Note: This essay contains mentions of eating disorder behaviors, self-harm, fatphobia, and weight loss surgery. Although I tried to be as vague as I could around specific behaviors, there are parts of this that may be difficult to read if you are actively struggling with an eating disorder. Help and support are available. Please reach out to the National Eating Disorders Association. Recovery is possible.
The first time my doctor mentioned my weight, I was about 11 years old. I was a chunky kid, like I’d always been. When I came up to the plate during kickball, the other kids shouted “easy out!” I was often teased about my body. But back to the doctor: As I sat there listening, she told my mom that my weight was fine as long as I only got taller during puberty and not heavier.
You can guess how that went. I gained weight. And that wasn’t wrong. In fact, it was completely normal. Research shows that 50 percent of your adult body weight is gained during adolescence. But I only knew what my doctor and the kids at school said about me.
As a kid and teen, I tried to eat “healthy.” I now know that what I was doing was restrictive, not healthy. I would avoid eating certain foods because, in my mind, these were bad foods. If I ate them, I would be as bad as the food itself. But then, when I did eat, I felt out of control and I couldn’t stop. I just had to eat more.
I was in Girl Scouts as a kid, so we often had supplies for s’mores around the house. Sometimes I’d grab a Hershey’s chocolate bar and hide it under my plate while I ate my lunch. I’d take bites when my parents were out of the room and then hide the chocolate again when they came back. I remember going into the kitchen late at night and eating a plain pre-made graham cracker crust. I ate part of the crust and put it back on the shelf. Somehow I thought this trick might make the crust look like it was defective and then my mom wouldn’t notice. Over the next few days, I finished the crust and hid the container in the trash.