The ‘Glamour’ of Starvation

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Anorexia looks like a friend. But it’s a death sentence instead. I should know: as a teenager and then again as an adult, it almost killed me.

Death wasn’t my intention, you understand.  I just wanted to be thin. But what started as a choice, became a tyranny.    It stripped me of my looks, my mind, my friends, my family and my life. Glamorous? You must be joking.

Here’s a snapshot:

I was starving.

When I stood up I felt dizzy.

I had chest pains.

My body was covered in a thin layer of downy hair.

My ankles and wrists were swollen.

Even in the middle of summer, I was freezing cold.

I couldn’t think. I couldn’t follow conversations, headlines or a single train of thought. It was like swimming underwater. My brain was wrapped in cotton wool. The outside world was a shadow – insubstantial, dreamlike, distant. Nothing was real. All that mattered was losing weight.

That’s the thing you see.  It doesn’t matter how much you weight you lose.  Or how much exercise you do.  Oh, you tell yourself it does.  Just a couple more pounds – then I’ll be happy.  Then I’ll stop. The reality is very different: other people will gasp in horror, but you’ll never see it. Even when you’re dying, it won’t be enough.

You feel in control – but you’re utterly enslaved. You tell yourself you’re stronger than everyone else.  You don’t need them and you don’t need their help.  You lie about everything – your body, your thoughts, your habits.  The trips to the bathroom. The meals you’ve eaten ‘elsewhere’. You lie so much you forget the truth and then you no longer care. Every day, your world shrinks along with your body. You’re not powerful or in control.  You’re scared and isolated and lonely. You’re killing yourself but you don’t know how to stop. But hey, nothing tastes as good as skinny feels – right?

Look in the glossies and it can seem like starvation is where it’s really at.   What’s a few ribs between friends, eh? After all, there’s nothing sexier than brittle bones, heart failure, bad breath and enough body hair to shame a coconut. Eating disordered?  Me? Of course not; I just ‘work out’. .. (Morning, noon and evening). On a diet? No! I eat what I like. ..(As long as it’s cabbage. And since you see me rather than smell me, you’ll be none the wiser). When I do break down, it’s because I’m ‘exhausted’.  And that’s nothing a holiday can’t fix – right?

I’m ranting.  But that’s because I’m ashamed.  I’m ashamed that I fell for this.  I’m ashamed of being an addict; of the lies and the pretense and the hurt and the broken promises.

I’m angry too.  Angry that anorexia is air-brushed and glamorised.    Angry that it’s sometimes presented as a lifestyle choice – a hobby or diversion that you can pick up and then discard once you hit your target weight. It doesn’t work like that. In fact, it doesn’t work at all. Being thinner won’t get rid of your anxieties.  It won’t give you meaning or fix your family or your friends or your life. It just makes you less.  That’s it. And then it’s game over.

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