Eighty-four pounds to my name

Autumn Alvarez

Content warning: This article discusses sensitive issues such as eating disorders and body image.

Eighty-four pounds read the scale at the doctor’s office. Eight. Four. Who would have guessed those two digits would so dramatically impact the rest of my life.

Eighty-four pounds was the weight I secretly held with pride. Eighty-four pounds was the weight that I watched my mother cry over. Eighty-four pounds was the weight doctors deemed me ill enough to be hospitalized at thirteen years old.

Of what illness, I had yet to discover and endure. The days following what had hoped to be an improved check-up from the last bout of lost weight turned into year-long recovery programs with therapists and doctors.

I somehow escaped hospitalization only to be met with specialists and never ending clip-board questionnaires, poking and prodding my deepest weight loss secrets, “Do you feel the need to starve yourself to look a certain way? Do you feel uncomfortable in your body? Do you compare yourself to others? Do thoughts of food dominate your life?”

Now how would I get out of this one? All could be answered “yes” with a simple glance at my walking skeleton, but I would never admit to such measures.

Anorexia nervosa. This was my prescribed ailment. 

As google defines it, “An eating disorder causing people to obsess about weight and what they eat.” In layman’s terms sure, but for myself and so many others, anorexia is a psychological mind game, the very thing that could kill becomes the very thing you give full control to.

When sickness is deemed beautiful and attractive, one will work themselves into becoming that very image. This work takes time, effort and unnatural methods to reconstruct thinking processes and entire ways of life. 

My path to anorexia began with all too familiar comparison games. The athletic yet skinny figure I desired by the start of high school was impassioned by doctored images of female celebrities and endless media patrolling on my phone for the quickest way to drop a pound.

What seemed like subtle changes in diet became rigid restrictions of beloved meals followed by compulsive exercise. At that time losing my self-worth and confidence was worth gaining protruding collar bones and a thigh gap.

There was no end, no goal in mind, no state of perfection could be met indicating that I had achieved the perfect body and could stop the incessant bullying of myself.

I faced these nightmares every time I skimmed the media’s photoshopped stars, models and everyday people. Their posts and comments muddled my mind from seeing the truth of how deeply sick I had become.

Any eating disorder for that matter is followed with the stench of death. Society tends to ignore the power misleading pictures and information wield to destroy the development of young minds and bodies.

In learning to leave my eating disorder in the past, it has become grossly apparent that the world sells the lie that worth is found in appearances. Rather than encourage such demoralizing lifestyles, society must advocate for a beauty within and a health that brings joy to life.

The road to recovery is not a journey one should or can walk alone. In being transparent with unhealthy practices, you can find a team of doctors dedicated to helping you overcome fears of eating “unhealthy” food, gaining healthy weight and discovering outlets for uncontrolled habits.

Seeking help is not something patients believe they need — I definitely didn’t welcome it at first. I resented my therapists and group sessions, though through them my vulnerability was revealed and desperation to understand what was happening.

I encourage those struggling with an eating disorder to honestly confront your demons, evaluate the media you consume and seek professional help even with the belief that you have it all under control. Eating disorders are a life and death matter, hiding them too long could be too late for saving, and you are worth saving.

Although the torment of anorexia would have me struggling to find a will to live, I’m grateful for the trial, for I would never have recognized the fine line between a lifetime of love and a lifetime of resentment for myself.

Watch my video below “The Threat of Eating Disorders.”