Relationships are powerful—so powerful that they can disguise themselves as something beautiful when all they do is tear you apart. I had a friendship like that once, with a girl who was quiet around everyone except me, but I didn’t realize it until I was past the point of self-destruction.
It was little things she did at first: insulting other girls’ outfits behind their backs, complaining to me about how they “shouldn’t be wearing them because they’re too fat.” Those clothes were “coincidentally” things that I would wear. Then she started insulting how big my nose was, how gross it was and how I wasn’t one to talk when it came to complimenting other people. She started implying that the food I ate was “too unhealthy” and she “wouldn’t eat it because it made people fat.” It was all I had for lunch. So, I didn’t eat in front of her. She made me too uncomfortable to eat. Uncomfortable with the food and with my body. I started believing her: the food I put into my body was what made me so curvy, so “fat.” I was only 110 pounds.
I couldn’t bring myself to feel comfortable in my clothes and eat at the same time. I had to pick: cute clothes or food? I picked clothes. I wanted her to be happy with me; I wanted to be someone she accepted. I stopped eating full meals. I didn’t eat breakfast. I would nibble at things for lunch until I started skipping it all together. I went to bed hungry and woke up with stomachaches and headaches. I think that’s when my mom started to realize something was wrong. She knew I wasn’t eating at home and knew that I hadn’t been eating lunch, so she stepped in and made me weigh myself. 104 pounds.
The doctor confirmed what my mom had been thinking. Nobody ever officially said the word “anorexic,” but you could see it on their faces. I nearly broke into tears. I didn’t want to eat; it would just make me fat. But my mom made me eat dinner, made me have a granola bar in the morning, and on days when I didn’t eat lunch at school, she’d either make me eat more for dinner or make me have a snack. I put on nine pounds in one week.
That made me feel even worse about myself. But my mom threatened to take me back to the doctor if I started to starve myself again, so I forced myself to eat. I tried every style of clothing to find something that accented my body. Thinking back on it, she wasn’t like those other girls either. She was bigger than I was, which wasn’t a bad thing, but it makes me think that she did what she did to feel better about herself.
It’s taken me ages to get to a point where I’m comfortable with my body. I still struggle with eating certain things and being afraid of looking too fat. I’m so conscious of my body that it scares me sometimes. I know somewhere inside me is that person who’s capable of starving herself to fit society. That’s not who I want to be.
But I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my mom. She helped me out of that mindset and, when I left for college, I took it all on my shoulders and ended up being lucky enough to meet a guy who’s so in love with my body, exactly the way it is, that he strives to do everything he can to make me see it the same way.
Written for COR-240: Body Image. Featured here.