And I certainly didn't suspect that one of those people would be me.
The first time I ever heard of such terms was probably in first year of secondary school, too. We didn't go into that much detail about eating disorders in our lessons..again, as I have mentioned before, the focus seemed to be on obesity and the dangers of being overweight. But I do remember one day our science teacher offered a perspective on the other end of the scale, concentrating on the health risks associated with being too skinny rather than the other way round. He criticised the stick-thin models which pouted out from the pages of all the famous fashion megazines, and appealed to us to refrain from even considering starving ourselevs in order to achieve such a dangerously low weight and fragile, waith-like frame.
I had stared, with a rather nauseous feeling in my stomach, at one particular awful photo of a model with legs like bamboo shoots and a waist so tiny it seemed she would have been able to encircle it, without difficulty, with her bony, long-fingered hands. That's just...awful, I had thought, sadly, pitifully, sypathetically.... That poor, poor girl. She must have that diesease that Sir has just been prattling on about...the anorexia. Eating disorder. Well, I know I am thinner than I once was, but there is no way I will ever end up like that.
I'm just normal, after all. A normal, boring, average girl. And there's nothing wrong with me.
These were my thoughts...these were the thoughts of girl who, at that time, was instinctively practising the following habits on a daily basis,under the pretension that they all just part of normal, healthy eating.
- Eating a half, or less, of everything - half of the chocolate bar that I "dared" to have; half of the little patisserie Mam bought me as a treat; half of the little roll I had made for my packed lunch...the other half would be returned, uneaten, to my bag. Maybe it would be eaten later, but it was more likely it would end up being thrown away or put out for the birds to eat once I got home.
- Pretending, lying about what I had eaten. I would move things around in the cupbaord so it appeared I had been rustling in there for chocolate or bread or whatever, though in reality I had had nothing. Purposely pretending I was busy when the rest of the family would have lunch or breakfast together - though really I was just hiding away in my room doing nothing, anxiously waiting for them to finish eating so that I could scuttle quietly down a few minutes later when they had all dispersed. Then I would make myself a "lunch" of sorts...if you could call it that. Maybe a slice of dry bread and a tiny scrap of ham, an apple, a tiny roll, a bowl of cereal.
- I became painfully, ridiculously minimalist...with everything. When making sandwiches, whereas I would be generous with everyone else's and ad plenty of filling and spread and so forth...mine were the exact opposite. Often I would leave the bread dry. If would put in a few tomatoes and then a thin strip of ham, strategically placing it along the edges of the sandwich so it would be peeking out, and it looked as if I had the same as everyone else. When I served myself at dinner...I would aim for a very, very small portion. Mam would often notice and urge me to have more - a prompt that would often result in me being silent and anxious for the rest of the evening.
- I pretended I didn't like certain foods. Even ones which I had formally loved, like chips and cakes and chocolate...well, suddenly and impulsively, one day I decided I was not and could not eat them. There were other foods which I hadn't tried or tasted in a long time, but which I claimed that I didn't like, having sampled them once before - "when?" - "oh, when you weren't looking".
- Never once letting the sentence "i'm hungry!" or "mmm, that looks lovely..." escape my lips. Why? Because then, I thought, people might expect me to eat more than the small amount I permitted myself to have...and there was no way I was going to do that.
I was one of those people who misunderstood what the term eating disorder actually connotates.
because to me, because I never purged or vomited, because I always ate every day and never went through a one single day without eating, I was convinced that I was normal.
I now know all too well just how wrong I was.