Washboard Abs – A True Story
When I was young, like 14 year-old, I had a room in the basement. I had a full length mirror, and a chair that I put right in front of it. I would stare at my body for hours. I would think about all the things I would change if I had a magic wand. I was 5’4, 102 pounds and I wore a 1-3 jean size. My breasts were a 36 C, and even at 14 years-old I had an hourglass figure. I hated it. It was at that point in my life that I developed an eating disorder.
I became anorexic with bulimic tendencies. What the latter means is that I would primarily starve myself; however, if I could not resist temptation I would force myself to get rid of it by vomiting. I was so sick at one time that I was keeping bottles, jars, and plastic bags of it in my closet because I could not have anyone know how sick I was.
By junior year of high school, I was 16 years-old and smaller than I was freshman year, and I also hadn’t eaten a meal in two years. In pictures I can see how pale I was, I was thin and sickly. I couldn’t feel good, and still at that point I would stare intently at all my flaws in that chair facing that mirror.
Senior year, I met the man I would marry briefly who would only perpetuate my low self-esteem but would not make me feel any worse than I was already making myself feel. He was overweight, which didn’t bother me. Until I realized his eating habits would cause me to go back to old habits. After dating him for less than a month I put on 20 pounds. I ended up pregnant, and after high school I welcomed a beautiful baby boy into the world. I also welcomed about 40 more pounds. I remained at 165 pounds, and a size 12 for about three years. It wasn’t until after I delivered my second son that it got bad. My husband had taken to emotionally abusing me on a regular basis. I was ugly; I was stupid, now I realize he did it to control me. Back then I felt bad enough that it really just pushed me over the edge and into old habits. He worked third shift, I would tell him I was eating at night but was never eating. I was working out all the time. I dropped down to 118 pounds; however, after getting separated (eventually I realized I deserved better… thanks to friends) I put on 13 pounds, reaching 131 pounds.
We clearly see a pattern of me having always known what I weighed. It was an obsession. I worked, I took care of my kids but this control over my weight was the one thing I hated more than anything, and seemingly the only thing I could not control.
At this point I was 21 years-old, my anorexia was in full swing again. This was the point aforementioned, in which I was hiding evidence. I’m not sure if my friends knew. It wasn’t hard to hide, my friends and I were a motley crew of starving (no pun intended) artists. We never ate together, the only people who could have known were my parents but like I said I would hide the evidence in my room.
It wasn’t until I was 22 year-old that I met my husband. Who in his tacky confrontation had stated, “Why am I taking you to dinner if you’re just going to throw it up?” I was hurt but he was right. I stopped doing it for a while; tried to be healthy. He and I got gym memberships and did the right thing for quite a while.
I got pregnant again. It was a nice, robust, fun-filled food feast and my son loved all of it, noted by joyful mid-snack kicks. When he was born, my body looked like it had been through a war. It was terrible, and the obsession innocently started again. It started with me training for a fitness competition. I was lifting, running, doing cardio, eating right but then it happened… I spiraled out of control. I started taking diet pills to curb my appetite. I was taking too many and stopped eating; I would eat jelly beans, diet pills, and gallons of water. I was starving again but this time I was tan with washboard abs. This time nobody knew how bad it was because the evidence was in a prettier package.
This went on for years, until I got sick. Thankfully, I got Lyme disease during this destructive ritualistic behavior. I went from a rock-hard size 5 to a size 14 in 8 months. I was extremely sick, and my immune system was compromised forever more. I got better, and am a healthy size 6-8 five years later.
It is always a struggle though. I had a bad car accident this last year and the weight is tacking back on. I keep myself healthy and sane by talking to my husband and best friend honestly about the struggle. Diet pills are no longer a threat because of the abuse I did with them my body can no longer even take them for a day without me getting really sick.
I have found that the guilt will never go away. I will always have a love/hate relationship with food. I will eat it with an indulgence that most people have never experienced. If I have a small piece of chocolate I will enjoy every little nibble of it until it is gone. If I have a bag of chocolates I will treat each piece with the same consideration. I will hate myself afterward. I will have to find a distraction until I am sure I am safe from unclear thoughts.
Eating disorders are not about a size, it’s about a feeling. Everyone is motivated by something that entices them to engage in the behavior. For me, I was validated during each of the episodes. People raved about my discipline, beauty, and body. It was addicting, I loved the way it felt. Eventually, I started college some years ago because I wanted to give myself something more than my body to focus on. It was a rollercoaster ride because during thesis papers I would get so stressed I would eat. What I eventually decided is that my life is too important to kill myself for an ideal that I cannot live up to naturally.