1) Wake up, workout. Take your weight and a photo for your app, Diet Diary, everyday. To make sure you’re losing weight. Workout as much as you can. Start with P90X, not enough. Get into POP Pilates. Everyday, do at least a two-hour workout.
2) Count your calories. Keep a little notebook with even columns: food, calories, weight, BMI. For breakfast, you drink black coffee (five calories) and eat low-fat greek yogurt (80 calories), blueberries (weighted: 37 calories) and an egg white omelette (50 calories).
3) Start Googling the demographics and statistics on pretty celebrities. Mostly Victoria’s Secret models: What is Candice Swanepoel’s height and weight? Google will tell you five foot 10 inches, 120 pounds. From there, go to nhlbi.nih.gov to get her BMI, 17.2. Calculate your own BMI, 17.3. You are “underweight” but not there yet.
4) Get your measuring tape out. Google her dimensions: 34 inches around the chest, 23 around the waist, 34 around the hips. You: 33-22-34.
5) Lunch: Sardines (150 calories). Stick of gum (five calories). Ask a friend if you spit out your gum quickly, does it still have five calories? Since you aren’t technically swallowing anything. Your sciency friend will say no, just chewing is five; they need something for the flavor. This is discouraging.
6) The Vitamin Shoppe is now your safe haven: You buy protein powder with the lowest calories and lowest fat, Quest bars for lunches, glutamine, BCAAs and diet pills. Two types of diet pills, one is not enough.
7) Daily two-hour workout. Take your protein (110 calories) and your BCAA and glutamine (10 calories). Take another source photo; you’re looking better than the last few days. Start an album called “me,” full of photos of you in your underwear. Making sure you’re losing weight.
8) Dinner: Sweet potato with no fat (0.44 pounds, 172 calories). If hungry for dessert, protein powder (110 calories) or melon (61 calories per cup) or grapes (three calories per grape). Your mom finds your diet pills and tells you they’re unhealthy. Sneak them to your bedroom: What does she know about beauty?
9) The next morning, you weigh 0.4 pounds less so, naturally, you are happy and excited. Eating 900 calories a day doesn’t make you tired like other, weaker people. You’re amazing.
10) You do not feel amazing. You never wear a tank top because you think you have a belly, but when you put on tanning cream (tan = beautiful), you can see your ribs. You know that you are a size double zero, and when you go to Canada for Christmas, you’re always cold. You used to love the cold. The doctor in your family says “it’s ‘coz you ain’t got no fat on ya.” Tell them you are fat, since you are.
11) You will keep going. You will lose your period; amenorrhea. For about 13 months. It’s amazing to not have to worry about tampons, but in reality, it’s because your body thinks you’re dying. You don’t need to procreate. You will get tested by a doctor. Your liver is starting to fail. You will think: How the hell can models do it? What do they have that I don’t have — I am just doing what they’re doing. Do not stop.
After two and a half years of starving, you plateau your weight. It doesn’t keep going down. Sometimes it goes up — try harder. Work harder.
12) In college, you crash and eat. You eat Oreos in bed sometimes, but go to the gym the next day to work it off. Skip tomorrow’s dinner. Sneak the scale into the hallway so your roommate doesn’t see you weigh yourself: What does she know anyway? You’re the skinny one.
13) It takes more time than you’ll admit to get better. Do you think it’s crazy to text a friend, in tears, complaining about how fat you are, because you just ate a quesadilla? You have been crying for an hour because you ate a quesadilla.
14) The scariest part about recovery is that you didn’t know that you were broken. You had never been so happy; nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.
15) I think anorexia is the most misunderstood mental illness. It is the mental illness with the highest mortality rate, higher than depression and schizophrenia. It is dangerous. It is so dangerous because people don’t know that they have it and everything they think is true is false. People have so many misconceptions, and people seem unafraid to share these with me. It is not just a diet, something you can stop doing. It is not just weight loss. It is not just having body image dysmorphia. It is not just the health side effects. What anorexia actually is is feeling amazing while you’re slowly killing yourself; it is tearing friendships apart because people try to help you and you lash out; it is not knowing that what you’re doing is so harmful, to yourself and others. It is an ugly thing. Anorexia is a consequence of being female in America: One in 200 women are anorexic. Eighteen to 20 percent of us will die from it.
16) In recovery, for me, anorexia was crying every time I ate. I am so sorry to all the people I lashed out against and so thankful for the things that got me through it. When I look at other girls now, I see them as human and beautiful and not a being to compare to. When I look in the mirror now, most times, I see myself as beautiful and not a project needing fixing.