In high school, I was team captain of the volleyball team. We had practice, games and weight training most of the time and it was easy to stay in shape. I would go home and my parents would cook a healthy dinner while I "wrote my essays", "researched" and "did my labs" (or Facebook messaged my friends about someone's new status, which in fairness sometimes seemed like an essay due to extensive stalking). I would have dinner with my family, which, since my sister is a vegetarian, usually consisted of steamed vegetables and fresh tofu and like good California hippies there was usually quinoa or some other strange grain my Tennessee roommate has never heard of.
I came into Duke with great self-esteem. I felt awesome! I had a great group of friends and things that I loved to do at school. I was voted “most likely to be heard across campus” because I was confident and spirited and a welcomed, lovingly obnoxious presence at my medium-sized high school. I had it all going for me and I was ready to take on college and be flawless.
Duke was different. I struggled, and I really mean struggled, to find my group of friends in the beginning. I called home crying several times a week for a while. Until I started going to Marketplace with people from down the hall from me, and started making some real friends. Oddly enough, I loved Marketplace! Sure I also complained and got sick of the food by second semester (or Thanksgiving), but like everyone else I would get my plate of dinner, then a slice or two of pizza, then either a scoop of ice cream, or a bowl of cereal (especially if they had Cinnamon Toast Crunch that day).
I always laughed at the “Freshman 15” because I “knew better” than to fall for the unlimited food and I was going to “go to the gym” “everyday.” But slowly I was gaining weight. Yet I kept doing the same things because that’s what I thought everyone was doing and I just didn’t know how everyone else around me still looked so thin.
So some days I would skip lunch. Or maybe breakfast and lunch. But I thought it was okay, I told myself I just didn’t have time between classes and by the time I got back from class it was almost dinner. I was counting calories, avoiding fat, and going hungry until dinnertime so that I could fit in with everyone else and still look good. I may have never put my fingers down my throat or taken laxatives, but I was binging and purging and just may have been bulimic.
I went on like this for months, most of second semester freshman year, until I realized that not everyone was eating like this every night. Most people were finding time to exercise a couple times per week instead of scrolling through buzzfeed and sporcle. And most of all, not everyone around me was as thin and perfect as I had created in my head.
We look at the world through a pair of binoculars, but we hold them the wrong way. When we look out, everything blends together. It looks beautiful and perfect. We fail to see any details or imperfections and we miss the truth. But when we look at ourselves, we see everything and we see it even more so than anyone who looks at us. They are all still looking through their binoculars too and think we are perfect and they are missing something that we have.
Eating disorders are real, they are around us, they are terrifying, and they manage to camouflage extremely well. Nobody ever knew about mine, absolutely nobody. They affect men and women; trust me, I know. You probably assumed that a girl was writing this until you just checked.
Take off your binoculars and see the world for what it really is. See yourself for who you truly are. Don’t be a victim of perfection; it is a game with no winners and a whole lot of losers.