CONTENT WARNING: WEIGHT LOSS, DIETS, EATING DISORDERS
My second diet was when I was Sixteen.
It was the school holidays. One afternoon I stepped out of my bedroom, during the ad break in Sally Jessy Raphael, into the bathroom and for some unknown, and random, reason decided to step onto the scales for the first time in years. Well, since my first diet.
The number I saw was TOO BIG. I didn’t know what the number was meant to be. But I knew it was TOO BIG.
Then I looked in the mirror. I tugged at my clothes and pinched at my full, fleshy, hips, that were stripy with stretch marks.
My jumper was TOO BIG. No… it wasn’t the jumper. It was me. I was TOO BIG.
So I decided to go for a walk. Then the next day, at the same time, I went for another walk. Then it was a walk, every day, for the next six months.
I had a special cassette tape, for walking, that I made myself. It was full of upbeat and motivational music that I’d pilfered off the radio. My goal was to get back to my front gate earlier in the tape every time. It worked a treat.
Little games like that got me through.
I also made myself a secret exercise regime to complete every morning, without fail, in my room: 100 sit ups. 100 leg lifts (both on my side and on my back). 100 squats. And I made some makeshift weights from two cans of baked beans that I’d stolen from the pantry.
Every spare moment was spent hoarding, and reading, old copies of my Mum’s Slimming World Magazines. She had hundreds. I’d pour over the before and after photos, comparing those ladies weights with my own. “She started heavier than me” WIN. “I’m still heavier than her” FAIL.
For someone who hated math, I sure became obsessed, and very good, with numbers.
I memorised the fat and calorie content of every food I came in contact with. I didn’t really understand about how calories worked, so I simply decided that fat was the enemy. Everything must have zero fat.
A couple of months in, my Mum went back to England for a month, which was great for my game as my Dad and Brother ate a lot of food I didn’t want. Things like meat, and takeaways. They didn’t care or take any notice of what I ate (or didn’t), so I could just make my own dinner every night. The dinner I allowed myself was always the same: a cup of pasta bows with some canned tomato sauce. It felt like plenty after eating nothing all day.
It didn’t take long before I stopped understanding why people needed three meals a day. One was just the perfect amount. Food stopped having any kind of pleasure. It became a function. A chore. An inconvenience.
I lost about 25kg, very quickly. I was suddenly a size 6 in Jay Jay’s and Glassons jeans. I didn’t really have any boobs anymore. I had to spend all of my pocket money on clothes from the mall because nothing fit me, which I resented because I just wanted to buy magazines and CD’s. My school uniform hung off me like a gross, daggy, sack. And I was always cold. So so freezing cold. I’d huddle in blankets and duvets in my room, my fingers and toes going numb.
But all I cared about was what other people thought of me, and since no one – not a single friend, teacher or family member said anything to me about how I looked or had changed, I figured that it wasn’t noticeable, it wasn’t a big deal. That I must still be TOO BIG. I must keep working hard.
Which is why I was shocked when, later that year, I looked at a photo of myself. My smile was tired. I looked dead behind the eyes, with big dark circles underneath. I looked old. Not older in a cool way. Just old. And very sad. That wasn’t what I wanted. I was meant to become thin, pretty, suddenly know how to talk to boys, and become super popular at school. But this girl in the photo didn’t look any of those things, and she certainly didn’t look like me… so why couldn’t I see her when I looked in the mirror? Why did I only see TOO BIG? TOO BIG.
Ten years later I showed this photo to my then-boyfriend. He gasped…then told me that I looked “Really hot back then. You should try to look more like that now”.
Yeah, more on him another time.