Starving

by Christine on September 8th, 2010

filed under Christine's Life Updates, Eating Disorders, Short Stories

That was it. I had it up to here with being fat. Careful consultation with BMI calculators, nutritionists, doctors, and various attempts at fad diets just weren’t cutting it. Regardless of the plan, the steadfastness of my effort, it didn’t matter — the weight just kept pouring on. I was killing myself at the gym, going both at 5 a.m. before work and at 7 p.m. after work, but it didn’t matter. The weight just kept adding up, up, up.

I was 190 pounds and I could see the 200’s creeping carefully closer. I wasn’t piling on the weight quickly, but at an average of 2-5 pounds per month, it was slow but steady. I knew that unless I took drastic action, the weight would just keep piling on.

I decided that on Monday I would stop eating entirely. Surely THAT kind of calorie deficit would be enough to let my body know who was really in charge here. Oh, I had done a mini-fast before…maybe 10 days long…and I knew that it wouldn’t be an easy road, but it would surely be easier than the dieting + exercise + killing myself mentally that had been happening for months at that point. Surely anything, even outright starvation, would be easier than that.

I figured Monday would be the easiest day to start, because the first few days are the worst on any fast — the relentless need to eat, the real hunger, the pretend hunger, the obsession over food are always the worst. Weekends are the hardest times on any diet because of the temptation lurking in every social event. Work days were structured, rigid. I could do it, if i could just get past the first five days.

The plan? Eat nothing. Nothing at all, save 100 calories or less of liquids per day, such as watered down juice. I could have all the 0-calorie soda I wanted. The plan would make a huge calorie deficit, and surely my body would either lose weight or collapse.  At that point, I was A-ok with either outcome. If I collapsed, maybe the doctors would finally take me seriously.

Day 1 came. I woke up and went pee. Standing naked I logged my starting weight. 190 pounds. I went into the kitchen. Grabbed some water, filled up a few bottles to take with me. I looked at the food on the counter, saw the remaining veggies on the counter. Knowing that my husband wouldn’t eat them, I threw them out. I went to work, avoiding the free donuts and bagels. I took a diet soda and nursed it. My stomach growled. I looked at the clock, mentally checking to see when lunch would be, out of habit. I’m stronger than this, I told myself, and sipped my soda some more. For lunch I went rollerblading, thinking every second of the way about all the food I would not allow myself to eat. The afternoon was torture. My stomach was shrieking, but I told myself that it was all worth it in the end. I went home and gave my bathroom scale to my hubby, telling him to “hide it good” and not bring it out until this time next week.  He shrugged, knowing that I was on yet another crazy diet, and agreed. For dinner I had some watered down apple juice, maybe 20 calories. I smiled, knowing that I was beating it this time. I went to the gym.

Day 2 I turned into a raging, angry psycho beast. I glared at everyone, avoided the phone and restrained myself only to emails. I shut my office door and spoke to as few people as possible. I bit all my nails off. My stomach continued to shriek, and I continued to drink Diet Pepsi. I could nurse a regular 20 oz bottle all day and still have some left over. Lunch involved rollerblading for distraction. When I got home I went through the refrigerator and cabinets and threw everything away that hubby wouldn’t eat. Not a thing remained. I went to the gym.

Day 3 I was so tired I could hardly keep my head up at work. For lunch I slept in my car instead of rollerblading. When I got home I went to sleep and didn’t wake up for the rest of the night.

Day 4 my stomach stopped grumbling nearly entirely, and I realized somehow of the brilliance of my Day 3 happenstance “plan:” If I could just sleep, I wouldn’t have to worry about eating at all! I was lethergic and tired, but not quite as cranky. For lunch I went for a walk at the nearest mall. When I got home I popped 2 sleeping pills and fell asleep before dinner.

Day 5 my brain was completely incapable of stringing together two coherent sentences, but a sense of calm came over me. I was fatigued, and that was easily remedied by taking more sleeping pills when I got home. Still not food. Five days and not a thing to eat.

Day 6 and 7 were the weekend. I slept as late as possible, then tried to clean the house, read a book, or something. I asked hubby if we could NOT go to dinner, but I agreed to a movie. Both days I took sleeping pills. Seven days and not a thing to eat.

