When I was 16 years old I stopped eating. Not in a big, dramatic sort of way, but in a subtle, nonchalant manner. I was more interested in Marlboro Lights, Mountain Dew (both which my dad willingly provided) and writing poetry. I wore berets and heels to school and found no pleasure or purpose with the school lunch crowd. I skipped class A LOT.
After complaining of stomach pains (most likely from 6 mountain dews a day), my parents took me to a small town family doctor who, in a thick german accent, declared me “Anorexic”. I had heard the word mostly associated with Karen Carpenter’s death but wasn’t exactly sure what it meant other than intentionally starving one’s self. I did not feel anorexic, nor did I look anorexic. I was skinny, but I was 16 and naturally very petite.
Kids in school eventually began to catch on and showed concern. I thought it was kind, but unnecessary. A part of me liked the attention because it felt like it was meant for someone else and I was just standing in their place. I soaked it up when they patted my arm and said “I think you look fine”. One gym teacher said “Well, you can never be too rich or too thin, right?” I didn’t get it. My parents and I never discussed the situation. This all lasted about 6 months until I became tired of being known as the skinny girl, or as one rude boy put it “A bag of bones with no boobs”….
I started going to a gym near my house and became intrigued with the healthy, energetic people who worked there. My boyfriend at the time was a weight lifter and he took me through routines in his basement with heavy weights. I felt the power of having control over my body and my health. We went to nutrition shops and looked at protein powders and he explained the importance of feeding my muscles.
My whole life changed in that year. I forgot about that Dr’s misdiagnosis and I went from being a skinny teenager with no self-confidence, to a girl who wanted to see how much I could do and accomplish with my body and my mind when they worked together. I still smoked, but I also ate real food with my 195 lb boyfriend and tried to keep up with him. I continued with weight training throughout college and even wanted to compete in bodybuilding. My mom hated to see my thick legs and arms when I came home to visit, but I was ecstatic with my new muscular body!
I still am in awe of the feeling that I get from treating my body well. How it responds to healthy food, clean air, rest, and physical movement. I am thankful for that time in my life, it made me self-aware and it connected me with my own body more than I ever could’ve done at such a young age.
Sometimes our worst times are our best teachers.