A bunch of US bloggers are currently participating in ‘Teen Week” during which time they write about their adolescent experiences with body image and self-esteem. This year’s theme is Words that Heal and I’d encourage you to pop on over to Medicinal Marzipan’s site to have a look at what some inspiring role models are saying and doing.
As a result, this post (which will be the first of three over consecutive days), seemed timely.
I found this 6-page letter in some old boxes and photographs my mother gave me a few years ago. I’ve pulled it out every so often over the past year or two and find it almost impossible to read without crying. I wasn’t at my worst when I wrote it; I was – in fact – on the mend… The letter itself is long and disjointed – the equivalent of stream-of-consciousness writing before I knew what it was. It was written on 21st April, 1984. I was 16 years old and in my final year of high school. (I’ve made some corrections / added some context in brackets, but avoided doing any editing – though it nearly killed me not to do so!)
I often wish I knew why, or how it started, or even when it started. Or maybe it didn’t just start, I think I’ve (had) it in some form all of my life and something evoked it, or triggered it off – but what? I wish I knew.
Sometime towards the end of last year I decided I would go on a diet – it was only a slight one, I was in fairly heavy basketball training at the time, so I was running off most of the junk I ate.
Now, I can’t remember how much I used to eat, and how much I ate on that first part of my diet. I can’t picture it in my mind. I remember bits and pieces – like at one stage sometime I used to have pikelets every morning and sometimes in the afternoon, I can remember it vaguely, but it seems so long ago – even years – but I know it was sometime last year.
I often try to remember what I used to eat for breakfast. I can remember having rice bubbles, or hot milo, but when?
Anyway I’ll just skim lightly over the past. I lost about 1/2 stone (7lbs / 3-4kgs) in that patch of dieting – I don’t know how long it lasted for but I was happy to get down to 10 stone (140lbs / 64kg). Then I stopped dieting. I can’t even remember if I put that weight back on. People sometimes told me that (they) could see I’d lose weight – which made me extremely happy.
I think it was just before my final exams in late November last year (1983) I went on my diet again – just before school finished for the holidays. I think I used to have Tang for breakfast, a little packet of CCs for lunch and a normal tea (meat and a bit of potato) (I hate veggies, salad and fruit!) But I can’t remember if I used to cheat and eat after school & at night, maybe, maybe not! I was playing tennis nearly every day with my dad and I skipped each night after tea.
On the holidays I kept up my diet – although I still can’t remember if I ate between meals at all – I was playing tennis occasionally and was skipping every night and training bball (privately) occasionally. By Christmas I was 9 stone (126lbs/57kgs).
We went to stay with my grandma (at Christmas) – I was determined to keep up my diet – I didn’t eat a lot of junk, but I now realise I ate the wrong foods there & lost no weight & was still 9 stone when we returned to (my hometown) in early January – my mum and dad were worried by now, although I hadn’t realised. We had a scene & they were crying, which made me feel bad so I agreed to see a doctor.
The visit was to no avail – he told me I was about the right weight – maybe a little too thin for my height, but he told my mum I looked good and gave (us) brochures on the food groups etc. By now I wasn’t skipping anymore. I think I failed to mention that at my grandma’s I exercised after each meal (ie. danced around my bedroom doing cardio exercise – usually to Madonna or Michael Jackson) and took large quantities of Ford Pills (laxatives). The pills didn’t help because I used to go for a couple of weeks without going to the toilet at all.
I then went with my family to the Gold Coast to my Aunties’ – a health nut. Here perhaps the worst thing happened. I got hold of her calorie book. I haven’t eaten my beloved CCs since. I have to admit I splurged a little then – I remember being thoroughly disgusted in myself one day for eating chicken and chips for LUNCH and other days eating buns with cheese. It was from my calorie book I discovered crispbreads – at least I could have something with not many calories for lunch! At the Gold Coast I stopped exercising (as I termed the dancing in my room) – I had nowhere to do it, but I swam. I started off doing 50 laps after each meal and it gradually grew. I’d started skipping too.
When I got home I was 8 1/2 stone (119lbs/54kg) and, of course, very proud. I had to start (regional representative) basketball training after that so used to go to bball and run every day – I didn’t ‘exercise’ or skip at all – I didn’t have the energy! My coach had already had two other girls suffering from anorexia in our team – (he) used to tell me how bad it was for me & how my bball would suffer!
Note that I’m turning the comments off for these three posts.
Thanks for reading and I’ll post the second part of the letter tomorrow.