Anorexia can become serious during holidays

Audrey Wagstaff

Eighty-five. It’s the most important number in my life – my past life. I’m not even sure I want anyone here to know about it. But I think it’s important.

To be exact, it’s not just 85. It’s 85 pounds. I once weighed 85 pounds. Sure, so did everyone else. But most people didn’t weight 85 pounds at age 18.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking during the past two weeks. I thought about Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston, who lost her life last month to anorexia. She weighed 88 pounds. I’ve been thinking about the 85 pounds I feel that I’ve gained since Thanksgiving. I’ve been thinking about the additional 85 pounds I might gain over the holiday season.

It might sound ridiculous. But it’s what I think about all the time. See, I’m a recovering anorexic. I say recovering because I know I’m healthier than I used to be at 85 pounds. But I say recovering and not recovered. It’s still who I am.

In a way, I have a sick desire to never fully recover. It’s not that I don’t want to not feel guilty every time I eat a potato chip. It’s more like there’s some faint voice that won’t let me forget exactly how many grams of fat are in a granola bar. That voice scolds me all the time. It’s disappointed with me for giving in to the doctors, to my parents, but mostly to myself. I’m not sick anymore, it says.

The professionals say anorexia is about control. You grasp the one thing you can control when everything else seems out of control. But it’s also about self-worth. And it’s about being the best at it.

It’s not about being 85 pounds. It’s that I can serve everyone a piece of chocolate cake and not eat one myself. I am stronger than the cake. I can watch my friends go on diets and lose 10 pounds but know I can lose more. But it still scares me. What if they do lose more? What if I’m not the skinniest?

Believe it or not, these thoughts still bombard my head, especially during the holidays. Sugary sweets are everywhere – poised to attack my thighs. That part isn’t too bad. It’s the people talking about the sweets. “I can’t have that,” they say. “Do you know how many calories are in that?”

To be honest, I know exactly how many calories, fat grams, even carbohydrates are in it. I’ve spent almost seven years of my life knowing. Looking at me now, you wouldn’t know. I’m aware of that too.

This is where the problem lies: The people who are constantly reminding me of my past. I want to forget that 85 pounds. I haven’t seen my weight in seven years. I’m not sure what knowing would do to me. And I’m also not sure what one more comment about eating that marzipan will do.

Insecurities about our appearances, our weight – we all have them. And we’re all too careful to avoid making insensitive comments about race, religion or sexual orientation. We just don’t always consider how other insecurities affect people. Black, white, Hispanic, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, gay, straight – any of us might suffer from an eating disorder.

Insecurities are everywhere. So be careful what you say about your own, especially during this holiday season. It’s the toughest time of year for someone with an eating disorder. The harm you might do to your thighs may not be as bad as the harm you do to someone like me.

Audrey Wagstaff is a graduate journalism student. Contact her at [email protected].