It’s not easy overcoming issues of insecurity regarding your body. Social media loves to make you envious of other people and their perfect bodies, rockhard abs and rippling pectorals. In the gay community especially, body dysmorphia is rife. Men in their thirties have bodies of teens, and nineteen year old boys are built like body builders. Add an eating disorder into the mix and is it any wonder people struggle with body image? Here’s my struggle and how I battled my eating disorder.
Three chins and a belly that droops over my jeans; bingo wings that ripple in the breeze and beaten down with overwhelming fatigue and manic wheezing whenever I drag my obese carcass up the smallest flight of stairs.
There was a period in my life where I believed all of the above was applicable to me. I thought I was chronically obese. I’d glare in the mirror, sad, hungry and bony, but instead I’d see a fat guy looking back at me. I’d look at selfies I’d taken, or photos I’d unwillingly been capture in, and see a monstrous sea cow perched beside all my skinny friends. All of them gravitating around me and the mass I’d accumulated by eating that slice of toast earlier. When I was 21 I had my first breakdown. It occurred after things ended with a boy I’d been in love with for years. Broken ego, damaged self-esteem, loathing every fibre of my being. This saw the birth of my eating disorder – something I still wrestle with today.
The thing I remember most vividly was how strict my diet was. A self-implemented fascist kitchen regime. I’d literally count out three or four Sports Mixtures and that would be my treat for the week. I became giddy with every pound I shed. Even though I was a slip of a thing, every time I saw my reflection I saw a gummy-bear shaped boy looking back at me; every time someone muttered the word ‘carb’ I gained thirty pounds in my head.
There aren’t many photos of me at this time, I actively avoided cameras unless it was me who was taking them. I’d carefully execute possess that showed off my hip bones and sunken cheeks. I looked like I had the plague, but at the time I never noticed. ‘You can’t have that. Eat less, eat less’ echoed in my mind every time I wanted something that wasn’t a bowl of Branflakes to eat. Every time I ate, I’d look in the mirror for reassurance I hadn’t ballooned to the size of a warthog in the last ten minutes: “You’re a potbellied riot. No wonder he left you.” I’d wrap my hands around my thighs to make sure I could fit them around them. Who was this creature I’d started morphing into?
I suspect nobody (parents included) realised how bad I actually got. I worked in a deli at the time, so was surrounded by food constantly. Fine cheeses, hams, and other meats. Fresh baguettes and fancy-potato chips all became an incessant torment. My work colleagues were all older and one of them had struggled with weight issues herself, so I know she noticed my rapidly declining weight. To keep up the façade I’d simply ‘lost weight’ I’d go lunch at work and when nobody was looking, I’d dispose of my sandwich by hurling it into my bag; tearing off bits at a time so I didn’t arouse suspicion.
Friends never really extended a loving hand of sympathy or concern. All I recall is constant remarks and jibes from them about being too skinny or looking like a skeleton. I always found it funny how I was able to be critiqued and have my weight commented on because I was skinny, yet if any remarks were made about some of my friends (who were overweight) then it would be deemed taboo. Why was alright for me to mocked or concern to be hurled at me for being tiny, yet everyone turned a blind eye or ignored them? The ironic thing is that, despite their comments upsetting me, I began to crave the attention. Every remark about me looking like an extra from The Walking Dead spurred me on more.
Every few of weeks I’d crash and my diet became an orgy of takeaway pizza, crisps and dip and waffles inhaled at 2am. I would drift into a food-induced stupor and fall asleep. The next day when I woke up I’d try and summon what rarely amounted to little more than dry heaves. Stomach aching, eyes red from and gagging and crying. I had become the world’s most unsuccessful occasional bulimic. I’d hate myself for days. I’d convince myself that none of my clothes fitted me. I’d proceed to tell my friends that they’d need to cart me about on a man-sized silver tray, like a piece of fatty pork. It wasn’t until one night when my friend came over that my view on my weight changed. I had always envied this guy for his seemingly Godly ability to maintain his tiny frame despite eating everything he wanted. As we were going to a party that evening I had borrowed a pair of my friend’s size 8 skinny jeans. He wanted to wear them, but couldn’t get them fastened. Never the optimist, but willing to risk humiliating myself, I tried them on. Not only did they fit, but they were actually a bit loose. In that moment as I twirled around the room, gleaming with pride, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, only this time it wasn’t the fat guy looking at back at me. Instead it was the tiny, frail-looking creature.
I realised that I wasn’t healthy but by now my eating disorder had its claws so deeply dug into me that I couldn’t alter my diet, even though I wanted to. Towards the end of this year-long period I had a mental break down which resulted in a suicide attempt. After being discharged from hospital my parents picked me up to take me home. On the way we stopped by one of those E. coli infested burger vans. The ones that offer a variety of different food poisonings at budget prices. My parents ordered and asked if I wanted anything. You cannot understand how long the argument in my head felt like, despite it only being two seconds: ‘I’ll have a fried egg roll’ eventually tripped off my tongue. I sat for a bout five minutes jut looking at this roll, willing myself to eat it. I did. It was as though that fried egg roll had been lovingly prepared by God himself, using only eggs that had been gifted upon this world by the purest pedigree of chicken.
Diet is only a four letter word, but the power and hold it can have over you is unbelievable until you’ve been ensnared by weight-obsession. I took up diet plans and they quickly infiltrated my daily routine. I never saw them as diets, just as a way to limit my access to the vast world of food I once loved so dearly. Like alcoholics after they go to AA, drinking is never fun again. After my eating disorder, this is how I felt about food for a long time. Guilt-free pizza and soothing kebabs didn’t exist anymore. I had been expelled from takeaway heaven.
I conquer my issues now with exercise and indifference. However not everyone finds it that easy and an eating disorder never really leaves you. It’s a nagging voice that can’t be silenced, but it’s one you learn to ignore. With all this said, please think before you judge anyone you deem to be ‘too skinny.’ You don’t know what demons they are battling.