Round and round the circle we went. “Operator? Operator?”
“Tammy has a big butt.”
I was a plump child, fond of cheeseburgers and ice cream sandwiches. By the fourth grade I was proportioned like an adult, far beyond little girlsâ€™ jeans and training bras. If I had been ten years older, I would have been called sexy, but at the time there was only one word my classmates and family could say: fat.
“How come my brothers can have ice cream, but I canâ€™t?”
“Because they donâ€™t have a weight problem.”
The seeds grew and grew, even as I shrank into an athletic teenager. Fat fat fat. No one will be my friend because Iâ€™m fat. No one will marry me because Iâ€™m fat. Eating makes me fat.
So I stopped.
In sophomore year of high school, I dropped 50 pounds by eating 300 calories and running 3-5 miles per day. My hair fell out, my nails were brittle, and I felt constantly freezing, but I was finally skinny enough to win societyâ€™s seal of approval. Skinny = happy.
But I wasnâ€™t happy. And after a few years of not eating, I became angry. I tolerated all that pain-why wasnâ€™t my life perfect yet? One day, a well-meaning family friend gave me a large tin of trail mix as a gift. Then my delicate anorexic world unraveled.
Senior year was a blur of grilled cheese, ice cream, and mixed nuts. Cookies, energy bars, and breakfast cereal-no food escaped from the kitchen. I would eat nothing at school, but when the clock struck three the refrigerator opened. After all, I had three yearsâ€™ worth of calories to make up for.
They gave me pills for depression. They encouraged me to join after-school clubs. They showered me with the affection I had starved myself to attain, but by then I was too far gone. It wasnâ€™t until I moved halfway across the country for college that I could start afresh with new habits in a new environment.
Sanity slowly restored itself as I lost the freshman 15. Itâ€™s hard to binge when you have to eat in public cafeterias. Because I had no spare change for vending machines, I quickly learned to eat decent meals to last through nights of reading assignments. Plus, I had to walk at least two miles a day just to get to my classes, and when I met my one and only I had no more reason to obsess over (i.e. binge and cry) about my looks.
Of course, there was the occasional bag of caramel-filled kisses or box of Quaker breakfast cookies that would mysteriously disappear, but by graduation I was at a stable weight and state of mind. This year I started my own blog, The Amateur Nutritionist, to learn even more about healthful and tasty cooking. Now I take my time to enjoy food and experiment liberally in the kitchen. Iâ€™m getting back into running, but not enough to break my body down and never to compensate for eating. Though Iâ€™m still a little “weird about food,” I think Iâ€™ve struck a happy balance. â€”Tamara, 21
[pics: Pink Sherbet Photography]