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Mash Potato Monster - My battle with Anorexia
‘Am I fat?’ I asked a girl at school.
She replied, ‘No, you’re not fat, but you aren’t thin either.’
These words changed my life. I was twelve years old when I decided that I was fat and was going to lose weight, I had an aim – I was going to be thin.
Anorexia nervosa is best described as a being  ‘An eating disorder characterized by markedly reduced appetite or total aversion to food’. Eating disorders affect many different people, and are becoming more prevalent in our society, with many young girls and boys feeling that to be accepted amongst their peers they must be thin. This article aims to explore how the media needs to stand up and take notice of how there is an urgent need of positive role models for young people, through the exploration of my own story and turbulent battle with anorexia.
I have always been a perfectionist and never do anything half heartedly, if I have a task which I want to complete, I give it everything I have or don’t do it at all. This also applied to school; if my grades were not the best or near perfect it was not good enough, the same thought process unfortunately passed to my dieting, if I was going to be thin, I was going to be the thinnest.
It started out innocently enough, just a few kilograms here and there, to lose some puppy fat and then I was going to stop. I cut out all sugar and junk food from my diet, ate very slowly and started exercising more, spending hours at home in the living room doing exercise videos. I did not want anybody at school to know what I did at home, as far as they were concerned I hated exercise and as I have little hand eye coordination with sports, I was happy to leave it at that.
As I had expected, the exercise combined with starvation worked and the weight started to fall off. This set off a domino chain and the compliments started to flow in, ‘you look different, have you lost weight?’ and, ‘wow, I can see your collarbones, they look great!’ I loved it; my body was starting to get smaller. However, I wanted more, I wanted to see my ribs stick out, I wanted all my bones to show and I wanted the thighs that were starting to appear to go away, I did not like the fact that my body was only doing what it was supposed to and becoming more womanly.
A year passed and I don’t know how or why, but at one point I realised that my eating was affecting my rate of development, yes, I was thin, but everyone else looked taller, healthier and happier than I was. I questioned myself, what have I been doing to my body? At that point I decided it all had to stop and started eating properly again and for a while I felt much happier, my life was back on track. However, I had not anticipated an event which was going to throw me right back down the black hole which I had just escaped from.
My mother had met someone and fallen in love, which is not a crime, but I took it like one. They married very quickly and suddenly that I felt like I had lost the one person who I loved more than anything in the world and was surrounded by relatives telling me how lovely it was and how I was so lucky to have a new dad, and others saying hurtful things about my mother .To be honest I felt like punching them all but as confused as I felt about the marriage, my mother was still my world and anyone who had dared to say anything against her without reason was my enemy too.
I was so confused about what was happening and I felt like everything I loved and strove for was falling out of my hands and the only thing I had total control over was what I ate. I wanted to hurt my mother and make her feel what I was going through.
Nobody was there to support me, or even ask how I felt, apart from my best friend and her mother, whose poor clothes were regularly full of my tears – I will never be able to repay them for the unconditional support they gave, and continue to give me, I could not have asked for a more wonderful family to be part of my life. All I wanted was for someone to notice how alone, rejected and confused I felt so I threw myself into modern dance, speech and drama, ballet and skipping lunch, eating a handful of dry cereal during the day. I cried myself to sleep at night and pretended to be happy at school even though inside I felt empty. The only time I felt happy was when clothes would hang off my body and when I could see my bones.
It was my uncle and mother who inspired me to get back on track. I felt that as I had got older I had developed a closer bond with my uncle as we shared many common interests. I love all my family, but it has always been my uncle who voiced his belief in me more than other relatives and my mother is my world. I realised how stupidly I had been behaving, did I really want to throw my life away? It was the year of changes as I vowed to myself that I would never harm my body in such a way ever again, I had too much to give to world, too many dreams to fulfil and more importantly, I wanted to live a long and happy life, I did not want it to end prematurely. I decided to take charge, binned the exercise videos, stopped counting calories and instead spent more time improving my relationship with my gorgeous mother; along the way I also found the father that I felt I had been missing my whole life through my stepfather.
Even though my story is not as traumatic as what some other girls go through the statistics are still showing that something needs to be done; a study at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne found that 1 in 10 girls aged 15-17 showed serious signs of an eating disorder. Furthermore, the average child in the US, UK, and Australia sees an average of 20,000 to 40,000 television advertisements a year, showing us what beauty should look like and how thin young girls should be. The future is in the hands of young people like us to show that we are stronger, wiser and better than the images being fed to us of what beauty looks like and as leaders of the future it is up to us to make a change and show that everyone is beautiful. I am sixteen in a few weeks and anorexia played a fairly big part in the last four years of my life, now, 1.6 meters tall and weighing only 43 kilograms my body mass index is still underweight, however, I will make sure that I continue to beat my food problems, not let anorexia take over my life ever again, and fight this battle, one mouthful of mashed potato at a time.
Williams, Z 2006, The Commercialisation of Children, Compass, London
Royal Children's Hospital 2008, British Journal Of Psychiatry