My whole childhood, I was often called a whale out of the ocean, referred to as “The Pillsbury Dough Boy,” or identified by various other ridiculous names. I knew I was living an unhealthy lifestyle, but like Napoleon Bonaparte, I remained bold-minded and didn’t allow my appearance to bring me down. As I grew older, the hurtful words of classmates, peers, and even family got to me more. Toward the end of ninth grade I decided it was time for a change. As a 14-year-old, I was definitely not a doctor or nutritionist by any means, but I figured that I could find a solution to my obesity. Concluding that all I needed was exercise and a healthier diet, I didn’t realize that this would lead to a dramatic downfall in my life.
My earliest memory of my weight loss plan is talking with a good friend, Kaely, about changing my lifestyle.
“I’m tired of dealing with criticism about my weight. I’m taking action to lose at least fifty pounds by the start of next school year,” I told her as we walked from our lockers to biology one afternoon. She was very supportive of my decision.
I mapped out my strategy: identify what types of food I was eating and work on withdrawing from junk food. It was time to launch the offensive in this battle. I found myself able to eliminate tempting, tooth-aching treats, diet-destroying drinks, and luxurious laziness from my diet. I started riding my bike a few times a week, trying to add distance as I progressed.
Months later, I started noticing my efforts paying off. I felt a thousand pounds lighter. My self-esteem was improving as the rude comments dwindled. I felt accomplished that this was something I was able to do by myself.
My diet continued over the summer, and, as I had planned, I dropped 50 pounds by the beginning of sophomore year. Living a healthy lifestyle seemed better in every way possible: enjoying physical activity was easier, people were nicer, and feeling proud of losing the weight was a treat in itself. My satisfaction led me to want to lose more weight.
Greedy with success, I wasn’t sure where to stop; I kept increasing my exercise, decreasing my food intake, and dropping pound after pound. I began to get negative reactions from friends and family. Their comments began as jokes and then progressed to serious concern; I had started to look like a walking skeleton. I was dwindling away, and everybody except me was noticing. I saw my friends avoiding me, and people giving me weird looks as I passed them in the hallway. I was creating a monster from the influence of society.
Losing so much weight had disastrous drawbacks; I always felt cold and had limited energy to do anything. I didn’t realize the impact of my decisions until my teachers started to express concern. My English teacher pulled me aside after class one afternoon, saying, “I need to ask you something, personally.” What could she want from me? Was I in trouble? Had I done something wrong?
“Is everything all right with you?”
“Yeah, I’m fine!” I replied, avoiding her gaze.
“I’ve noticed that you’ve changed a lot lately. Do we need to discuss anything?” she asked, looking intently into my eyes.
Then it struck me like lightning that her concern was about my weight loss. I assured her that I was living a healthy lifestyle and there was nothing to worry about. I didn’t think much of the issue, but after more teachers confronted me, I started to realize the extent of the problem. I was a soldier who needed more self-discipline, but the real battle had yet to begin.
I was struck with anger and failure when I started to notice even Kaely, who had supported me from the beginning, considered my changes to be a disaster. I finally realized that what I was doing to myself wasn’t good.
The middle of the school year, I was required to get a physical to participate in sports. This was the first time I had visited the doctor in a long time; a lot had changed. I was underweight for my height, and my blood work showed an issue with my liver. My doctor recommended finding a nutritionist to help me gain weight, but instead, I stuck to finding the solution with my family and myself.
To this day, my family and I are unclear what the problem is with my liver enzymes. I am frequently in and out of doctors’ offices getting tests. It has taken this dramatic downturn in my life for me to realize that like Napoleon, I had taken a defeat at Waterloo. Initially, I fought for a better life, but this war has left me to suffer, fighting now for any life.
I had fallen through the trapdoor of anorexia, which left me cold and feeling friendless. My main focus since has been to gain back the weight properly, permanently, and happily. I have been eating more and working to become my old self again. I’ve even had to rebuild friendships that were destroyed by my isolation.
With the goal of a healthier and happier lifestyle, I’m working to become loud, proud, and physically sound once again.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.
This piece won the April 2016 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.