The Girl in the Mirror
By Sandhya, age 26, South Carolina
The girl in the mirror was not the same person as me. She looked convex when I wanted to be concave. She whispered to me that I was too fat, too much, too greedy. She fought incessantly against my blossoming body; she wanted to look like a boy - flat, thin, tall. But I was nothing like that. I cried, and asked her to just accept me for who I was, but she refused. As my belt got too big for my hips, as my pants started to slide down my legs, as my period suddenly stopped, she smiled wider and wider and wider, as if she was the Cheshire Cat. When I began to lose my hair, she whispered that I could always wear a wig.
You might have guessed by now - the above were the thoughts that constantly swirled through my head when I was 14. I was anorexic. I was 5' 5", and went from a healthy 125 lbs to 95 lbs in the course of just a few months. The reason? I felt I just wasn't good enough.
At the time, I lived in India. Anorexia permeates cultures, religions, countries, and genders. It is not a prejudiced disease. I was hopeless, hapless, and confused. Of course, I admitted this to no one. I had a boyfriend who told me every day that I was too fat. In fact, his nickname for me was 'Fat Girl'. I completely believed him.
Anorexia crept up on me secretly, stealthily in the night, while I slept. What led me to become anorexic? I couldn't tell you. Maybe it was my boyfriend, maybe it was the fact that my friends laughed when he called me Fat Girl. Maybe it was because I seemed to always be in a fight with my mother. Maybe it was because school was too hard for me. (Anorexia makes it extremely hard to focus, much less remember things.)
The sad thing is that I was not alone. Every year in the U.S., millions of girls go through the exact same thing. Anorexia is one of the major killers of girls 12-24 years old. Models and actresses are getting thinner, and it's so tempting to keep up with them. But what you don't see is the ugly side of anorexia. There is nothing sexy about watching your hair fall out in tufts, in being dizzy almost every second of every day, in having splitting migraines, in the feeling of your stomach gnawing on itself.
What's scary is the existence of pro-anorexia sites on the internet. People on these websites claim that anorexia is a 'lifestyle choice' and that they are perfectly within their rights to do as they please with their bodies. That might be so, but these websites also offer tips to anyone who wants to be anorexic. And here's the irony about anorexia: the more you starve yourself, the slower your metabolism gets, and the more likely you are to binge on food. The body goes into a sort of survival mode, where it thinks that it has to binge in order to get the calories that the anorexic is depriving it of. So the more you try to be anorexic, the more likely you're likely to end up binging instead. It's a vicious cycle: starve, binge, starve, binge.
I still don't have a magic cure for feeling comfortable in my body. I struggle with weight, with the meaning of food, every day of my life. But I'd like to think that it's a battle that I've won. For now.