“Gabby, You’re Sooo Skinny”

“Gabby, You’re Sooo Skinny”

From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul

“Gabby, You’re Sooo Skinny”

I am a straight-A student. I am very involved in school activities and considered a “very together” teenager. Or at least, I was.

It all started innocently enough. I weighed about 125 pounds. I was not fat, but felt I could stand to lose a few pounds. A friend of mine had gone on a health kick and was getting great results from it—she was losing weight, she felt better and her friends were telling her how great she looked. I wanted to feel that way, too.

I began exercising and eating healthy snacks instead of the usual Coke-and-chips marathon watching the boob tube. Within a couple of weeks I had lost weight, I was feeling good, I cared more about what I wore and started feeling attractive in a way I had not experienced before. I would go to school and it seemed like everyone noticed. “Gabby, you look great,” “Gabby, you look so beautiful,” and “Gabby, you’re so skinny.” I don’t think anything ever felt as good as those comments.

I was raised with the message that there is always room for improvement, so I figured if five pounds gets this much notice, just think what 10 will do! If cutting back to 1,000 calories works, imagine 500! I figure that was the moment I took off down the road to anorexia.

My previous successes didn’t feel as good to me as the success of this weight thing. I think it had something to do with the control I felt I had. I lost weight at a fast rate, and every time I lost a pound I was elated. It was a euphoria that, now in looking back, I realize I became addicted to. I lived for that feeling.

I remember the first day I went the whole day without eating. When I got into bed that night I felt this emptiness in my stomach. But I also felt thinness: a feeling I had come to connect with achievement and success. I remember thinking, If I can go a whole day without eating, then why not two?

There were many days I did just that. In fact, I could go three days without eating.

I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but it was sudden and total: No one said nice things to me and no one was complimenting me. Instead of seeing the logical conclusion, which was that I was taking this too far, I started feeling that I was failing and needed to try harder. I needed to lose more weight; I would have to get serious now!

I had days where all I ate was an apple, and then I went to bed at night feeling like a failure, feeling fat. It got to the point that any food in my stomach felt like too much. It felt dirty and disgusting. I belittled myself for being so weak. My life was becoming a hell. I felt that if I could just control myself a little more, it would get better. The truth is, all happiness had long ago slipped away, and my whole being was devoted to the moments of success that I felt when I lost another pound.

A part of me knew this was probably wrong, but that part of me was out of reach. It was there, just not able to talk louder than my illness. I needed help, and yet there was no way I could ask for it. I could not even admit it to the people who tried so desperately to give it to me.

Teachers, school nurses, friends—they all suspected I had a problem. My concern was only to put them off and convince them I was fine. I wonder if they really believed me, or if they just knew they couldn’t help until I was ready.

I remember one night my dad brought home steak and announced to me that I was going to eat it and he was going to watch me. He would not take no for an answer. I cried and begged him not to make me do this. This thing sitting on my plate had become my worst enemy. It was pure fat; one bite would ruin everything. I had to make him understand I could not eat this, and that if he really loved me, he would not make me. I was crying, begging him to let go of this crazy idea, but he wouldn’t. He said he would sit there all night. I had no choice, NO CHOICE! But this was supposed to be my choice. The one thing I had control over. Those words pushed a button in me and I no longer cared about him or his feelings. All I felt were anger and hate. I hated him for making me do this, for making me feel my pain and face how distorted my reality had become. I hated him for making me eat that disgusting, evil food.

All my life I had done things for everyone else. The grades, the manners, the awards—everything for them, nothing for me. This eating thing, this losing weight had become mine. It represented me and my choices, and now my dad was trying to take that away from me, too!

As I lay in bed that night crying and feeling fat, I knew I needed help. I knew I was hurting people I loved.

After staying up all night, I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t my dad I hated. I hated ME! I realized that I wasn’t in control. For the first time in my life, I understood that this was my problem. I needed to take control of my life—not let the disease control it.

Things didn’t change overnight. In fact, it was one long road to recovery. But slowly, with the help of friends and family, I began to heal. Now that I’m at my ideal weight, I have stopped weighing myself altogether. I no longer peruse fashion magazines, either—I may not be “in style,” but I feel just right!

Gabriella Tortes, age 17
As told to Kimberly Kirberger

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