There was a young girl who loved food. She ate brownies for dessert, prided herself that her plate contained the same amount of chicken and rice as her father’s, and freely snacked on cereal and fruit gummies before her afternoon soccer practices.
I was that girl.
Throughout my elementary, intermediate, and beginning of high school years, the only thoughts I had about food was, “What do I feel like eating?” and “I hope the cafeteria has something good today.” In fact, some of my high school boyfriend’s pals used to be in awe that I’d eat a hamburger (gasp!) and apple pie, because most girls at my prestigious institution subsisted on salads or yogurt. And the fact that I didn’t tear apart my sandwich to little bird sized bites like my fellow classmates similarly left me befuddled: Was I doing something wrong? Didn’t everyone just hold the bread in one’s hand and take normal sized bites?
Apparently not. It was a well known fact that the high school I went to had the highest rate of girls and guys with eating disorders, and every year a counselor, former student/survivor, or specialist in the field would speak to the entire campus on the dangers of food restriction and purging. I’d always sit through those assemblies thinking, “How could ANYONE not want to eat??” I would dismiss the yearly talks, balking at those individuals who everyone knew had issues with food–the pencil thin girl who collapsed during PE or the sophomore who had to eat lunch with the counselor otherwise she’d never eat anything that day.
Who knew (definitely not me) that I would end up being one of those students by the end of my senior year whom others would regard with a pitiful “poor girl” glance as I sat staring at a half eaten cheese sandwich, calculating its calorie content and imagining the bread and dairy slice growing on my hips.
I grew up in the nineties and graduated in 1999 from high school, so the “ideal image” plastered on magazine covers was that of a Kate Moss or Cindy Crawford, aka the sallow cheeked, long limbed, thigh-gap model.
I am 5’1″ and have not grown since freshman year. Needless to say, I did not fit the standard model mode.
But what could have caused me, a normally healthy adolescent who ran around the soccer field with reckless abandon and chowed on Taco Bell Mexican pizzas after games, to transform into an obsessed marathon runner had to get in an easy ten miler before inhaling the biggest meal of my day–a six inch turkey sub (no mayo or cheese, wheat bread only) and Diet Coke?