“Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the thinnest of them all?”
Ten years ago, I would ask myself this. I would compare myself to family members, friends and even strangers walking on the road to measure how thin I was. It simply started with friends and relatives commenting on the few extra pounds I had gained. I began with sensible eating at first, but then the various stresses of adolescence, peer pressure, family, gaining people’s approval, perfectionism and loss of control led me to the path of starvation, excessive exercise, and later binging and purging.
I would complain about being fat whereas my family would say otherwise. When I saw myself in the mirror I would perceive my size two or three times more than it actually was. This is called “distorted body image”. I was completely obsessed with my weight. This obsession with body image helped me to cope with the excessive pressures in my life. The stressors were beyond my control. There was only one thing at the time that seemed to be in my control and that was my body. Controlling my body gave me a sense of control over life and gave me courage. I excelled in my studies, I was able to meet the demands of family, I was meeting the high standards that I set for myself—all at a very big cost: my life. I had lost my smile and my enthusiasm. My parents had stopped trusting me for all the lies and excuses I used to make to harm myself.
I grew up in Karachi where there was very little awareness about body image and eating disorders. Everyone just thought I had become a fussy eater and was obsessed with losing weight—which was true only on the surface. No one was aware of what was going on in my mind and heart.
I first came across the term “anorexia” from my aunt who is a nutritionist. The internet helped me gain some insight into my problems. However, it also misguided me. I read about bulimia and was thrilled. I used to and still love food. Binging and purging was the best option at the time, as I could eat whatever and as much as I wanted and then get rid of it from my body. Little did I know how much it internally damaged my body and mind.