Mrs. Garris read “Bridge to Terabithia” aloud to us in the fourth grade. She also refused to teach incoming fourth graders the following autumn and instead followed our class into our fifth year. She encouraged me to write, corresponding with me long after the administration had asked her to leave. I quit writing when we lost touch and my subsequent efforts have been limited to educational requirements. I started this blog to record a remarkable experience with my kids and found when I put pen to paper that I had alot to say . My subject matter has been very limited until last night when I attempted the daily prompts, “Banned” and “Tiny”. My submissions “Starving…” and “Scales” pull from my past. As always I hope someone benefits from my experience.
Scales were banned in our house. The only scale I was permitted to use was the one I was weighed backwards on at the eating disorders unit. I lived for the days we visited my grandmother’s house where I could weigh myself with impunity on her aging bathroom model. Given the opportunity, I would weigh myself obsessively; after each exercise, after ingestion of diet soda or a sugar-free popsicle, anything to see that needle go down. The GNC at the mall had a pay-scale, where for 25 cents, I was convinced I received the most accurate measurement of my weight possible. In my attempt to thwart the torturers at the hospital of another in-patient treatment, I began attaching heavy tools to my body using duct tape, carefully concealing the evidence under my clothes. This created white patches on my body, areas where my tan was simply ripped off. This also generated confusion when upon my admission, I weighed considerably less than the bottom limit they had set for me. I countered administration of supplements with my own strategies; feeding my ensure to the unit houseplants, and sneaking a disposable cup into my room by which to drink cup after cup of water in the early a.m., preparing myself to be weighed. I would have to leave group halfway through to visit the nurses restroom as we weren’t allowed to use our own for an hour after meals. Eventually, all of my methods failed and my weight began to creep up. I discovered a fatal flaw in the unit’s practice of weighing patients backwards; they used a manual scale, which required very different hand movements when measuring a weight over 100 pounds. The clang of those shifting weights caused me to hyperventilate. My greatest fear realized…
See “Starving..” for the one word prompt “Tiny” for more of my story.
People used to use this adjective to describe my size. I considered it a compliment, whether or not it was meant as one. I starved myself down to 83 pounds in my attempt to meet impossible standards of beauty. My parents’ pleas were followed by therapists, hospitals and eventually feeding tubes. My will held fast. I would not be fat.
When you are starving, you can think of nothing but food. An eating disorder feeds upon itself, and the very thing you wish to avoid becomes your obsession. The irony was lost on me at the time. I planned my meals carefully, counting and recounting calories. I read dieting articles. I sought out scales by which to judge my self-worth.
Putting eating disorders patients together to facilitate recovery yields poor results. Thousands of dollars were wasted as I received the best possible care and consults from the leading experts. My therapist told me I was going to die. I wasn’t swayed; better dead than fat.
I am the only person I know to have completely recovered from an eating disorder. I eat whatever I want and make outrageous food choices because I refuse to adhere to any sort of dieting “rules”. I am sure my doctor has diagnosed me with Reverse Body Image Distortion if there is a medical code for the insurance. My body image is so positive, that I see myself as thin, even when my clothes are too tight. My psychiatrist’s offers of Topamax to stave off ice cream cravings and lose that extra five pounds are ignored. I insist on having fun with food and will not be controlled by restrictive menus.
I am cured and not by any ground breaking treatment or special meal plan. I simply outgrew it. The phenomenon began with my internship at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. I interned in the Neuroscience department under Dr. Dermot Cooper and worked with scientists from all over the world. There I met smart, interesting and beautiful women of all different sizes and proclivities. The common interest they shared outside of their work was cooking. We had regular parties with everyone bringing ethnic specialties and sampling others’ recipes. These women were my role models and I wanted to emulate them. There was no place for an eating disorder in the conversation.
This was the beginning. My fate was sealed upon my introduction to my husband. Over time, I began to adopt his view of me, rather than my own. I still can’t quite see myself through his rose-colored glasses, but enough of his influence has rubbed off on me that I have a positive self-image. And I have been fat; I became huge with both of my pregnancies, with twins and without, and I was happy. The world didn’t end. I didn’t even end up with stretch marks, so I think my body is meant to have mass.
I no longer decide what size my body is going to be. With age and lifestyle adjustments, my amazing metabolism has mellowed. I was very active before the accident and was usually rather thin. Now I am forced to be more sedentary and it seems that I am bigger. I do mourn the loss of clothing, but my daughter reaps the benefits. It is of no consequence. My identity is no longer tied up in my size. I don’t have to be tiny.
See “Scales” from the one word prompt “Banned” for an excerpt from my story.