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She is 11 years old and has always felt good about herself…except for her haircut. She gets mistaken for a boy daily. She is very tall for her age with very short boy-like hair. She’s starting to grow it out (finally!) because she’s finally old enough and willing to deal with the thick unruly tresses herself. In spite of looking so much like a boy she has a nickname of “Little Doug” after her Dad, she feels good about herself. She never thinks she’s fat or that there’s anything wrong with her body. She has no problems wearing a bathing suit in front of her friends or even having her picture taken in one. She’s a swimmer, and a good one at that. She loves to play softball and she’s great at it. She loves to ride her bike. She feels good. She has lots of friends and feels loved.

She is 12 and has to go get a physical to start playing basketball and for swimming. The doctor weighs her. 146 lbs. She is 5 feet 6 inches tall. She thinks nothing of it. She goes home and tells her Dad. “Jesus Christ, you weigh almost as much as I do!”

What? How can that be? She weighs almost as much as a grown man who she knows is 6 feet 2 inches? That can’t be right.

Does that mean she’s fat? That she should weigh less? That’s she’s not good enough?

All of sudden, just like that, she’s obsessed. She gets books from the library on losing weight and calories. She can’t believe all of the crap she’s been eating. How many calories are in everything she puts in her mouth. No wonder she weighs almost as much as a grown man.

She’s pathetic. She’s not good. She’s gross. She’s got to change.

First, she starts exercising more. She’s always been active and played sports but this is EXERCISE. For burning calories, not for fun. This is great because she’s going to be playing basketball soon anyway so she needs to get in shape if she’s going to make the team. This means more books from the library and more research on the best way to get in shape with exercise. She does sprints in her backyard, she rides her bike for miles, she runs, she does sit-ups until she feels like she’s going to puke. The scale becomes her new best friend. They meet at least three times a day.

And gets lots of attention and “Way to go!”s for it. It fuels her fire.

She becomes obsessed with what she puts in her mouth and tells anyone who will listen how many calories are in those things they are putting in their mouth. She carefully measure out each portion of her food for each meal. There are no snacks and no crap. Rice cakes become the love of her life. Peanut butter is her enemy. Oh, peanut butter. She used to love sitting with her Mom and sister, chatting, and eating peanut butter right off the spoon. But peanut butter is bad. So she never eats it.

The weight comes off and comes off fast. Basketball and swimming are good exercise, but it’s just “for fun” exercise so she also does her new Jane Fonda hour-long workout tape and runs at least 2 miles and does her sit-ups to burn calories.

There are days when she feels so proud because all she had to eat that day is an apple and maybe a piece of low-fat cheese. And maybe a diet pop. She tells someone what she’s eaten that day. They say “Oh. Cool.” She feels defeated. She should have never had the cheese. If she had only eaten an apple and water, they would have said “Holy crap! That’s awesome! I could never do that!!” Try again tomorrow. She’ll add another mile to her run and at least 100 more sit-ups. That will help things.

She continues this every single day. The compliments come at her like crazy. Her hair is longer now, she is starting to get thinner and she finally looks like a girl. People are paying attention to her for other things besides her sunny personality or her straight-A grades. They are saying things like she’s pretty. And skinny. She’s never, ever heard these things before. This must be what taking drugs is like. She’s only read about it in books but this is what it must be like. The high!! It feels so incredible. People think she’s pretty! And skinny!!

She needs more.


8 responses to “Starving

  1. Ack. That made me sad. It is so easy for others to see the beauty in a person, but so hard for that person to see the beauty in themselves. This is why half the time I am terrified while raising my girls. I fear so much that I will mess them up!

  2. I always wonder why we are so obsessed with perfection even as adults. But in the end even what seems like to most perfect body has it’s flaws. We are raising our children in such a physically obsessed era it’s scary.

  3. I’m here. I know. And for both of us, I am sad. xoxo

  4. I’m so glad you found peace with you. We live in this crazy ass backward world where they say people need to fit a certain body profile. I’m glad you shared this post. Maybe someone out there will read it. Someone who is in this very position. Someone who needs to know they are beautiful just the way they are. Maybe you’ll save someone the way you saved yourself. Love you.

  5. I know I’ve mentioned before that at 13 I had to have a physical and I weighed 113 pounds at 5’6″ and thought I was enormous. It didn’t help that after three days of not eating at all, my dad said something to me about never having thin thighs because neither his mother nor my own ever had thin thighs, no matter how thin they got. It was so defeating and demoralizing. Why do adults do this to kids? I’m trying so hard to tell both of my girls that strength and health is important and that the numbers aren’t. Sadly, I can’t even convince myself of that, even twenty plus years after thinking that 113 pounds was fat.

  6. Why is it that we strive for perfection, especially in our own bodies, yet we are mortal so we can never be truly perfect. Girls have such a hard place in this world trying to fill the shoes of celebrities and super models. I love your honesty!

  7. Pingback: Boys, Boys, Boys | Elastamom's Excerpts

  8. Pingback: Breakthrough | Elastamom's Excerpts

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