WHEN I was 20 years old I was severely depressed. I was eating around 900 calories a day and running around three miles, telling myself if I could just get under 120lbs, I would be happy; I would be confident. I could start living the life I wanted to live. I was obsessed with the gap between my thighs. I wanted there to be as much distance between them as possible. I’d avoid my mother’s dinners, convinced they would ruin a shape I was working so hard to control. I would sleep into the late hours of the afternoon sometimes approaching the early hours of the evening, both a symptom of my depression and the lack of nutrients I was giving myself. I stopped menstruating for months; I fainted three times. None of this mattered to me. All that mattered was my pursuit to decrease the number on the scale.
I began restricting for the first time after my sister died in 2006 when I was 16 years old. So much had changed in my household. My parents sunk into their own depressions, too consumed with their own grief to notice how little I had started to eat. I’d only allow myself fruit, run around my neighborhood and end the day with 100 sit ups in the darkness by my bed, too ashamed of my body to do them in the light. If a day passed and I felt like I’d overeaten, I’d panic and skip two of three meals the next day. I was fascinated by how easy it was to drop pounds. How my dedication to eating next to nothing for just one day paid off instantly when I’d wake up and weigh myself the following morning.
This cycle continued off and on through the end of high school. I’d go through periods where I wouldn’t think about my weight to periods where all I could think about was my weight. Still, in the comfort of the house I had grown up in, surrounded by friends in the town I had lived my entire life, my eating restriction happened mostly in spurts around the time near big life events (prom, graduation). It wasn’t until after my parents lost their jobs and we got evicted from my childhood home that my sporadic restriction became a full-fledged eating disorder.
In 2009 my mother, sister and I relocated to Florida where I became completely obsessed with controlling my weight. A few months after moving to Florida, I had been the one to discover and break the news to my mother about my father’s infidelity, ending all hopes of a reconciliation between them. Our new life was a life of uncertainty. My mother’s depression worsened along with her health and my locus of control felt like it was shrinking day by day. In the depths of my depression fueled by a hoard of sudden life changes, I clung to the one thing I had success controlling in the past – my weight.