Here is my crash-diet story. (I’m not proud.)
I was a senior in college and newly separated from my first love, the boy I had naively let define the last three years of my life. While we had always known that we weren’t in any hurry to jump into adult-style commitment, he had never wavered from my side and I didn’t expect his affections to stray before we graduated. So I found myself reeling in September when he told me that it wasn’t working for him anymore. All at once it was over. We spent months in small college break-up hell, hovering awkwardly at opposite ends of our mutual group of close friends, crossing paths inadvertently at least once per day, navigating alcohol-induced hook-ups and the awful mornings after. I wasted phenomenal amounts of energy attempting to rekindle what had once seemed like undeniable chemistry, convincing myself that he’d come around eventually.
And then the sophomore happened. She was an obvious rebound, my friends all agreed as we saw them walking around campus hand in hand. And in retrospect, it was probably true, but there was one detail about her that couldn’t escape my attention: she was unmistakably a bit thinner than me. So rather than focus in on the fact that they shared the same easygoing attitude, or laidback sense of humor, or that as someone struggling to emerge from a recently-ended long-term relationship he was allowed – and in fact encouraged – to date other people, I decided that he liked her because she was skinnier than me. After a night of agonizing over this, it became clear that the only balanced and rational way to fix the problem was to go on a secret rampage and stop eating!
Crash dieting became an admittedly unoriginal yet incredibly effective way for me to channel my anger and despair. Like most college girls, I had launched countless healthy-eating initiatives to control the effects of studying and stress, and been disappointed when, time and time again, the weekend dawned glorious and I just didn’t give a shit. So it was a beautiful realization that anger made me a crash-diet superhero! Of course I didn’t want to order pizza, I wanted my boyfriend back! [tagbox tag=”crash diet”]
I experienced the weird high of starvation, floating through classes, invincible to the temptation of anything beyond a small salad at dinner to keep myself lucid for a night of studying. I luxuriated in the extra solo time I gained by skipping meals, finishing all my reading for once, hitting the gym like a dizzy-headed fiend, and painstakingly sifting through the folder of archived romantic emails which—shockingly—provided no consolation. And if I happened to stroll past the new couple cuddling on a bench, well, I had a new secret weapon against the cruel and inevitable punch of emotion when he avoided eye contact.
This whole stunt wasn’t a plea for attention, as I never told anyone what I was doing, and nobody had time to look up from their textbooks and chase down a hypoglycemic broken-hearted recluse at that point of the semester. It was more of a mourning ritual than anything else. In retrospect, it was for someone who had been missing from my life for months, but now finally felt beyond my reach.
And it was proof that I wouldn’t watch the guy I still loved walk away with somebody else and do nothing about it. It was also remarkably stupid, considering how much money each hazily-attended class was costing me.
I didn’t really have a dieting goal in mind. Perhaps I imagined myself, devastatingly glamorous and heartbreakingly thin, commanding attention at the spring formal with the sheer power of my new silhouette and then announcing that, sorry, my heart was demolished beyond repair and would never be open for business again. I would understand that they felt intimidated by the depths of my despair, and say, “It’s alright. I know there aren’t many personal tragedies that trump mine, and I’ve accepted the fact that I’m the most broken-hearted girl in the world.” Or, on a more serious note, maybe I just wanted to be universally attractive, and therefore invincible to this terrible feeling of being unwanted. (Note to self: this is what they mean when they say, “that’s life.”)
Well, surprise! Dieting didn’t win me back the boy. I’m sure the whole ordeal resulted in a little weight loss, but after a week or so, my coping-mechanism diet faded away as I settled into the reality that my ex was with somebody else. I eventually developed a new crush, which never blossomed into anything beyond a necessary distraction, and spent the rest of the year getting to know myself, having the wild single-lady experiences that monogamy had never really afforded, and moving on. From my new postgraduate vantage point, it’s becoming clear that time has fixed some things that a crash diet never could.