Coughing Calories This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

July 30, 2012
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She steps up to the confession box slowly, legs wobbling. There is no priest, but she kneels nevertheless, and murmurs: “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.”

The tip of her index finger touches her uvula, and moves around in the back of her throat until it hits her gag reflex, spiraling it into action. And her sins come pouring out of her mouth, into the toilet bowl. The first time, they merely sputter as she coughs out a few bits of her last meal. The initial few are small clumps of mucous mixed with vomit. When she does not have time to rid her stomach of every bit of food that passes her mouth, she throws up only once, coughing up a few of the calories she consumed. It is better than nothing.
There was a time when she looked upon the “popular” girls at her school obsessing about diets and soy milk and carbohydrates, and didn’t know or care what they were talking about when they asked how many calories were in that day’s lunch. At newsstands, her eyes scanned over magazines with diet tips and metabolism boosters. She still did not completely understand what a calorie was, but she knew the more she ate of them, the fatter she would become. She allowed herself an average of five hundred a day, and overestimated how many were in foods that did not have nutrition labels. Then, comes the downpour of sin shooting up her throat. The acids from her stomach burn her esophagus, but the pain assures her of her success.

As for penance to her sins, she decides to abstain from eating for a long, long time. She thinks, A priest would give me a certain time period. What shall that be? Forty days and forty nights, as Christ once did. And during those many days, the devil tried to tempt him, but he did not give in. The girl longed to be tempted by a serpent rather than going out to lunch with friends, teased by two horns rather than the golden arches across the street.

Chocolate burns. It always provides the acidic rush she has grown to love. The rancid smell makes it easier to vomit after the first time. Ice cream comes out cool, like a milk shake that has been sitting out too long. Nuts burn her throat. They are like sandpaper, especially when they were not chewed thoroughly. Her mother made her memorize the Act of Contrition long ago.

“O my God,” she murmurs. Her voice is raspy from acid being pushed up her throat. “I am heartily sorry for having offended you and I detest all of my sins,” she continues, her murmur lowering into a whisper.

I detest my sins, she thinks. I despise them. I tell myself I won’t eat each day. I promise myself I’ll drink four glasses of water and wait fifteen minutes whenever I have the urge to eat. I can’t do it though. I just can’t do it.

After the most successful vomit, the subsequent ones come out with less, and the girl continues to make herself vomit until the less is a small ball of mucous. She looks down at her fat thighs and grabs at the slight bump on her stomach. Fat rolls. Lard. She continues: “Because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell.” Heaven would be a BMI of 0 – no fat rolls, not even extra skin. “But most of all because I have offended you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love.”

The girl wonders what it would be like to be God, who by His very nature deserves everyone’s love. She wishes she deserved love. What would it feel like to know, she wonders, that I am admired and cared about by everyone? Or anyone, in the very least.

She sticks her finger down her throat, and searches for her gag reflex. After doing this so many times, it has become harder because she is almost immune to things that will make her gag. At the dentist’s office a month ago, Dr. Kang was surprised that for the first time, she did not gag when he put the bite-camera into her mouth. The girl strokes the back roof of her mouth with her finger. That usually works. Finally, a sharp pain in her stomach, and her sins come rushing out, into the toilet. Her nose runs, as it always does. The girl takes a few plies of toilet paper, and blows it.

“I firmly resolve with the help of your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life.”

Amend my life. The phrase touches her life in a way she does not want it to. She wonders if she could amend her life and not feel like a failure whenever she eats. She longs for the time before she realized she could undo every little snack. The girl stands up, slightly dizzy from throwing up, and looks in the full-length mirror. People call her skinny, and she sees her distinct figure, but knows things these people do not. She knows when she sits down and hunches over, fat rolls appear, and that her thighs spill over the toilet seat when she sits down. The girl steps on the scale beside the door to the bathroom, her footprints all but engraved in its rubber, and watches the numbers rise up and down before coming to a conclusion: 108.8, just like yesterday. And the day before. In the morning, her weight tends to be slightly lower, but it always evens out. People tell her that it is normal for weight to fluctuate. Yours maybe, she thinks, but why mine?

I am fat, she tells herself. I’m not skinny.

To do penance and to amend my life, says a voice in her head. Amend your life.

Against all better judgment, she says it for the first time in months: “I am skinny. I am skinny.”

No, not that, the voice chides.

“Then what?” the girl asks.

You know.

The girl takes a deep breath, and steps off the scale. She flushes the toilet before going to the sink to wash off her face. The taste of acidic chocolate lingers in her mouth, so she swishes mouthwash for a moment before spitting it into the sink. As she rises from releasing the mouthwash down the drain, she comes face to face with the mirror.

“I am perfect,” she says. “I am perfect the way I am.”

Good job, the voice says.

“I am loved no matter how much I weigh.” She wipes her face off with her orange beach towel hanging on the back of the door before opening it.

“I am important.”


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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

Love2Read72 said...
Jun. 1, 2014 at 12:35 pm
This is so good. You can really relate to this girl's eating disorder.
VeganFeminist_Writer said...
May 18, 2014 at 12:30 pm
You are such an amazing writer. I'm jealous :)
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