“If you lose 30 pounds you can be whatever you want.” – Dealing with self-acceptance and eating disorders in the 80’s.
80% of women in the US are dissatisfied with their appearance, and according to the National Eating Disorders Association, 81% of 10-year old’s are afraid of being fat.
Dealing with being overweight at 13 years old, when you love to dance, can be devastating and dealing with being overweight, can hurt. It can take away your dearest dreams of who you want to be and it can make you feel less valued. All I wanted to be was a dancer and to be loved for who I am, in a time where skinny ballerinas and limited access to the world was all we had. It was the 80’s and besides the big hair and big shoulders I was feeling very small (and chubby). It did not feel possible to succeed, it was not beautiful to see me on stage and I was never good enough.
Dealing with being overweight in a world of skinny and beautiful friends and being an adolescent back in those days was not easy. Summer time was a torture, wearing a bathing suit was a big decision, showing up to class and looking myself in the mirror or being weighed in front of all the students was my worst nightmare.
This chubby girl that was a good student with a passion for modern dance was struggling with more than the weight of 30 pounds. The lift was heavier than that. I remembered showering several times a day because the water running on my naked body was the only sensation that made me feel lighter and at some point, clean.
Dieting was the habit and binging was too. If there was a hidden camera in my parent’s house you would have called 911 at 2am and let them know there was a serial killer. I used to secretly walk to the kitchen, take a huge knife and then direct myself to the pantry in the middle of the dark and literally carve huge pieces of chocolate (my mom was a pastry chef), then take them to my room and eat them like it was the end of the world.
Then comes the guilt and over-exercising, because running 3 miles or 2 hours of dancing was not enough to burn all those calories but most importantly were not enough to flame out the passion that was burning my heart.
Then come the people, the people that love me to death, people that had seen me grow from the “pretty girl” to the “chubby” one with what they use to call a beautiful face, a face that by the way was full of freckles that I wanted to erase and that made me feel ugly.
Then comes the makeup, the heavier I looked, the more make up I put on.
Then come the smiles, a wide big smile that was also hiding my darkest moments of imperfection and frustration.
The people that loved me the most sent me the most awful messages in the world, from offering me to pay US$100 dollars for every pound I lose to having me try every possible diet, to storing food with seven keys and hanging pictures of my skinnier version on the fridge, so I can be reminded that I can be whatever I want… if I lose 30 pounds.
I can’t imagine other intentions than to help, indeed this was very common back in those days, some of my friends were living the same hell. That’s how our parents were raised, that was the way they loved us.
It’s unbelievable how we survived not only the bumps of life – we ride without helmets, drive without safety belts and we use to drink before 21, but it was that emotional toll that hurt the most.
It was the dance teacher, your family, your friends, and indeed they adored you, those who were trying to “help”, those who did not have a clue of what to do, would hurt us the most.
Then came the pills, you can buy your way to beauty and happiness or you can even die in the intent. Those pills were dangerous drugs that the lady from the pharmacy use to prepare and sell to us illegally. Literally my weight every Monday was 8 pounds heavier than on Friday night, and yes I could fit into the Saturday outfits. There was the doctor that was selling us a new version of the pill and we secretly went there at 16 years old until we discovered he killed a patient and he ended up in jail. I had to admit at this point the color of my skin was a little purple, I use to shake all the time, my grades were fading, and I used to cry literally every minute and a half for no reason. It was difficult to breathe and simple tasks became complicated.
I remember myself at 24 years old holding a degree in law but still not able to take control of my own life, therapy was not an option, it was never discussed, it was a taboo back in those days and not approved by my family to talk about your problems to a stranger. I remember sitting at a big family dinner, everyone eating a feast and myself looking at a very empty dinner plate with boring food and telling myself “this is it”. That day I refused to diet any more, I decided to change my relationship with food, that day I told the world this is me, yes, I am chubby and I am much more than that, that day my only commitment was not to gain additional weight but to be healthy and be myself. That day I decided I was ready to take my life back. It can sound simple, but it was complicated, it was an act of rebellion and a desperate shout for freedom.
In the next 3 years I lost 30 pounds with no dieting and never gained it again. Acceptance and self-love were needed to lose not only that huge weight but tons of anxiety that indeed led me to carry a lot of pressure on my heart. Only when you lose that kind of weight you can indeed be whatever you want, only by being yourself first, you can conquer the world, from within, and twice!