Hunger Games: Why I Became Bulimic

Like a lot of girls, I started putting on some chub at the onset of puberty. Unlike a lot of girls, the weight continued to pile on. In junior high, I was 5’2” and 185 pounds. I come from a naturally tiny family: multiple members have been rejected from getting health insurance for being underweight. I, on the other hand, am built like a yak herder: legs like tree trunks, wide hips, barrel chest, broad shoulders. And then, to top it off, I was fat. After 12 years of never hearing my parents ever discuss weight or eating habits, suddenly it was all I heard at mealtimes.

I guess it snuck up on me, but at some point I realized that I was profoundly unhappy. Being young and naïve I figured the solution was to find something bad about my life and fix it, and the most obvious problem that I was fat. But part of the fact that I never had to worry about my weight as a child meant that I didn’t really know what to do. Self-control regarding food was not something I’d ever considered having to exercise, and I found I wasn’t very good at it. And so I took what seemed to be the next best route: I started throwing up. And it worked. Marvelously.

When the weight came off, I was left with a woman’s body; I was pretty much fully developed by the time I was 14. Suddenly, instead of being the fat kid I was someone who was accidentally served alcoholic drinks in restaurants and had middle-aged men hitting on me when I would go to the grocery store to buy food I had no intention whatsoever of digesting. At times I would realize how absurd my patterns were. I remember a night when I realized I hadn’t had anything but Diet Pepsi and cigarettes for three days, so I had a few saltines and 40 calories worth of chicken soup. I then threw up, followed by twenty minutes running up and down the stairs just in case. I remember talking to my therapist about how if I started to gain weight again I’d probably have to kill myself before I got fat, because I would rather people think of me as a skinny girl in a coffin than some land-whale lumbering around.

When I got down to 104 pounds, I started to realize I couldn’t keep it up. I was incredibly sick: I had zero energy [and as a consequence of depression and not eating I had already dropped out of high school], was losing my hair, constantly freezing, had throbbing headaches, passed out often, skipped periods, and my resting heart rate was down to about 50 [as opposed to my usual 80something]. I was under medical supervision, but since I drove myself to clinic appointments I simply wouldn’t go when I knew they would hospitalize me. I sometimes only consumed 3,000 calories a month. But I was also Thin: I had ribs, and hipbones, and when I sat on the side of the tub in the shower [because it took too much energy to stand the whole time] I couldn’t make my thighs touch each other no matter how hard I tried. But I could not keep up the vomiting; it was awful. So, after a dalliance with chewing food up and spitting it back out to avoid the step that involved acid, I started working out.

Officially, it was because I quit smoking and, naturally, was afraid of gaining weight. Like my other forms of weight control, the workouts soon became obsessive: I would run on the elliptical for an hour to an hour and a half, lift weights, and walk four to seven miles. Sometimes all three in a day, but no less than a few times each every week. Meanwhile, my eating was still awful: I had started to digest real food sometimes but I almost never had more than 1,000 calories in a day. Sometimes I’d go for days on nothing but baby carrots, diet pills, and a little bit of extra sharp white cheddar when I knew I needed the fat to not fall off the elliptical.

In the end though, it was probably working out that got me to start eating again. The idea that I could control my weight [albeit at around 125 pounds instead of 110] and still get to have food was almost devastatingly wonderful. I missed food so much. After all, I really really love food; that’s how I got fat in the first place.

And now I’ve come full circle: I’m a full-time student and I work, and between the lack of time to exercise and money to buy food that isn’t fast convenient junk, I’m overweight again. Not as bad as before, and I carry it better now, but still overweight. But the big difference is I’m no longer incredibly unhappy. My life is fulfilling, and while there’s always going to be a voice in the back of my head about what I eat or how little I move, I am content. I hope someday I can lose weight again in a healthier manner, but I would rather be fat and happy like I am now than go back to the way things were.

I guess there’s no big lesson to this story; maybe it just helps to get it off my chest. But when I look back, I’m both amazed and incredibly grateful that I came out the other side. I guess not eating for six or seven years can give you that kind of perspective.

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    • Hanna

      Thank you so much for being brave enough to share this. I really can’t say how much it means to me – a girl known as the walrus in high school.

      • cendeca

        wow,, that is a really great story..and i think all girls should read this.. it is very important.. most teens dont realize how much damage they can do to their body and the ways to help them with their self esteem and health. soo thank you soo much for publishing this!! :)

    • kristin

      104 @ 5″2′ is not even underweight!
      that’s a bmi of 19…
      this story is complete bullshit. I bet you weren’t even skinny, you were just relatively skinny compared to your prior self.

      • CWatson

        Wow. How about if I call you a bitch and hate you for the rest of your days? You could be the nicest person in the world except for this one comment; you could be the next Mother Theresa; but that wouldn’t matter, because the picture you’ve projected WITH this one comment is of an insensitive, thoughtless bitch, and–whether you deserve it or not–that’s the impression that stays with me.

        Don’t you get it? There’s a point past which the truth stops mattering, because how you FEEL has taken over. And that’s what this article is really about: how sometimes you become so sure about something, sure in the deep places of your heart where reason cannot reach, that your life becomes deformed around it. What the authoress has shared is a story about unhealthy thought, and how to overcome it, with bulimia as merely the symptom. It’s not about BMI, it’s about why BMI matters. Or rather, doesn’t matter.

        And you, kristin, could stand to learn a few things from it about seeing past the surface to the problems underneath.

      • angela

        You obviously lack education on the subject, ignorant fuck.

      • angela

        that was to kristin not you watson

    • Jordana

      This makes no sense, sick at 104 pounds? That’s a perfect weight for 5’2″ girl!

      • Ana

        The symptoms don’t necessarily come when you’re underweight. Anorexia and bulimia take a huge toll on your body…

    • Jen

      Months of bulimia will make you sick regardless of the weight you loose. How can you people not understand how she lost vital nutrients which effect your entire body. Any weight is often unhealthy if accompanied by Bulimia.

    • Insecure

      I have been bulimic for about two months now. It started when I got a bowel infection and all I did was vomit for a week. It continued after that. I began to hate the feeling of fullness. But also the way I looked. I get so many compliments now and they have no idea the extent I have gone to lose weight. But today I vomited up my breakfast and threw up a lot of blood. Scares me but probly not enought to stop. I have not reached my goal weight n even when I do I can’t say that I will stop.