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I remember sitting there in my room, which I shared with my stepsister at the time. On the edge of the bed, a magazine balanced over my knees, I read an article about one of my favorite singers—who I admired greatly and, who for obvious reasons, will remain a stranger for the purpose of this work. The article followed her struggles with body image under the spotlight, and in great detail, it described her behaviors with food. And because I admired her so much and wanted to be exactly like her, I decided that day, that in order to be her, I had to go through exactly what she went through. That day, I sat on the kitchen floor and ate too much, I believe it was bread, and then I went to our shared bathroom and tried to get it all out—though as I knelt there over the dirty toilet, nothing came out because I had no idea what I was doing.
There is where it all started, though the thoughts had been there all along. That article was simply an invitation to open the door that had been ajar for so long.
When I was a kid, I heard the comments from those around me—family members and toxic strangers—who loudly criticized people walking down the street, making ugly comments about their belly fat, and the way their arms jiggled as they walked. My grandma refused to wear tank tops because she hated the way her arms looked, and to this day, she still covers the top of her arms with short and long-sleeved shirts. I heard everyone’s resolutions on New Year’s Eve, everyone around me wanting one simple, yet unattainable thing: To be skinny, to lose the fat and gain muscular definition, and to simply feel beautiful and accepted.
As the years passed and I started watching beauty pageants and modeling competitions on TV late at night, I learned that beauty consists of one thing: Being white, having silky hair, and most importantly, being skinny. Being as skinny as humanly possible. So skinny that every single piece of clothing would fit, and hopefully, be a little oversized for you. So skinny that the bones beneath your skin would hopefully salute you every morning, them being as visible as ever.
What I didn’t learn until much, much later was that all of that was a big fat lie.
I guess adults still don’t realize that, as kids, we absorb everything that is thrown our way.
Slowly but surely, I started criticizing those around me as well. I stopped interacting with family members who were “too fat,” as if body fat was a contagious thing, something that I would take home with me and would appear on my own body the next morning. Those around me started telling me that they wished they had my waist. They would start reminiscing of those times when they were young and beautiful and had a tiny little waist to show off. I started thinking that my body was something to be treasured, that the number on the scale was something to appreciate and something to take care of, as it could all go away one day—taking my beauty and worth with it.
And when I had internet access for the first time, well, that’s when it got really interesting. I started researching ways to remain skinny, and an unfortunate day, I stumbled upon a site that was heavily structured and filled with information about Ana and Mia—names that my mother had mentioned one day on the phone years before. “If you ever read something about Ana and Mia, don’t befriend them,” she said (though I asked her about this episode years later, and she said she had no idea what I was talking about).
The site featured rules to follow, punishments in case you failed to follow said rules, and even an anthem. I spent hours reading every single detail. It was all dedicated to Ana and Mia, or should we say, Anorexia and Bulimia. The ones who wrote the entries on the site praised them and encouraged other girls (yes, it was specifically for girls, though we all know these issues can affect anyone) to follow the set of rules, to be strict and strong-willed, traits that combined with everything else would make every girl capable of living her best, skinny life.
For the purpose of this book, I tried reaching out to a similar site—though I couldn’t. My hands were shaking and my heart rate increased, and I realized then, that this is something that will trigger me forever.
I memorized the rules that I was just talking about, and woke up the next morning determined to make a change. Though I was already skinny, maybe slightly underweight due to my metabolism, I was determined to maintain my shape, and maybe lose a couple inches around my wrists. I refused to turn into one of those people that go about their life walking down the street, arms jiggling with every move. I refused to be criticized. I didn’t understand then what I understand now: Your weight does not determine your worth. Skinny does not equal beautiful. Fat does not equal ugly. Beauty comes from within. Even the most beautiful face turns a little ugly when something dark regurgitates from within and exits the person’s mouth. And I’m not talking about vomit, but about hate.
So I wrapped a rubber band around my wrist, skipped breakfast, drank way too much water, refused eating dinner until I couldn’t take the hunger anymore, and then gave in. I had dinner, and felt guilty after. I felt like a failure. Then I took a deep breath, and decided to start all over again.
And just like that, the cycle that one day almost took away my life began.
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