You ask her why she doesn’t eat that food anymore. She tells you she doesn’t care for it. She tells you she is full. She tells you it’s unhealthy.
She tells you she is eating raw food now.
She doesn’t tell you that it’s because of the calories, that it’s because she wants to lose weight, that she wants more than anything in the world to eat it and feel okay.
What is going on inside when you see her eat?
This is not easy. She does not wish to tell you.
See, she can’t even talk in first person.
When you see her eat, her heart beats fast. She wishes you wouldn’t watch her eat. She wonders how much you think about what she eats. She decides what she will eat next to make it look like she is not eating too much. She waits until it is noisy enough in the room so that you may not notice how much she is eating when she grabs something else.
She seems calm. She sits there acting like nothing is wrong because she doesn’t want you to see how loud she is screaming inside. She doesn’t want you to know how embarrassing this is for her.
I will speak now.
You ask my why I’m fat; I’ve gained weight, I am no longer as thin as I was. But this does not mean recovery. What kind of eating disorder is this, anyway? You ask why I can’t have more self-control. I tell you, it is because I used to have all the control in the world.
You ask me why I take food out of the trash. I tell you that it is because I used to spit my food into it.
You ask my why you find food wrappers, empty cans of vegetables in strange places around the house. I tell you it is because I pushed food away for so long, and now there is a shaking, anxious girl inside of me that is scared she will never have enough.
I am scared to feel the hunger again. I am scared you will see the monster I held back for so long.
This girl you see today? This is the monster I’ve been hiding all along. This is the girl I was ashamed to admit I buried inside for years. This is the girl who was scared—is scared—to admit that she has a big, fat problem with food, because the control she had before was never hers to begin with.
You ask her how she could possibly have an eating disorder if she looks anything but anorexic. She has no response for you, because her voice is trapped in the bottom of her stomach—the stomach that screams to be filled, to be emptied, to be punished. She has no words to articulate, because how can she explain that what goes on inside speaks louder than what she reveals on the outside? She wants to stop, but her body rebels.
Have you ever heard a body scream? I have. It was my own, and I kept strangling it, kept pushing her beneath the shallow bathwater.
Stay there. Stop breathing. Stop scrambling.
Cold water splashes. Body thrashes. She suffocates.
Photographer: Jennette Kristen Laven
I hurt because I don’t want to be told that every emotion, every scream for release, every moment I have been through is a lie. Because what else can I call this obsession, this war with food?
I wish I could show you my pain. I wish I could have the guts to show you the monster within when I eat by myself. I wish I could make you feel the deep hunger when I restrict, make you see the gluttony consume me as I consume it. I wish you could feel the isolation as I sit holed up in my room, as I hide in the bathroom, as I sneak off into an empty room and eat.
Because I am embarrassed. Because years ago I took the bread off the dinner table and pretended to chew it before my family, only to excuse myself to go to the bathroom and flush it down the toilet.
I wish I had the guts to show you the stashes of food I hide in my room, in my purse, in my desk drawers. But I know that embarrassment holds me back, that I try so desperately to keep this hidden so that no one will know that I keep this such a big secret, that when you ask about how I could have an eating disorder, I have no words left to give.
Call it a lie, call it fear, call it lack of control or discipline—but in my head it is more real than I will ever know.
This is why I do not want to eat to begin with. This is why I fear hunger. This is why my obsession with food continues everyday. Because I know I will have to eat again. And when I do, I no longer feel that I can control my body. It takes over, and the girl who was drowning beneath the water comes up with a vengeance and twists me around. She twists around my mind and drowns that instead.