By: Julia Kyong Allen
Sitting on the dusty floor in my high school’s cafeteria one day, after a vigorous and extremely difficult practice of round two of our competitive cheerleading routine; the one that involved me holding up a girl that weighed more than I did and throwing her up over and over again in between jumps and cheering; should have taught me something. But teenagers are stubborn, especially me. I suppose people in the position I was in then are stubborn in general, or they wouldn’t have the will power to do what I did. Or I should say, what I didn’t do. And that was eat. Struggling with my weight all through my prepubescent and adolescent years, I had reached a breaking point in eighth grade and was determined to lose weight no matter what the cost. I figured I was going about it the smart way; I ate sugary things to give me energy and even took vitamins. I prided myself in not eating anything more than Jolly Ranchers for lunch and enough mashed potatoes at dinner to satisfy my mother, which happened to be a very small amount. A huge relief to me and my ever growing hatred of eating. The negative feelings I associated with such a sin were enough to make me detest each spoonful that entered my body, so when I got away with eating less than half of a miniature bowl, it was a weight off of my shoulders so to speak and a step in the right direction. The less I could eat, the better, and I got good at eating next to nothing and loving that fact. And I exercised. I exercised 4 hours every day.
It all paid off, by ninth grade I was down to almost a hundred pounds and happier with my body than I had been my entire life. I was proud of my body, I was proud of my looks, I was especially proud of the control I had over myself, and I was proud of my secret strength. After all, not everyone has the self-control it takes to punish yourself by not eating. But that day at cheerleading practice in 10th grade, when I was on the verge of fainting, heaving and struggling to breathe with my head between my knees, I should have realized that there was a consequence to what I was doing. My body wasn’t able to handle it anymore and it was only going downhill from there. That sick, black feeling, my vision being slowly swallowed as my face tingled and pricked and I sucked in air, was just the first sign that something was wrong. Ten minutes of interrupting practice to recover should have been enough to teach me my lesson, but it wasn’t. I would spend days on the verge of fainting, so fatigued and weak that it was anything I could do to even make it through my classes. I didn’t want anyone to know my secret, I didn’t want anyone to take my strength and skinniness away from me, but I don’t know how people couldn’t see me swaying and jerking in my seat in math class with my eyes glazed over as I tried to stay conscious.