waited too long. I tied my hair up, leaned over the toilet and stuck my finger down my throat. The ice cream came up so easily, it was still cold. Next came the crisps. Orange bits, cutting my throat with their rough edges. But the pain felt good. And though I was sure that I had not gotten everything out, it did alleviate my guilt. I promised myself that this would be a one-off mistake. With my eyes tearing slightly and a tooth mark on my right index knuckle, I crawled back to bed.

Strange how the urge to comfort eat makes it so easy to forget the guilt and despair that follows. I didn’t even wait until the next day. By dinner, I decided to order a large frappucino and carbonara pasta. Why? I really can’t answer that question. I wasn’t hungry to begin with, it had not been a particularly stressful day, my throat was still sore from the morning. But forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest, and though I did not plan to make myself throw up, I just couldn’t allow the food to sit in my stomach. I did not even bother to check whether anyone else was in the toilet. The food HAD to come out immediately.

Gradually, this became a weekly occurrence. All my money was spent on food, and God knows how much time I wasted eating and puking. I started to only eat food that was easy to come out, which was basically ice cream. Obviously, I didn’t lose weight, but I didn’t gain any either. It was a cheap thrill for me to be able to satisfy my cravings without gaining a pound, so this continued for a few months. My health wasn’t too badly affected. I was still able to run, except that my stamina dropped slightly the day after a binge. My hair fell out a bit more but wasn’t serious enough to warrant any action to be taken. I had once again, isolated myself into a vicious cycle of self-destruction. Food provided all I needed to cope with the stresses of life. Lunch appointment with a friend? Nah, I’ll pass. Impossible to puke immediately without arousing suspicion and I didn’t want to be judged for eating while I’m still fat.

When I began my finance internship, I just simply decided to stop this as I could not afford to screw up. I was tired of feeling tired from puking, and did not want to go to work looking like crap. It really wasn’t easy. The urge to binge never went away. I did give in to my cravings sometimes, but I set it at a maximum of one binge per week. And I tried to scare myself by looking at rotten teeth of bulimics. To be honest, it wasn’t that difficult to stop making myself puke. I hated going through the whole process.

Instead of purging, I decided not to eat the day following a binge.

I wouldn’t say I’m able to eat healthily now. Maybe one day, I’ll be able to eat normally. Maybe one day, I’ll be able to deal with emotions and stress in life without turning to food. But for now, the occasional binge will just have to make do with being followed by a day of starvation. TC Mark

image – Darren Hubley

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    […] Thought Catalog » Life Add a comment […]

  • http://mangopeels.wordpress.com quantumtheory

    people these days are so fanatic about maintaing that perfect figure…hell it doesn’t hurt if you have a few extra pounds girl…
    and anyway if you exercise enough, you can eat as much as you want

    • http://menarcheintheuk.tumblr.com Liz

      This is disrespectful to the author and harmful thinking. Are you unaware that anorexia and bulimia are serious mental disorders?

    • guest

      FANATIC? anorexia and bulimia are mental disorders. it’s not vanity, it’s insecurity. i hope you don’t know a single person with an eating disorder because your oblivion would hurt a lot more people than help them.

      and no, you can’t eat as much as you want when you exercise. i gained weight training for a marathon, and i was running 50+ miles a week.

      • Loren

        Let’s take a moment to not that QUANTUMTHEORY is a guy, he doesn’t really get a girl’s mentality and how we feel pressure to be perfect. In his defense, he is saying that the media shows us all these thin women with nice bodies and abs and it adds additional pressure for us.

      • Vee

        Let’s not allow “being a guy” to be a defense. Ignorance and rudeness are not excused by what’s between your legs.

    • Marsha M.

      it’s true that it doesn’t matter to have a few extra pounds – but a good diet is always important to pair up with an exercise routine. if you exercise but eat too much anyway, it won’t be healthy either.

      anyway, i think you are on the right track – going through your experience and accepting that there is an issue you want to address is a good start. but since it’s interfering with your lifestyle – the relationships that you have with friends and family, i hope you consider actively confronting your eating problems. there are many ways to do this, including seeing a professional therapist (some say it really works for them!).. but i don’t doubt that you could get through it on your own too, like making your own program – read about it online, and keep a journal so that you can see if things are improving by the day.

      this was a good read, so much honesty and well-written! take care and good luck.

