Personal Column: Waging war on my waist line


Karen Gaytan, Staff Writer & Photographer

By Karen Gaytan, Staff Writer

It was past midnight. I was in the bathroom, standing on the scale and staring at myself in the mirror. I was in tears…. I had gained 3 pounds.

I couldn’t understand how I gained three pounds when I tried so hard to lose weight.  I felt like I failed myself gaining these three pounds. I felt ugly. Worthless.

I was a top-notch ballet dancer. I never lost a competition. My life revolved around ballet; I practically ate, breathe, and slept ballet.  I strived to be the best and nothing would stop me. To be the best ballet dancer, my weight had to be in check. I needed the ideal body to avoid negative comments and point deductions on my score sheets because I didn’t look the way I was “supposed” to.  

Everything changed one day as I was waiting for my lesson to start. The thinnest girl I ever saw walked in the room to pick up what she forgot. I was immediately obsessed with her figure. When I asked her what did she do to be that skinny she replied back “I don’t eat. Food is the enemy.. it’s a thing that makes you gain weight.”

I didn’t know what she was describing was an eating disorder called Anorexia. I was only nine years old, how was I supposed to know?

From that day forward, I was constantly checking my weight. I counted calories; I exercised day and night and followed diets that I saw in my sister’s magazine to achieve the “perfect body weight”. I dropped three jean sizes in one month. I was slowly destroying myself.

My peers in the ballet world encourage me to continue what I was doing. We played games like “Who can eat the least?”, and we pushed each other to reach our goal weights and shapes.

My family picked up that something was going on with me. I tried to cover it up with wearing baggy clothing. I ate some food off of my plate and went to the bathroom to throw it all up later. Everyone thought I was getting better, but I just got better at hiding it.

My family did not understand what happened to the happy girl that loved fries. She was gone.

I even became more violent and resentful to my family and peers. I started bullying the girls who had more curves. I was losing everything, but I couldn’t stop, I was finally reaching my dream of having the perfect slim body.

The day I fainted, my family told me it was time to stop and took me to rehab. I couldn’t understand why they wanted to take me in; I had full control, or so I told myself. I worked so hard on something, and they were taking it away from me.

In the rehab housing, it was terrible. I was the youngest of all the other girls. They constantly watched me while I ate, timing how long it took me. I cried every single day. I couldn’t see my family or friends. I desperately wanted to go home, but I couldn’t leave.

Every other day I spoke to a therapist who probed me with the usual “How are you doing?” questions.  After spending a month with the therapist, she told me  “Don’t let a scale measure you. That number does not define you. Let the number of smiles you give measure you instead.” I truly began to understand I had to change my ways if I wanted to be happier.

I slowly but surely stared recovering. One of the hardest things while going through recovery was telling myself I was worth it. I should be feeding myself and fighting my eating disorder, not feeding the eating disorders and fighting myself.

After three long months in rehab, I was released. My family and friends were proud of me. I was proud of myself. I finally had control of my life – not Anorexia. I deserved it. I deserved to be at peace. I deserved to happy. I deserved to be healthy. My worst days in recovery are ten times better then my better days in relapse.

I have been clean for almost six years.  I do have days where I am triggered, but I know that I have fought way to hard to lose it all. I will continue to fight for my happiness and health.  For the people who are struggling with an eating disorder, my advice for you is this: Life is way too short to spend another day at war with yourself.