Growing up, I was always the chubby kid in class.
My clothes never seemed to last more than a school year before I’d outgrow them — not because I grew taller, but because my stomach seemed to widen daily. I constantly craved carb-laden foods like pasta, potato chips, and bread.
Certain kids at my school, as the story usually goes, were unkind and mocked me for my weight, turning me down at school dances, because “I’d crush their toes if I accidentally stepped on them.”
My parents couldn’t quite figure out what was wrong — I wasn’t the most active kid on the block, but I certainly didn’t sit around doing nothing. My appetite was insatiable and the pounds just kept piling on.
Worst of all, I hated myself. Afraid of what they would say, I avoided scales for years, making sure to turn away at the doctor’s office while they recorded the surely terrible number.
When I turned 15, I finally faced my fears and looked — 220 pounds. I broke down, unable to comprehend how I’d gotten to that point. I knew something needed to change. I didn’t want to be that person, nor did I want to spend another second in the body I inherited.
Only one solution seemed obvious to me: stop eating. I put in place a strict, regimented diet plan, without consulting anyone who actually knew what they were doing.
I’d start the day with one apple, have a container of light yogurt for lunch, and often nibble on my dinner, only taking a few bites. On average, I consumed a total of 600 calories daily (which, of course, I logged diligently).
Anorexia became my best friend, a comforting blanket that covered me at night and never let me down. As the weight started falling off, the compliments increased. “You look great! What’s your secret?” “I wish I had your dedication!” “Keep going!”
Every sugar-coated word was validation that this was the path for me. So I kept starving, ignoring my hunger cravings and telling myself that I didn’t actually need that spaghetti — a salad would be better. I shrugged my shoulders as my hair started falling out and I experienced heart palpitations.
The exhaustion I felt day in and day out seemed normal. Losing weight was supposed to be hard work, right?
About two years into my eating disorder, I finally hit a breaking point. One day, after weighing myself for the 10th time (daily weigh-ins, particularly after a meal, were commonplace for me), I took a hard look at the number on the scale. 112.
Not even two years and I dropped over 100 pounds. I couldn’t remember the last time I ate something and didn’t immediately regret it.
And you know what? I still hated the way I looked. I still felt fat and grotesque.
Sure, I received more attention from boys and everyone told me I looked great, but in my mind, they were wrong. I broke down, finally telling my mom that I needed help. Something inside of me knew that this wasn’t normal — the way I felt couldn’t be normal for a 17-year-old girl.
After consultations with my doctor and a dietitian, they determined that I had PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), a metabolic disorder that causes insulin resistance and makes it incredibly easy to gain weight.
Suddenly, my increasing waistline throughout my life made sense. Again, I followed a strict eating plan, but this time, I actually ate. I relearned how to enjoy my food, how to nourish my body, and how to make healthy choices.
Ten years later, I’m still learning how to do all of these things — it’s an ongoing process. My body image and self-esteem, however, never quite recovered. I struggle with understanding that my body now, 45 pounds heavier than the day of my eating disorder reckoning, is a beautiful, functional thing that I need to take care of.
Some days, the little voice telling me to starve myself is louder than others. Every day, I look in the mirror and still see the chubby little girl who was so scared to live.
Even years after ending treatment for my eating disorder, I know my best friend and enemy, anorexia, is still here. It creeps inside the deepest corners of me, begging me to go down the path that felt so right, even though it was filled with darkness and despair.
Every single day is a fight to drown out that awful voice with the affirmations that little girl needed to hear all along. You are worthy. You are beautiful. You are enough.