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I too have been a victim of image obsession. In the 21st century where pictures of runaway models fill every magazine and advertisement stand, it seems rather tempting to tell ourselves, "I should pursue that body; it will make me more desirable and comfortable with the way I look."
The truth is that to some, a change in image will certainly make them become happier with themselves. However, for the rest of us it might develop into an obsession, a dark hole from which it is difficult to escape; and for me, that turnt into two major eating disorders starting with anorexia nervosa and followed by BED (Binge Eating Disorder).
Let me tell you how it all started. I had just come back from studying abroad for a year when I was about 12 and naturally, being in boarding school with no parental control I saw a world of yummy, junk food open up to me like some form of magical land where I could fill my tummy with the most delicious chocolate and candy. Unfortunately, by that summer I had gained a consistent amount of weight. I was not obese by any means, but I was what you could call "chubby." Having reached my home country, I realised the bodily changes I had encountered from a surplus of food, and in seeing that I was about to start fresh in a new school, my body image became my number one priority throughout the holidays. I was able to get back on track in terms of weight, but found a new interest in sports which I had never even dreamt of prior to leaving home for that year. I began rollerblading and swimming and soon learnt about calories and dieting.
At age 14 I began acknowledging concepts such as "carbs," "fats," "saturated," etc; however, I had not grasped these terms in a scientific manner, but rather in a way a young adolescent would. I started restricting in the first few months of joining my new high school. Breakfast went from being the most important meal of my day to a rapid intake of first a biscuit, later half a cookie and soon a simple swap for a kiwi. Lunch too became an enemy I had to avoid at all costs. I would hide in classrooms, the toilet, anywhere where teachers could not spot me and force me to sit down and eat the meal provided by my institution. On top of that, I was a studious teenager who managed to somehow concentrate well in class and give all I had in those PE lessons.
Coming home would mean pretending to eat a quick snack, quickly go to my room to do some homework and get ready for an hour and a half of intense exercise. My dad and I had began to try out some sporting activities and as I mentioned earlier, I fell in love with rollerblading. I've always done it on my own, learning tricks using YouTube or simply trying out whatever comes to mind. However, as soon as I found these "sporting apps" I realised just how many calories rollerblading would burn per hour and soon my favourite hobby became a method to burn calories and no longer a passion. My body promptly began showing the result of starvation and my parents quickly became aware of my eating problems. Still, they will never acknowledge it was an eating disorder, simply because they are skeptical when it comes to these issues. But, they did reduce my sporting times and ensured I was eating properly for about a month until the number on the scale went up somewhat and I was looking less starved than before. I was not happy and still willing to find an opportunity to lose the weight I had regained, even if it had been a couple kilograms. Fast forward a year of obsession, hatred for my body and constantly turning my back upon friends for exercise, it reached to the summer of 2016. It became my priority to get as lean as possible for another school change. I was going back abroad and this time I would not repeat the same mistake.
I would wake up at 9 and have exactly a handful of cereal with barely any milk, then off to a morning jog at the beach for about an hour, totalling a distance of 2km. Afterwards, I would swim about another kilometer and a half and have lunch, my grandma making sure to give me a good portion. Feeling full, I would play football (yes, by myself) for two hours and rollerblade for another hour, reaching the night where I would eat dinner and do some random pilates-like exercises before going to bed. You could expect that by the end of the summer, not only was I looking like a living collection of bones, but I was always irritated, tired, angry, quiet and worst of all, I had not had my period in about four years by then. Being extremely thin, at 44 kg for a 171cm tall female was not helping.
The start of my academic year finally came, meaning I went back to the same boarding school I had been in when this whole journey started. I met my best friend again and suddenly realized: YOU HAVE DESTROYED YOURSELF. It all happened when I took a picture on the first day to send it to my family. I looked terrible and way too thin for my frame. I was far from being healthy or athletic as I had hoped. That was the day I decided to go back to being my old self again: the happy, laid back, healthy looking girl who before going to boarding school was at a normal weight and enjoyed every moment. And it all worked well at the start. Rollerblading became my passion again, and I improved so much by withdrawing my thoughts from the calories burnt and turn them instead to performance and technique. I was hanging out so much, focusing better at school and best of all, my extrovert personality was back! Little did I know that within a year I would then fall into BED.
I would like to leave that story for next week as a part II for this story.