  • eess

    you wrote down every word explaining my life for the past 5 years. one year ago i got help- admittance is the first step. my life is forever changed and i can love myself and my life.
    try to get help- it will save your life :) you go girl

  • K

    this is written really poorly.

  • S

    what are you, twelve years old? Ana and Mia? Why not use the correct medical terms Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa? “Ana” and “Mia” are belittling and silly, they don’t convey the gravity of the diseases.

    • S

      I suffer from an eating disorder too, and I wish you the best in your recovery. I know how awful it is, and how it impacts your life so greatly. Don’t use the terms “ana” and “mia”. You have a dangerous disorder, use the real names not just for your sake but for others battling the disease as well. So many people don’t take eating disorders seriously and we need to change that.

    • Sylvia

      the author wasn’t trying to make it cute or trivialize it, she was saying that the diseases took the places of friends and a social support structure. its not about what she calls them, the story stresses the importance enough.

    • Eating Disordered

      Actually referring to your eating disorder as a human with the name ana, mia, or ed is an often successful form of therapy. It helps the patient separate the eating disorder from themselves thus making them more successful in ending the harmful behaviors. I’ve shacked up with Ana, Mia, and Ed for about 10 years now.

  • Margaret Thatcher

    This really should have a trigger warning of some sort.

    • ks

      because the title just wasn’t enough of a warning about what kind of piece this would be

  • Rachel

    I think it was very brave of you to write this. I hope you get the help you need.

  • Camcam

    Wow, what’s with all the negative comments? This was a brave piece, thank you for sharing.

  • Emmmmmily

    Obviously anorexia and bulimia are dangerous disorders which require a host of qualified professionals to tackle and hopefully beat. However, by calling them by their scientific names and yelling at the author for not titling HER piece appropriately, I think you fail to understand the point. Are eating disorders serious? Sure. Is the author dealing with them in a positive and healthful way? Maybe not. But that’s the point, when she had pushed everyone else out of her life–friends, family, and therapy–her “two friends” remained constant companions. Companions we should not belittle her for turning to, but instead recognize for what they are and offer some more worthy comrades.

  • Sam

    I respect your bravery and honesty in writing this piece, but I cringe at the use of “ana” and “mia.” I haven’t seen those terms since I was looking at “thinspo” myspace blogs when I was 13 years old and by now I believed that was the only age group to use them. I understand how those terms may be effective in writing a piece like this, but more than anything they are harmful and trivialize our struggles.

    • Eating Disordered

      I recommend you read the book Goodbye Ed, Hello Me or Life After Ed. Referring to your eating disorder by name is a therapeutic method. It helps the patient separate themselves from their eating disorder.

      • S

        I have read all of Jenni Schaefer’s books, and I still think it’s stupid to used ED Ana and Mia. but whatever works for you I guess.

      • Sam

        Thank you S .. It just seems juvenile to me. To separate themselves from it? I think the best way to do that is acknowledge it by its full name. No one was speaking of this “therapeutic” terminology a few years ago. The usage of these terms has received much negative attention in the past & rationalizing it with this supposed method sounds like new age crap to me.

  • jenna.

    thank you for writing this.

  • Brenda

    Not just to negative feedback for this piece, but negative feedback to any other pieces: what’s your life like?

  • valerie plame

    I am absolutely in love with this and you. Sometimes I tell authors that they’ve written my thoughts and experiences word for word, but I’ve never meant it as much as now. I feel like you’ve literally led the same exact life I have.

  • Jasmine

    <3 Hugs.

  • what

    what it sounds like is that you’re eating crap and the anorexic response was your body’s outcry for actual nutrition

  • hbb

    I’m so sorry you have to go through this. I had a bout with disordered eating as well, and it WILL get better. Surround yourself with supportive people and never lose faith <3

  • callmeann

    Yeah, Ana and Mia are such bitches. I’m glad I cut them off from my life 5 years ago.

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