efflorescence

United States

16 | INFJ | ♀️| massachusetts

[ summer + fall 2019 ] peer ambassador

just a melancholy, existential girl with a penchant for poetry, fairy tales, and magical realism.

Message from Writer

if you see a piece get unpublished, it's probably because I've submitted it to a lit mag, contest, etc! sorry :)

Eat

May 31, 2019

    Don’t eat.
    Don’t eat.
    Don’t. Eat.
    I switch off my blaring alarm and allow myself a minute or two of relaxation before forcing myself to move. A few rays of sunlight peek through the gauzy curtain covering my window, but the crack underneath my door is dark. I throw on a baggy hoodie and leggings, brush my frizzy hair, and step into the hallway. I scurry down the steps and tiptoe into the kitchen, flicking on the lights as I enter. I open the refrigerator, scanning the rows of colorful-lidded tupperware. My stomach twinges with whispers of hunger as I skim past the food, pulling out a carton of almond milk instead. I splash the milk into a small white bowl and grab a few pieces of my favorite cereal from the cabinet, smashing them into crumbs in my hand. I stir the cinnamon specks around with a spoon, making sure to scatter the bits all over the inside of the bowl. I set the bowl by the sink with a clink right as my parents come downstairs, proof that I have “eaten”. I’m relieved and ashamed, but I’m not sure why.
    Don’t eat.
    Don’t eat.
    Don’t. Eat.
    I remind myself as I pull my lunch box from my backpack and race to the cafeteria, my stomach eager for sustenance. I’m so tired of staring at my math worksheet, the numbers blurring into gibberish in my brain, that my friends are a welcome distraction. I unzip my lunch box, shoving a small tupperware crammed with brownies into the center of our lunch table for my friends. Meanwhile, I tear open the crinkly wrapper of a granola bar. I finish it in a few quick bites. My stomach asks for more, but my lunch box has nothing left to offer. If I don’t pack myself food, I don’t have to worry about resisting temptation. If anyone questions the insubstantiality of my lunch, I tell them I’m still full from breakfast, or I’m planning to eat a large snack after I get home. No one questions me.
    Don’t eat.
    Don’t eat.
    Don’t. Eat.
    I chant as I curl my fingers around a handful of silver forks, slipping past my mother, who is busy stirring a pot of orecchiette, and my brothers, who are wrestling each other on the shiny hardwood floor. I set the forks down on the scratched black surface of our dinner table, carefully aligning them by every chair so that they point perfectly straight. My mom calls for dinner, brushing by me with a big, steaming bowl of pasta cradled in her hands. When we are all seated, my brothers dig in, spooning heaping piles onto their clean white plates. I spill a few spoonfuls of the shells into my small white bowl, inhaling the savory scent of bacon bits and Brussel sprouts, all drizzled with a subtle lemony sauce. I eat my pasta piece by piece until I have drawn a line in my bowl. Half clean, half orecchiette. For the rest of dinner, while my brothers share the trivialities of their days, I sip my water, waiting for the ordeal to be over. Finally, my parents release us, and I escape to my room, where I bury myself in a book, as if that can stop my hunger pangs.
    Don’t eat.
    Don’t eat.
    Don’t. Eat.
    I whisper as I lie bundled in my blankets, staring into the darkness of my room.
    Don’t eat.
    Don’t eat.
    DON'T. EAT.
    I order when my empty stomach rumbles for more, even though it knows it can’t. It shouldn’t.
    Don’t eat.
    Don’t eat.
    Don’t. Eat.
    Eating, which I once enjoyed as enthusiastically as my brothers, had become a source of guilt and fear. Instead of nourishment, I equated food with imperfection. I couldn’t be perfect if I wasn’t thin. So I restricted. Simply put, I starved. I had rules: No breakfast (unless my parents were watching). No snacks (unless they were under 100 calories). Only half. No matter how small or big the portion. Half was clean and even. Perfect.
   Over the years, the concept of perfection has changed. Before the 1920s, a woman’s weight corresponded to their wealth and status. If a woman had a fuller figure, it signified that she had the money to purchase more food than others. By the mid-1900s, the ideal body narrowed, becoming more waif-like. By the 2000s, obesity began to take off in the US, but self-confidence experienced a sharp decline as well.
    The effects? Now, “[n]early a third of children aged 5 to 6 in the US select an ideal body size that is thinner than their current perceived size when given the option”. These children are so young that they have barely begun to discover the world around them, yet they have already learned to hate themselves.
    Unfortunately, eating disorders are still very misunderstood. When my classmates and I learned about them in health class this year, I was shocked by their ignorance. They believed anorexia nervosa was a choice, and they had never even heard of other disorders, such as orthorexia, AFRID, and body dysmorphia. But I did not speak up and correct their misconceptions, for I was afraid that my knowledge would reveal the secret I had concealed for so long. I thought my friends would judge me for acting weak, so I kept quiet.
    This culture of silence does nothing to assuage the guilt and shame sufferers feel. As a society, we need to do a better job of raising awareness. We need to let others know that they are not helpless, undeserving, ugly, dumb, worthless, or weak, and they are not alone. Next time you see someone skip a meal or criticize their body, don’t ignore the signs. Help turn their "don’t eat" into a "do eat".
Quote Citation:
Howard, Jacqueline. “The Ever-Changing 'Ideal' of Female Beauty.” CNN, Cable News Network, 9 Mar. 2018, www.cnn.com/2018/03/07/health/body-image-history-of-beauty-explainer-intl/index.html.

If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, here are some resources:
https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/
https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders/index.shtml
https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Eating-Disorders
https://anad.org/

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1 Comment
  • efflorescence

    @Alia I've actually already read Stepsister, but thank you so much for the recommendation! And I love Rupi Kaur's poems, she's so inspirational.


    over 1 year ago