Days 8-12 were work days. The manic adrenaline kicked in. I couldn’t sleep at all, and I was incredibly hyper, like I had just injected pure caffeine into my bloodstream.  Enblazoned with a sense of hope that this was the energy blast I needed to lose the weight, I spent every non-waking work moment scrubbing my house, diving into my autograph hobby, and going to the gym (yay for a 24-hour membership).  I didn’t sleep a wink for five nights, and I didn’t eat a bite either. My stomach stopped talking entirely. I wasn’t hungry at all. It was perfect. At one point I realized that I hadn’t pooped in a week or so, so I took some laxatives. I was doubled-over with cramps and agony, but I was incredibly happy that I eliminated something. Surely that was another pound or two of weight lost! Victories!

Days 13-14 were the weekend again. I asked hubby to go camping with me. Out of house, no chance for temptation! I survived two more days of not eating, but the lethargy was starting to come back.

Day 15 I called into work sick. I took sleeping pills and slept all day. Fifteen days and I didn’t eat a thing.

Day 16 my body seemed to normalize a little bit: I wasn’t frantic, and I wasn’t too lethargic either. I wasn’t bursting with energy though. I could think a little clearer. I settled down to work, but the habits of eating at work were hard to break.

Day 17 I cheated by eating one-quarter of one slice of ham at work. It was there staring at me. I wasn’t hungry; I ate out of habit. 30 calories. I nearly called the whole starvation diet off, but decided that 30 calories wouldn’t ruin the entire “plan.” I went to the gym to work out for 2 hours of heavy cardio in retribution.

Day 18-19 were normal, if there’s such a thing as “normal” when you’re not eating a thing. Water started to get too boring, so I threw in a squeeze of lemon. I had tea for one “meal,” and although the smell was wonderful, the taste was vile.

Day 20 was Saturday. We had dinner plans with friends. I didn’t quite know how to handle that tactfully. “Thanks but no thanks, I’m on a no-food diet.”  Hmmm, not so much. I mulled over the menu online for hours beforehand. When we got there, I ordered a bowl of soup. I had maybe 3 or 4 sips of soup, and mostly pushed it around with my spoon.  Eating was, for the most part, avoided. Success! 20 days with only two “slipups” of a very small amount. For the most part, I had gone 20 days without eating.

Day 21, more of the same. Day 22, more of the same. I kept going, not eating a thing, sometimes sipping on apple juice, or, even better water with a little apple cider vinegar (known as an appetite suppressant).  I didn’t die. I didn’t have a heart attack. My moods evened out for the most part. My thinking went in waves: sometimes clear, sometimes foggy. My moods fluctuated from sleepy to alert, to a little frantic, but for the most part I just existed. I just kept going. And going. And going. It got easier, the longer I went without food.

Time kind of stopped and stood still. I was numb all over, mentally and emotionally. I was just existing, and barely, at that. I had this intense self-loathing that crawled over my skin and sucked the life out of my soul. I couldn’t walk past a mirror without looking dispassionately at my image, hoping and praying that the next day I would wake up looking some someone completely different. I wrote hateful things on my bathroom mirror, like “fatty” and “ugly” and “weakling.”  I would wear a rubber band around my wrist and slap it HARD when I thought about food. Eventually, after a few weeks of that, I was a little bloody around the wrists, so I started wearing the rubber band around my ankles instead. I would daydream about getting shripwrecked on a desert island or going on Survivor; I’d be FINE without food. I’d be the last one standing at the end of it all.

It’s no wonder to me that religious ascetics used prolonged fasting as a way to empty the mind and get closer to God. I’m not religious by any stretch, but there’s a period when your brain stops struggling with what might be and what was and, with its numbness, is content to be in the here and now. (This type of religious fasting is called anorexia mirabilis and has been around for centuries.)  All religious have used fasting to reach that point of, oh I don’t quite know what to call it — accepted clarity, perhaps.

For 70 days I didn’t eat a thing, except for five teeny tiny little slipups. At day 70 I thought I would finally weigh myself. I asked hubby for the scale.

187.0 it said. 70 days of not eating and only three pounds lost.

At that point I completely gave up on myself. I got into my car and drove to the corner store. I bought a handful of candy bars and ate them one after another. The sugar made me vomit. I cried some. Then I took a sleeping pill and slept it off. The next day I ate everything in sight, and the day after that, and the day after that. Until I was 225 pounds.

Weight loss surgery was the only option I had left.  Nothing else worked, not even outright starvation.

I don’t know why the weight loss surgery worked when nothing else I did made a dent in my weight gain. All I know is that I’m so grateful that it has worked.

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