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Name the last time you looked in a mirror and the first thought wasn’t negative. Yes, it’s not one hundred percent of you, but a good majority will admit it. I admit it. What a terrible time it is for adolescents when we can’t wake up in the morning without seeing ourselves in a mirror and immediately finding flaws. It starts us off on a bad foot and after the domino effect takes place, we’ve had a bad week.
Late freshman year, I read a book called “Wintergirls”. It was written by Laurie Halse Anderson, and was about two friends who make a pact to become the two skinniest girls in their school. Now, these girls were in fine shape. They just didn’t believe that they looked as good as they did. Lia is the main character, and she chose Anorexia as her way of getting skinny. Her friend, Cassie, chose Bulimia. The book starts off with Lia finding out Cassie died of “mysterious causes”. The book progresses and we learn about Lia’s struggle with Anorexia, and how it completely morphs her train of thought. She talks about these online communities of girls who all talk about their life with anorexia; only, they seemed to be supporting each other’s disorders.
It struck me as odd, and I wanted to learn more. I stopped reading and looked up, “Anorexic Community Blogs” on my laptop. My search engine was flooding with blogs of mostly girls who were helping each other with their anorexia and bulimia. They were called “Pro-Ana” girls, and they all supported this horrible eating disorder they were all suffering through. They believed that not eating, or eating and then vomiting was the only answer to losing weight and liking how you looked. The more I read, the more I believed. I read all about “Ana”, a short nickname and cover up name for Anorexia, and “Mia”, the same for Bulimia. There were posts of just “Fitspo”, which is short for Fit-Inspiration. They were pictures of almost-naked women with skin draping off their brittle bones. It didn’t seem appealing at first, but once I saw pictures of them with cuter clothes on, I was attracted to the idea of collar bones and ribs and hip bones protruding from my body. I read post after post from girl after girl talking about how they lost another pound and haven’t eaten over 100 calories in the past week.
I thought they were so strong.
I made a new LiveJournal account and requested to be part of their group. At the time, I was quite overweight and couldn’t look in a mirror without growing depressed and disappointed. I wanted to know all about Ana and how to follow “her” to a life of skinniness and good self-image. These girls accepted me and were always giving advice on how to beat cravings and lie to your parents about why you didn’t want to eat dinner. I was told about different laxatives I could take if I wanted to go down that route, but it didn’t really seem necessary at first.
After a couple days, I decided that I couldn’t choose Bulimia. Poor gag reflex. I knew just about everything having to do with Anorexia, and slowly but surely, I stopped eating and began planning my “fasts”, or long periods of time I would go without food. I felt so determined and proud of myself. The
first fast I was determined to get through was called the “ABC” diet, and it stood for “Ana Boot Camp”. Quite a difficult task and I don’t remember why I chose it as my first fast. 50 days, no more than 600 calories a day. This was supposed to help shed pounds by bringing caloric intake to intensely low levels. Every time I skipped a meal, which was often, I felt thinner and prettier.
After a week or so, I found myself cheating all the time. Not eating was tough, and eating only 600 calories was even tougher. I would not only eat, but I would be eating food that was really bad for me. It made me feel incredibly guilty and obese. This guilt was a bad feeling, but it supported me to not eat in the future. The ABC diet would have to go on hold for now, and I would just have to get used to fasting as a general thing.
Time went by and I got a little skinnier, but a lot more depressed. I was dizzy all the time; I hated food and got physically ill from the hunger pangs. It was awful, but I slowly began to love the feeling. It was a bragging right, having a clean and empty stomach. I felt like I belonged to these communities. I would support my fellow Ana girls when they needed advice, and vice versa.
This went on for months, and well into sophomore year. My friends started to get worried about me, my boyfriend started to get worried about me. I ate less and less and some days I would go with no food. I kept a little journal of some days when I remembered to log my struggle and my strengths. I would use them as examples, but I think I threw it out.
I don’t know what changed. After a while, I started to talk to my boyfriend about it, and eventually I sort of told my parents. I still have urges to stop eating, log back on to LiveJournal and join the Ana girls again, but I’m getting better and better.
The point of this essay? No one should dislike themselves because they’re not “socially acceptable”. Everyone should enjoy how they look, no matter what they look like. It’s what makes us humans. We are different, and greatly so. So next time you look in a mirror, make an effort to point out how good your hair looks, or how that shirt really looks nice with those jeans. I believe that a good self image is possible, and that this too shall pass.