8/7/13 - "horribly fat"

In today's selection -- anorexia and bulimia are at epidemic proportions in America, with estimates as high as ten million for sufferers among women and the average age of sufferers now only twelve years of age. Marya Hornbacher's Pulitzer-nominated book, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia, describes her eating disorder in heartbreaking detail. Bulimic at age nine and anorexic by fifteen, at eighteen she weighed fifty-two pounds and was given one week to live. Yet at every moment of this terrible descent, she believed she was "horribly fat":

"My memories of childhood are almost all related to food. ... Food has two salient qualities for all humans. First, it stirs a sense of nurturance. The physical food transubstantiates in our minds into something more ethereal, of human and emotional nurturance, a sense that our hungers are being sated. ... Second, food has a simple, chemical effect of calming the brain. Food gave me a sense that things were going to be all right. ...

"At nine, ten, eleven years old, I paged through the teen magazines at Clancy's Drug Store. While my friends were standing in front of the 99-cent Wet 'n Wild lipstick displays, I was poring over Diet Tips for Teens. ...

"I'd wake with a jolt at 6:30 A.M. ... Into the shower, out of the shower, climb up on the toilet with a hand mirror: look, peer, examine, critique. Frontal view first. Legs too short, too round, thighs touch. Seventeen magazine advises that thighs should not touch. Mine touch. I suck. It's all over. How can I hide it? How can I stand so I'm not so swaybacked? How can I curve myself inward, as if preparing to implode? Left side: butt too round, juts out, major gross, ohmigod, the butt, the horrible butt, the butt that is so undeniably a butt. Rear view: hips curve out from the waist. Are those saddlebags already? ...

"I rose when my father called me for breakfast, ate breakfast, bye Daddy, took a left turn out of Nancy Lane, took a right turn down the embankment of the pond at the end or the road, walked into a grove of trees, held my ponytail back, stuck my fingers down my throat, kicked leaves over the mess, spat, put two pieces of gum in my mouth. Walked out of the grove, down St. John's Avenue toward Concord Elementary School, thinking of weight, unbearable weight...

"I am in Mrs. Novakowski's fifth-grade class ... I am suddenly, horribly fat. I pull my sweater down over my butt because it is too big. My thighs are too big, and my boobs poke out through my shirt ... I am too much... I puke in the bathroom during recess...

"In sixth grade, I began to 'take days off' from eating, to 'cleanse my system.' I tossed my lunch in the lunchroom trash can, keeping only the carrot sticks or the apple. When I think about it now, I can see how I began to withdraw into myself, away from the laughter and noise of my friends, focusing instead on the sensations of hunger, the lovely spinning feeling in my head, the way I would veer in and out of conversations. While my mouth jabbered, my eyes wandered off into space as my thoughts returned to the ache in the pit of my stomach, the heart-pounding feeling of absolute power.

"Eventually I'd break down and eat. And eat and eat and eat. I'd stop off at the neighborhood market on my way home from school to buy jars of hot fudge, caramel, marshmallow cream, eating each jar with a spoon. ... Or I'd walk home with two neighborhood friends and go to Sarah's house ... we'd eat: little white buttered buns, ice cream with chocolate syrup, potato chips, Double Stuf Oreos, microwaved frozen hamburger patties, Fruit Roll-Ups, Flintstones vitamins. Eventually, the two of them would stop eating. I wouldn't. Just before dinnertime we'd part ways. I'd go home, throw up, eat dinner with my parents, fight with one or the other, do homework, snack, bathe (throw up), and off to bed. ..."


Marya Hornbacher


Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia


W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.


Copyright 1998 by Marya Hornbacher-Beard


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