This I Believe

Brianna - Cincinnati, Ohio
Entered on November 3, 2006

When I was in seventh grade, I was obsessed with my image. I thought the only thing that mattered was the way I looked. My weight had never bothered me until middle school. Nobody had pointed it out or made any mean comments to me about it. However, in sixth grade, some people started saying things to me about my weight. It got worse in seventh grade, so I started running cross country, which helped a little. During the summer between seventh and eighth grade, I became fixated on my weight loss.

During the summer, I had decided to try the Adkins diet. It was working for me, and by the time school and cross country started again, I had lost about 15 pounds. The first day of school I felt great, and was getting a lot of compliments on my new figure. That just encouraged me to diet even stricter and run even harder at cross country practice. With my better physique, my running had improved also. I was one of the fastest runners on our team, and I was running in varsity races every week. However, no matter how successful I was with my running, I was still unhappy with the way I looked.

As time went by I began to obsess more and more about my body. My daily calorie intake had dropped to about 500 calories, compared to the average recommended intake of 2,000 or 2,500 for athletes. I was constantly tired and cold and I often couldn’t even move after cross country practice. By the end of the season, I was down to about 95 pounds, and my entire body including my hair was becoming weak and brittle. I still wasn’t happy.

I couldn’t see any of the effects of my eating habits. When I looked in the mirror I still saw myself as overweight. So I continued my dieting, despite my weight dropping under 90 pounds. Since it was late fall, and cold outside, all I wanted to do when I got home from school was lay in bed under my covers.

In December I had a doctor’s appointment. It was supposed to be a regular checkup, but it turned into more than that. When the doctor weighed me she said that I was underweight and that I had an unhealthy weight loss since my last visit. Then she took my blood pressure, and was shocked at how low it was. My heart rate was even more dangerously low. She told me if I exercised strenuously it could even stop beating! My doctor immediately referred me to an eating disorder clinic at Children’s Hospital. I had to work with a nutritionist, a specialized doctor, and a therapist for almost a year. They helped me get my weight back to normal and my mindset back in place.

In hindsight, I see how everything went wrong. I had become so obsessed with my outside appearance and what others thought of me that I had put my health at risk. My vanity almost killed me. Sometimes my old obsessions come back and I think about relapsing into my eating disorder again. But then I ask myself if the ends justify the means. Would me achieving the “perfect body” by such drastic measures be worth all the damage it would cause my body. I don’t think its worth it anymore, and even on my bad days I manage to clear things up and see them for what they really are. I used to be willing to give up literally everything- even my life- to be skinny, but now I see that there are so much more important things than a number on a scale. For example, my life.