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Chicken Legs

By , woonsocket, RI
“Chicken legs, our whole family has chicken legs,” my cousin and I complained, pinching our thighs. I was only eight, and I was a twig. My body issues, food issues, they were always there; screaming at me throughout my childhood, yet invisible. If you take a look at my old diaries, you will read my rambles of being fat, my chubby cheeks, thunder thighs, belly rolls. You will presume I was a fat child, with overly health conscious parents. However, if you take a look at my old photos, you will see a petite girl, always the tiniest in school; no sign of unhappiness with my weight.
I was on my annual family trip to Cape Cod for the weekend. After a long day spent splashing in the heated pool, I was laying on a hard hotel bed, in a two piece bathing suit, stomach exposed. My eyes were glued to the television, but my ears were not. I overheard my aunt saying how I must eat well, because I’m getting some chub in the stomach area. Move on to a sleepover with my two favorite cousins, laying in bed, not wanting to sleep. “Let’s do night exercises,” I suggest. I tell them I do it every night. So, the three of us do endless leg lifts until we dose off. Fast forward to middle school. My dad had an obsession with calling me a “little piggy”, constantly eating. I always shot back at him “At least I’m not fat!” Every time I said this, I was uncertain of it, almost as if I was trying to convince myself there was truth in it. At some point in ninth grade, I decided I didn’t need to eat breakfast and lunch. For over a week, I ate just dinner and small portions at that. I exercised in my room every chance I got. One day at gymnastics the room closed in on me. The walls started spinning; I was soaked in sweat, heavily breathing. I ran to the bathroom, my feet heavy, and blacked out. I decided I needed to start eating again; I couldn’t risk that happening again. At the end of tenth grade, I began to binge and purge, sometimes purging eight times a day. I restricted and fasted, exercised like there was no tomorrow. The whole summer was a blur, days faded into each other. Food eaten in a particular manner, cut into tiny pieces, each bite chewed twenty times, ten bites on each side of the mouth. Foods must be eaten in order; breads, meats, pastas, then vegetables. Sleepless nights, doing squats at two in the morning, because if I didn’t, something bad would happen. Taking showers just to purge, whole days spent counting and calculating calories.
Currently, I am in recovery for my eating disorder. It’s always been there, and it always will be. Sometimes it is visible, such as my high school years. Sometimes it is hidden, during my childhood for instance. It is a struggle I will have my whole life. Sometimes I will sit on the couch for twenty minutes with a bowl of soggy cereal, forcing myself to eat it. Other days I’ll eat like a normal teenager, and then some, without a single shred of guilt. Eating disorders are unpredictable. I would love to tell you that I will never give into the screams again, that it will never come out from hiding. This is something I cannot tell you. I can make no guarantees. However, knowing my dad is heaven watching over me, I have faith that I can keep strong.





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