I screamed silently as I pinched the roll of fat on my tummy. I was sure I’d gone up a dress size in the past week. My shirt was tight, the button of my jeans were digging into my waist and I was struggling with each breath. I could have sworn I fit into this outfit a week ago!
I ran downstairs to my parents crying as I jumped into my mum’s arms. ‘Darling, what’s the matter?’ I could feel my parents staring at each other horrified.
‘I’m fat!’ I wailed.
My mum laughed softly and raised my tear-stained face to look at her, ‘Don’t be silly, hun. You’re not fat. You need to gain some weight even. You’re too thin.’
I rolled my eyes at her and looked at my father instead. He was trying to stifle a smile and failing abysmally. Ugh! I stamped my feet. What did they know? They hadn’t seen what Demi Levato had to go through with her weight problem. How Miley Cyrus dropped like how many dress sizes in how many weeks…they were blind.
I walked off shaking my head. They knew nothing and I was going on a diet. End of.
I started by eating only half of what was put on my plate. It was difficult to start with but I looked at my phone’s wallpaper, Rooney Mara as the Girl in The Dragon Tattoo stared back at me. This gave me the determination to grit my teeth and continue.
I weighed myself a week later and gasped in disbelief. I’d gained 2kg! How? Why? I logged unto a pro-anorexic website and moaned to myself. No wonder I was a fat pig. I was overfeeding!
Time to up the ante. I stopped taking the bus to school. My parents didn’t really notice that I was leaving earlier than usual because they were always rushing off to work. I would walk briskly to school with my deodorant in my bag just in case I sweated too much. I always did. I had no lunch at school and I had soup for supper. Always slipping the food to the dog surreptitiously.
In 2 weeks, one of the cool girls in school stopped me as I walked out of the cafeteria with an apple saying, ‘God, Nnenna! Are you losing weight?’
I held those precious words close to my heart with a massive grin as I practically skipped back home. I used it as a crutch when my tummy yowled with hunger that night and I popped a cube of sugar into my mouth and forced myself to sleep. I chanted them like a mantra as I did my sit-ups the moment I woke up the next day. For the next month, dieting was my religion.
I took a deep breath and grabbed the pair of jeans that had given me problems before. I held my breath as I tried them on. Yes! They were loose. I did a little jig and ran downstairs to meet my parents.
‘Notice anything different?’ I asked giggling. They looked at me absently and replied, ‘You’ve got make up on?’
‘No!’ I replied, exasperated. ‘I’ve lost weight!’
‘Oh,’ my mother nodded quickly. ‘Of course, darling. But you look as pretty as before. You don’t need to lose anything, hun. I’ve told you this already.’
My heart plummeted as I went back to my room. I still looked the same. The cool girl in school was probably humouring me.
Weeks went by and I didn’t even think of food. Soon I couldn’t concentrate in school. I didn’t have the strength. I ignored the looks other girls gave me as I trudged past them. I ignored how my parents looked increasingly worried.
Then one day, my mum called me to the living room and sat me down. My father looked equally disturbed. What was the problem? All I wanted to do was exercise then sleep.
‘Nnenna, is there anything bothering you? Anything you want to tell me about?’ My mum asked gently.
I was confused, what was she talking about? Had any teacher called to complain about my work? I had apologised for nodding off during classes, hadn’t I?
My dad added just as gently, ‘I’ve noticed that you’ve stopped taking breakfast and supper with us. Always running to your room. Are…is everything okay?’
‘Everything’s fine, dad. I’ve been eating breakfast. I eat when you guys have gone to work, you just don’t notice. And I have supper too! With my friends before I come back.’ I rolled my eyes and made to get up but my mum glared at me so I sat back down with a huff.
‘It’s just…we’ve noticed you’re looking very…well, thin.’ My dad blurted out.
I laughed somewhat bitterly at this, ‘no dad, I’m not. I’m fat! I look the same as I’ve looked since I tried on those stupid jeans. I couldn’t be skinny even if I fasted 24/7. You don’t have to lie to me!’
My mum held back a sob as she shook her head frantically, ‘No darling, you’re not fat. You’re thin. Too thin. You look unhealthy. Please, stop this nonsense. You’re wasting away.’
I got up this time. I didn’t need to listen to this. What did they know? I wasn’t like Rooney Mara. Or Keira Knightley. Or Kate Moss. I was a whale!
‘You guys don’t know anything. You want me to eat?’ I half-yelled, going to the kitchen counter and grabbing a muffin. ‘Fine!’ I stuffed it into my mouth. ‘There, I’ve eaten,’ I mumbled through a full mouth ignoring their aghast looks. I ran to my room and slammed the door locking it. Then I ran to the adjoining toilet and threw up everything.
What did my parents know?
From that day, I ate in front of them and smiled to myself as they studied me eat every last grain of rice or pasta. I smiled as I hurried to the school loo and made myself throw up every single time. Water with glucose became my best friend everytime I felt faint. Of course I was always tired. Fat people were lazy and always exhausted.
Then I fainted in school. I don’t know what happened. The last thing I remember was getting up after a class then everything went black. Next thing, I was waking up attached to a drip. My parents were teary faced and sat next to my hospital bed still in their work clothes.
”What happened?’ I croaked. I was so tired.
‘Oh, Nnenna,’ my mum cried as she cradled my head. My dad said nothing and just stroked my arm. ‘Where did we go wrong?’ I heard my mother ask herself.
What was going on? Why were they crying? Why was I in hospital? I was so confused.
The doctor came in and smiled at me gently, ‘Miss Nnenna Ike, how are you? It was a very close one this morning, you know?’
‘Close what?’ I asked looking round frantically.
‘You’re anorexic, Nnenna!’ My mum burst out ignoring the doctor shaking her head vigorously. My mum went on, ‘You nearly died! You’re so underweight, you nearly died!’ She cried. She was shaking so much my dad pulled her away from me.
I wasn’t anorexic! What a stupid lie. I had bingo wings. And cellulite! I must have said these out loud as my dad shook his head and pressed his fists to his eyes tightly. The doctor sat down and held my hand as she said, ‘No, Miss Nnenna. That’s your inner self, so self-hating, telling you all this. You’re not fat. Your ribs are protruding. Your vertebrae and your hipbones are jutting out. You’ve got extra hair covering your skin.’
I barely heard my mum asking the doctor how an eleven year old could be anorexic. I didn’t care. All I could think of was pretending to eat so I could get out of the hospital. I was going to be skinny even if it killed me.
And it did.
Photo credit: tashythemushroom.deviantart.com