They tell you you’ll lose weight – and, probably, you will. Not as fast as you’d think, and never fast enough, and not in ways that will likely look good, but you will.

They tell you you’ll be tired – and, probably, you will. You’ll know your basal metabolic rate to two decimal places, and you’ll know how many calories below that you are, and you’ll know what that does.

They tell you you’ll be cold all the time – and, probably, you will. Maybe you’ll even be like me and hate yourself for wanting warmth, so you’ll deliberately skip a jacket no matter what the weather looks like.

 

But they won’t tell you how pathetic and ugly it will make you. How you’ll increasingly be shown a disgusting, animal side of yourself, some lizard-brain remnant that does nothing except plead for food, any food, anything. You’ll hear friends complaining about the quality of cafeteria food, and even though you agree with them, on some level you want to smack them with a rolled-up newspaper and screech fuck you fuck you fuck you for wanting more than something I can’t have I wouldn’t complain I could eat the whole plate, the whole batch, and I’d be fucking grateful. You will truly believe that you can’t have it; face it, honey, you’re the only one holding yourself hostage.

One part of you is whimpering, begging, clawing at the insides of your stomach and trying to bargain with you: come on you’re barely losing anyway and you need to keep your metabolism up and it’s only a cookie it’s not going to kill you and you’ve been so good anyway and and and. But over the top of that there will be another voice saying, almost audibly, that this is why you can’t do anything right – because you cut yourself slack, you make excuses for yourself, oh that’s so fucking precious you actually think you deserve to eat like a little pig. Bitch. You’ll need permission to eat, and you know you can’t give it yourself, so you try to slowly digest yourself until you’re thin enough that someone else will give you permission – not that you’ll believe them, anyway.

Problem is, occasionally that begging-sobbing-oh-god-please-let-me-eat side wins out. That’s another thing they won’t tell you: you will eat. Not in any sort of normal fashion, of course. Now, you know you have to eat something, because otherwise your poor little brain will turn into green jell-o and your hair will fall out and you’ll grow fur (“lanugo”, they’ll call it), and you really can’t afford that in your third year of college.

Here’s the thing though. There are two things that are much easier than eating just enough to get by: eating Nothing, and eating Everything. And sometimes, that little voice in your stomach crawls up into your esophagus and digs through til it can start ripping out the wiring in your brain. And when that happens, you’ll realize that you now have an incredible capacity for food. They won’t tell you how much you can fucking eat after weeks or months of being malnourished; you imagine that your tummy has shrunken into oblivion, and then you scare the shit out of yourself when suddenly you’re sitting down with your fourth plate of food but you can still feel that awful clawing emptiness, which stays even once the stomach pains start in (because, let’s face it, you just don’t know how to digest things anymore). Maybe this will even happen before you sit down to a meal. Maybe you’ll wake up some days, like I did today, and laugh to yourself, and think “Oh my god, this is so fucking stupid. Why am I doing this to myself?”. And then you’ll eat like a normal person (or more, in my case. A lot more) all day, and you’ll suddenly have energy and be able to think about things that aren’t food and you won’t shake anymore and the screaming in your head will stop. But then night comes, and all of a sudden all you can think about is how all your friends saw you Eat, and how now they all Know, and how if this keeps up you won’t be able to feel your hipbones anymore and your spine won’t bruise when you do sit-ups. And then the guilt comes in and swallows you up, and you feel more alone and scared than ever. Only now, you feel alone and scared and like you can’t do anything right, not even stop eating.

 

That’s one of those things they don’t tell you.

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