By: Chloe Moody
“You’re not skinny anymore.”
These words hit like a train coming from my pediatric gastroenterologist. In that moment, my entire identity had been compromised, diminished, erased. How could I not be skinny anymore? Having short bowel syndrome, it was like a requirement to be underweight, to have bones protruding from your ribs and hips. My whole life I had just been gracing the edges of the growth chart, hanging onto the 5th percentile, if I was lucky. But I was 13 now, and my body was finally catching up with me.
Did this mean I wasn’t sick anymore either?
Those words would haunt me for the rest of my life. My doctor had just unknowingly altered my fragile psyche permanently, and there was no going back.
My whole life had always revolved around food and how much of it I was consuming. I was tube-fed for the first five years of my life and I still remember the bolus being fed into the button protruding from my pale stomach, being hooked up to the pump for hours at a time. Once it was removed, everything became about calories and how many I was getting. Food became both an incentive and a punishment, and eventually an enemy. I was never allowed to leave without finishing everything on my plate; six times a day. I always finished everyone else’s food and leftovers. I started every day with a 700-calorie microwaved breakfast sandwich and finished it with numerous protein shakes blended with my medications. Since birth, I had absolutely no control over what was put into my body, what went on in my body, and what happened to my body.
That all changed once I heard those words. Shortly after that appointment, I came down with a stomach virus, making me lose twelve pounds in one week. Kids at school noticed, telling me how good I looked. It was then that I realized I needed to reclaim the body I had once had, and finally take the control I had craved.
I started skipping breakfast, or throwing it out when my parents weren’t looking. Then skipping lunch. Then, during PE after lunch, I would run seven laps around the track, pushing my body to the limit when I hadn’t given it any fuel. When I got home from school, I would get a cucumber out of the fridge, forcing myself to make it last until dinner while I sat in front of the computer playing games all afternoon.
I got so emaciated, people called me “frighteningly thin”, and I loved it.
I was finally hospitalized immediately following my eighth-grade graduation, where I struggled to walk across the stage without passing out from hunger. From then on, I had weekly doctor appointments to check my weight and my heart, which was weakening. I was put on yet another strict diet and I saw a nutritionist, against my will.
It took about a year to reach a healthy weight again. The reality is, no one ever fully recovers form an eating disorder; that voice always lingers in the back of your head. It's just a matter of whether or not we choose to listen to it.
I have always struggled with food and body dysmorphia, and I always will. I am slowly learning to take care of myself and listen to my body, and I’m learning exactly what that means.
Anorexia is just another thing in my life that happened to me, but I will never let it become me.