This I Believe

McKenna - Reno, Nevada
Entered on December 13, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: illness
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I Believe….

I believe that there’s more to life than your physical appearance. When I was twenty years old, I went to Australia with one thing in mind, to be happy with myself. I chose Australia because I was only given two different countries to choose from by my parents and those countries were Australia and New Zealand. I decided that my happiness would be achieved by losing weight because all skinny people are portrayed as being happy. You can see these “happy” people on television and magazines. These are the celebrities we’re supposed to look like according to our society standards. The typical Barbie.

After reducing the amount of food I was eating, I also stared walking at least six miles every day. I started to count all the calories I was taking in and really started reducing that amount. A good example of what I would eat on a daily basis is by opening your hand and picture a piece of chicken the size of your palm, then chop that in half. I would have celery sticks or salad with no dressing, only salt and pepper. I didn’t know how to do the calculations for calories in Australia because the nutrition labels were in kilocalories. So, if a nutrition label read 140 kilocalories then I wouldn’t have that food. I would stay under 100 kilocalories just to be “safe” to not over eat.

For the four and a half months I lived abroad, I didn’t think I had lost any weight and was so nervous to go back home to everyone and have them look at me with the “oh, she’s big” face. When I looked in the mirror, I still saw the same girl that thought she was big, despite the collar bones and spinal cord that were protruding from my skin. Little did I know, I had lost thirty-two pounds.

Coming home from Australia shocked everyone that saw me. Everyone thought I was so tiny and I didn’t believe or understand who they were looking at. I remember running down the Reno Airport terminal towards my mom and dad, not being able to contain myself with how much I wanted a hug from them. My mom was crying with joy to see me and then my dad grabbed me and picked me up off the ground embracing my frail body and but he put me down, he poked my ribs. They didn’t say anything to me at that time and as we made our way to baggage claim, where my brother Chris and his wife Shaina were waiting, I remember how I always looked at Shaina as being really skinny and when I saw her, I thought about all the weight she had gained. It didn’t matter how happy I was to see my family, weight on everyone, not just on me, mattered more.

My mom wanted to make me understand what everyone was seeing by taking me to doctors as well as to her personal trainer to have my body weight and measurements taken.

My distorted view of myself created many health problems that later doctors told me would have to change. Even after knowing about the risks involved with my weight, I didn’t want to change. I didn’t care about not having a menstrual cycle, or losing hair and teeth, fainting, irregular heart beat, maybe even coma and death. I liked feeling smaller and being told by others that “I looked great” or even that I “looked to skinny or sick”. The numbers controlled my life or actually, calories controlled my life. After eating any meal, I’d go to the scale and make sure I didn’t gain anything or better yet, to see if I had lost more weight.

I remember jumping on the scale one morning before eating breakfast and was ecstatic when I read 110! “Wow, 110! I’ll be happy at 105.” The truth of the matter, even if I did end up losing five more pounds, I would have wanted to lose more. There wasn’t a number that was good enough. Making sure I was at a size “0” wouldn’t have been good enough for long. I wanted to get into the negatives or maybe even into girls clothes.

I’d read magazines in Australia and here in the states about the latest weight certain actresses were currently at. I always compared myself to Lindsay Lohan or any other actress that was in the headlines. It would display the height and weight of these actresses and then I’d think, “well, she’s 5’8” and weighs 112lbs, and I’m 5’7” and weigh 113lbs, so I’m not to skinny!”

Even today, after going through psychological treatment and gaining the appropriate weight for a healthy body, I still think mirrors are “lying to me” or “tricking” me. Unfortunately, our society has a huge belief that skinny is sexy and more appealing. There are an unbelievable amount of television commercials that talk about diets and how much better you’ll feel and how much happier you’ll be after you lose weight. Magazines show “How to get the best bod” or television programs that highlight the celebrities weight loss secrets (even though, they are already thin) but for some reason or another they need to be thinner.

Eating disorders are abundant in our society because of the stresses we put on women’s’ physical appearance. Take a look at all the media that glorifies skinny women and all the weight loss tricks to help those get skinny. It’s stifling!

I believe that when the sun is shining and I’m with my family or friends’ enjoying the day is so important. I believe that being with my boyfriend hiking and seeing the beautiful scenery is so important. I believe achieving a goal is so important. I believe love, laughter and life is so important. I believe there’s more to life than your physical appearance.