Freshman year showed me how truly ugly I could paint myself.
I thought college would be some of the best four years of my life. With a care free and naïve smile only a freshman could pull off, I started my college career with light feet. Every day that smile began to falter as reality set in: all the girls around me seemed to be half my size. At 5’10 and 3-quarters, my height sure didn’t help my situation and each size 2 girl to walk by me only uncovered insecurities I’d fought so hard to hide.
My first taste of defeat at college didn’t even have anything to do with my classes, no; this had the stale taste of the past that even a fresh start couldn’t bury. I was 178 pounds and six weeks into freshman year when Anorexia decided to pay me a visit again. She came to me like an old boyfriend, reminding me of the good days, the skinny days. Her near constant whispers made me forget what she put me through the last time. She reassured me that I would be beautiful again, as long as I lost just five more pounds. But she could also be mean, ridiculing me for breaking down during midterms and getting Chick-fil-A fries. Punishing me by forcing me to think I wasn’t allowed to eat anything else for the rest of the day, two if I had the audacity to finish them.
“The guys here don’t like chubby girls,” she would whisper.
My grades suffered as I felt embarrassment going to class if I didn’t look passable enough in my eyes. I was 165 and two weeks into sophomore year when Bulimia swept her way back in. Bulimia came to me as an old friend when Anorexia wasn’t enough.
I kept breaking, becoming so hungry that I’d gorge myself until it physically hurt. The feeling of fullness caused anorexia to do nothing but remind me how disgusting I was. Bulimia was nicer, allowing me to eat whatever I wanted. She hated that anorexia pressured me into denying food and the mounting pressures of classes. She sympathized my hunger pangs and said I deserved to treat myself after that especially brutal exam. There was a catch; I could eat whatever I wanted as long as I purged myself afterwards. I couldn’t gain the weight if I never allowed the calories to be digested.
A year of both of them in my head took its toll on my mind and body.
I walked around campus with my head down in fear of seeing girls skinnier than me. Anorexia loved to point out in every area how they were better than me while Bulimia urged me to the Reitz Union food court as long as I made it back to my dorm in time. I was 139 pounds and four weeks into junior year when I finally had enough. Even though I was physically lighter, each step became heavier. I was the smallest I’d ever been and I’d never been more miserable. My every waking hour was consumed with thoughts of food I was supposed to despise. The idea of being full would physically make me ill despite my gnawing hunger.
My second taste of defeat at college was with myself. I couldn’t remember at any point in those 3 threes when I was having fun and actually happy. I couldn’t believe I allowed myself to waste almost 3 of the 4 best years of my life on a number on the scale.
So I began to eat again.
It wasn’t easy; I had to tell myself each meal that it was okay to eat and that I wouldn’t automatically gain weight if I did. Eating began to feel less like a battle and more of a celebration of sorts. I didn’t realize how small the prison I had created in my mind was until I finally broke free. I finally saw that in the world around me, I was the only one who actually cared about what I looked like. With that came a begrudging acceptance that I was trying to lose weight for strangers who never cared. I might not always love how I look, but I learned to become comfortable in my size 8 ripped jeans.
Freshman year showed me how ugly I could paint myself, but junior year taught how to accept myself.