The Thin Line

December 5, 2008

The other day I pulled out an old album I have from my high school days. Most of the pictures were taken during my senior year, the time when I think I looked my best. I was slender, but curvy, and I was just reaching that point where I was starting to look like a woman rather than a kid.

However, there’s one photo stuck in there that horrifies me. It’s from the previous year when I 17 and weighed about 90 pounds.  It was taken at our school’s junior banquet, and for the occasion I’m donning a black satin cocktail dress. But I look like a bobblehead doll. I have these teeny, tiny chicken legs with no muscle, stick-like arms and my hips — of my God, my hips — are jutting out of my sides with no discernable curves. 

What’s especially scary is that a) my mother still thinks this is one of the most beautiful photos of me ever taken and b) I remember that at the time this was taken, I seriously thought I was FAT! I can recall stressing over whether I should remove the little jacket that came with the dress and whether it made my hips look too wide. In retrospect, I don’t know what the hell I was on that night that I actually thought this. I can’t even begin to imagine what the old me would do if the current obese me were to visit her. I think I’d have to sit on her to quiet her shrieks of horror.

I often wonder how someone who was so obessessed with being thin could end up becoming ridiculously huge. I just finished a wonderful book called Hungry by Allen Zadoff. Zadoff shedover 100 pounds, but what’s interesting about his reflections on weight loss is that he concludes that anorexia and binge eating, as well as other food issues, have more in common than most people think. Now that I think about it, there has been a clear evolution in my eating disorder: I went from starving myself to bingeing and purging to simply bingeing. Though the change from small to large has been relatively gradual, my eating disorder has been there all along — just in different forms.

It’s been liberating for me to admit that yes, I have an eating disorder, and I appreciate Zadoff’s book for recognizing that connection between the various incarnations of it. That said, when I beat this thing — notice I’m saying WHEN and not IF, I think I’ll come out stronger than ever.