A Letter to My Past Self

This piece contains references to eating disorders.

A Letter to My Past by Cecelia Ross - Photo by Elena Eisenstadt

December 14, 2017

Dear Artie,

Today is the day you will officially decide that you have had enough of the way you look. You will become even more aware of your belly that to you seems overly large, of your puffy cheeks that make you think you look like a toad, and of your thighs that jiggle every time you hit a bump while riding in the car. And, you will decide to finally lose weight.

Through the process of causing much of your body to dissipate, you will encourage your mind to become sicker, cause your body to start failing, frustrate yourself and the rest of your family, and inadvertently support fat stigma and industries that destroy innocent people.

The first thing that will happen when you start refusing to eat enough to survive is that your family will start to worry. Over time, this worry will increase to become fear and sadness. At the moment, you are very glad that the fall semester is over. You are so relieved that your family will now have a chance to relax after a stressful few months. But you fail to recognize that you are about to put them through an equal amount of stress in the semester to come.

When you see what you are doing to your family, the intense self-hatred that you sorted through in November will return. You will quickly realize that you are hurting those around you, and you will feel guilty and terrible. But by then, your anorexia will have fully developed itself and you will be unable to go back. You will continue to refuse to feed yourself, and continue to wear down your patient, loving family.

At some point, you will reach your goal weight. You will believe that this entirely unnecessary loss is still not enough, and continue starving yourself, always dissatisfied by how your body looks. In April, you will go to the doctor and find that you are losing not just fat, but also your bones, muscles, heart, and most disturbingly, your brain. Attempting to look a certain way will nearly end up destroying your body.

During the time that you are restricting, you won’t enjoy yourself nearly as much for a variety of reasons. You will find yourself unable to eat anything with added sugar, and it will be hard for you to eat foods that do not display their calorie counts. You will make it awkward for yourself to hang out with friends, even if you refuse to admit it. And, because of what starvation is doing to your body, you will experience cold and achiness like you never imagined, making you shiver in pain like you’re constantly being drenched in ice water.

You will waste so much time during this semester thinking about both food and weight. You will spend hours a day dreaming of cooking and eating, and even more time calculating nutrition facts. You will think about foods that you never liked and have no desire to actually eat, and they will seem unbelievably enticing. There will hardly be a moment when you can make your starving mind focus on anything other than food.

When you first go to the doctor, you won’t believe you have anorexia. It will be impossible for you to understand how sick you are, and you will feel betrayed by the diagnosis. You will feel like an imposter. And you will experience intense fear and sadness that make you sob in the exam room.

During recovery, you will quickly get tired of eating amounts that make you uncomfortable, both physically and emotionally. You will feel disgusted, and highly embarrassed to be seen eating. After a while the embarrassment will fade, as well as the physical discomfort, but you will still be tired of food, and the disorder still lingering in your mind will make you uncomfortable with the notion that you are trying to gain weight.

Eventually, your mind will start to be stronger than the disorder. You will have moments of utter confidence, and there will even be a day when, for the first time in almost a year, you voluntarily drink a milkshake. But other times, anorexia will still grip you, squeezing itself over your mind and controlling you until you try again to destroy yourself. These moments will leave you feeling so small, so ashamed.

When you are sick, stigma and weight loss industries will win. Your disorder will make you pursue the impossibility that society leads you to believe is the norm. You will be able to see that other people who don’t fit this mold are beautiful. But when you see yourself, you will let the criticism thrown toward normal-looking people seep into your self perception.

You need to understand that you are healthy, and you are beautiful in your own way. You need to understand that real beauty comes in billions of different forms, and is found most of all in what makes each of us unique. In the future, I hope you will use the tools you develop during this process so that you can be stronger than any negative ideas you have. And I hope you will realize that there is so much to be said for looking like yourself.

~Artie from the Future

If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, please visit our Resources section for links to organizations that can help.
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