But despite all the PSAs and celebrity stories involving eating disorders, it is easy to ignore it all and get caught up in the reflection in the mirror. Which makes this confession hard, because it cannot be told without self-loathing and judgement.
Food is an important part of Chinese culture. It is a symbol of wealth, a luxury to indulge in. Food is a sign of prosperity and having the ability to provide it for your family demonstrates stability and success. Food can also be delicious, so really it's a win-win.
As the youngest of nine grandchildren on my father's side, I have the unfortunate position of being constantly treated like a four-year-old. My grandmother used to make comments about how round and adorable of a baby I was, but those comments continued on into childhood and adolescence. The last thing any seven-year-old girl needs to hear is that she's "round."
I became incredibly self-conscious and obsessed over my weight, amongst other physical things. Appearances became of the utmost importance. But I knew I wasn't pretty or anything of the sort, so I tried my best to be as close to acceptable as I could. I never felt I succeeded.
Oh, this all sounds like first world ramblings, I'm sure, or that I'm fishing for a compliment, but I can assure you that compliments only make it worse. I've never trusted compliments much anyways because they often felt like obligations. But that's straying from the point...The point is: low self-esteem sucks.
I first learned about anorexia and bulimia when I was in fourth grade. I had walked into the girl's bathroom during lunch and caught one of my best friends throwing up. I thought she was sick and asked her if I should get the teacher on yard duty. She said no and told me it was okay. She explained it helped her lose weight and she didn't want to be fat. "I don't want to be fat either," I thought to myself, and considered for a moment the possibility of joining her ritual. You mean I can eat whatever I want and not worry about being "round"? Sign me up.
But vomiting is awful. It burns your throat, makes your eyes water and leaves the worst aftertaste in your mouth. I never had the courage to continually purge. Not that there's anything courageous or admirable about that at all...So I just stopped eating. I would make excuses about being too busy to finish my packed lunches for various reasons, or I would give food to other people. In high school, it was easier to convince my mother of my busy schedule too. I got involved in a variety of things and found myself finally enjoying the starvation because I was being productive at least. I had already gotten into the habit of not eating breakfast because I told my mother food made me nauseus in the mornings. Most days, I wouldn't eat until dinner. And though it may sound like she should've noticed and stepped in, I will not allow blame to fall on anyone but me. Had my mother realized, she would have done something, but I became too good at hiding it due to my own denial.
Going away to college made everything worse. With truly no regulation, I would never have to eat. But meals became social activities, and so I engaged in it for the interaction. And when I found myself in the roughest period in my life, I would eat until I couldn't stand it anymore and then I'd stop and not eat again for days. I did this for six months straight until it became a habit. I've been doing it ever since. In the past four years, I've lost and gained weight in an erratic pattern. As of two weeks ago, I am 11 pounds lighter than I was at the age of 18.
And, to be honest, I don't see this behavior changing anytime soon. The thought of eating three meals in a day (no matter the size of portions) makes me feel sick. But I feel positive that this constant fatigue I'm feeling is due to low energy from a lack of food, though I over-caffeinate in an attempt to give myself a burst of energy. Caffeine, of course, can also make you hungry, and this just becomes a vicious circle.
And through all of this bullshit and hell, I still feel unpretty. I don't think it's worth it, but I don't think I can stop.