I picked up the orange segment delicately and sliced into it with my knife. I divided it cleanly and precisely into four more pieces and then set about removing every single trace of white pith from the outside of my snack.
Actually it wasn’t really a snack. This was supposed to be my lunch; 10 calories. That’s all I could afford today. You’d think that with such scientific and methodical precision I’d be able to whittle down my body more than I had, but I was grossly overweight, revoltingly fat. The hatred and anger I felt towards myself was so crippling that some days, I could barely look in the mirror.
But I did.
Each day I stood naked in front of my full length mirror, hating every inch of my awful flesh, every dimple, every freckle, every fold and every crease. I hated myself. I hated myself so passionately that I knew I didn’t deserve anything in this life.
“Greedy,” I said to myself. “You’re so revoltingly greedy. Greedy guts. Fat greedy guts.”
I had a disease, at least that’s what they called it in the ‘meetings’ I attended to help me cope with my eating disorder. They gave me books and told me to share my tales of woe, all the really nasty, disgusting things I did to my hateful body in the privacy of my own home. They said I would never recover, and that my ‘disease’ was like a hereditary illness. I could only learn to ‘manage’ my appetites, my desires to binge and purge. They told me a cure was impossible, all I could do was work on my ‘recovery’ day by day.
I secretly resented all the pathetic people in the room with me, but that didn’t stop me from attending my three or four 90-minute meetings each week. I sat there and listened to them talk, with pure, unadulterated venom inside me, thinking as I sat there silently, “Greedy, greedy, greedy.” They were all revoltingly greedy, just like me.
There was the South African woman who was thin now but used to be fat. Very fat. She had lost almost half her body weight and now she sat there in slim fitting jeans and dangly earrings, talking about the holiday back home she had planned.
“I have a very strict eating plan now,” she explained (even though we’d all heard her story before), “and I don’t want to go off track when I go back home to Johannesburg. My program is so important to me now; I don’t want to go back to what I was! I have researched supermarkets online close to my hotel so I can buy healthy food and prepare it myself, so I’ll stay in control of my eating. I’ve promised myself I won’t eat in restaurants with all their fatty, greasy food. I won’t allow myself to go off track or get anxious when I’m away. My program is the most important thing to me.”
She emphasised program as if she was speaking about her god, her religion. Madness. Sheer madness! This is the length that these ‘recovered’ food addicts went to remain ‘abstinent’ from food and to continue ‘working their program’ through all events and milestones in their life. You call this living? I thought to myself. This is not living – this is misery.
Another hateful loser stood, the young man in his early twenties whose self-designed eating plan involved never snacking between meals; snacking on food would be like taking a slug of vodka for an alcoholic, he says. He reveals his ‘moment of weakness’ that week when he was making himself a black coffee and he (like the addict he was) ate a spoonful of peanut butter from another staffer’s jar, when they weren’t looking. He chastised himself for ‘stealing’ for a full ten minutes, telling our group that his eating disorder had taken him to the very depths of his soul.
“It was then that I realised how far from full recovery I truly am,” he explained, “To eat anything between meals makes me very nervous, because I never want to go back to being as out of control as I once was.”
Not all the people at the meeting were thin, some were quite overweight, some very fat indeed. Lots of people had been trying for years to gain control over their eating, some successfully, some not. No one in today’s meeting was as fat as me; as truly, revoltingly, greedily fat as me. I had been coming to these horrid meetings for years now; weeks and weeks of listening for hours to other people’s lives, torments, flaws and faults, all in the name of self improvement. I had not improved much at all, in fact, if I really told myself the truth, these meetings were actually making me feel more hopeless, helpless and distraught. No one ever had perfect control over their eating, no one ever recovered fully. We were all there to simply comfort each other, to remind each other that we weren’t the only ones out there who struggled with food.
“Greedy. Greedy. Greedy!”
The words echoed though my head as I felt down to my thighs. Enormous, I had certainly gained weight since this morning, I could feel it. My pants felt tighter already, and I’d deliberately worn the stretchy ones so that I could be seated comfortably for the hour and a half.
I hated myself. I hated myself for having no control; I hated being such a bad girl, so useless, loveless, helpless and pathetic. No body would ever love me. No body could love someone as overweight as I was, such a revolting, fat mound of hateful, disgusting flesh, and I hated all the losers in my meeting groups, and I knew that part of me only went to gawk at them and hear their equally pathetic and stupid stories, which made me feel momentarily better about myself.
“Fat greedy guts.”
The voices in my head continued while I unlocked my car, and heaved my huge body into the driver’s seat. I caught a glimpse of my puffy, swollen cheeks in the rear view mirror and burst into tears. I would never be thin enough. I could never lose enough weight. I would always be this hatefully fat, this revoltingly greedy and out of control. I hated myself from the depths of my very being, cursing my existence. My heart filled with such immense dread now that I was finally alone that my body wracked with a shock of instant tears and I sobbed, uncontrollably in my car.
What if someone saw me?
The thought flashed into my mind. The voices started again.
“Don’t let anyone see you cry, you weak, pathetic, fat loser. They’ll know what you’re really crying about. They all know it’s because you’re a fat, disgusting pig who no one could ever love; a greedy, revoltingly, fat girl.”
Sobering up for just a minute, I reached into the glove compartment and pulled out a snack; a sugary, pre-wrapped, chocolate mousse cake, it was at least four hundred calories. I stuffed the entire thing in my mouth without a thought, without chewing, without tasting. My mind quietened. The voices stopped. I felt a rush of calm flood over my enraged mind, soothing my fleshy body.
I managed to make it all the way home, and once inside the voices continued.
“You’ve blown it now, you disgusting, fat pig. No one will ever love you.”
I fled to the kitchen cupboards and pulled out a box of cereal, another packet of biscuits and an old fruit cake I’d had stashed in the back since December. I opened the fridge and pulled out a litre of milk, a block of butter and a jar of cheap, sugary jam. I floated to the kitchen table where I stuffed biscuit after biscuit into my mouth, as if in a trance. I then took great slathers of butter and jam, spreading them thickly on the fruit cake, before stuffing each piece untasted, into my waiting gob. Bowls of sugary cereal followed, until there was not one bite left and my stomach was so full, I felt like it was going to burst.
If there was ever a more loathsome creature on the face of the earth, I hadn’t met them. Once the feasting had stopped the awful moment of truth finally dawned on me. The moment of punishment. The time to see just how bad, how out of control, how utterly fat I had become.
It was time to get on the scales.
My stomach distended to faux pregnancy size, I waddled over to the scales and dropped my clothes to the floor. I felt my enormous fleshy body, my strained stomach and sickeningly stretched thighs. I stood on the scales in my underpants and bra, and closed my eyes.
Forty one kilos.
I couldn’t believe it – that was nearly 3 kilos more than this morning. I was such a disgusting, fat, greedy pig. I knew that I would have to starve myself for the rest of the week to get back down to my ‘safe’ weight of thirty eight kilos.
Greedy pig. Greedy, greedy greedy.
They’d told me I had anorexia, but I didn’t believe them. Anorexics were thin. Not fat like me.