A model's perfect waistline

Photo by Daniela Vladimirova, via Flickr

I had no friend quite like Ed. We also hated each other.

He was with me all the time. He knew all my secrets. When I was in high school, all I wanted was to be perfect. At 5:30 a.m. I would run six miles. Then, after school, I would study until 10 p.m., breaking only for dinner. I always had to get an A. He understood why I would wrap my hips and abdomen in duct tape to keep it all in, so that my tight pants would fit perfectly and no amount of fat could bubble over the top.

When we had meals together, he would reassure me that it was okay to eat only fruits and vegetables. He would agree when I would say, “I’m fat, I need to lose weight.” He saw what I saw in the mirror.

He didn’t mind that I didn’t make much of an effort to get to know him. He understood that I was wrapped up in my own troubles.

I came home from college for winter break, and my parents said I had lost too much weight. They wanted to know what was happening. I lied. I told them I was fine, just busy. Ed and I laughed about it later.

When I returned to school after a Christmas spent eating only cranberries, frozen fruit, and broccoli, I went to a dietician. She told me that I was sick and needed to gain weight. I said I would try. Ed and I walked home from the appointment. “Great job,” he told me. We made fun of her stupid meal plan and her naïveté in believing me. I repeated the lie to my parents, too.

But after several months, my body broke down. My doctor told me that I couldn’t physically exert myself in any way, lest I have a heart attack. The news didn’t faze Ed. He smiled and said, “Let’s go for a run. You’re looking a little heavy.”

“Ed,” I said, “I really don’t think I can run.”

I agreed to go into outpatient treatment. Ever the loyal friend, Ed came with me. “These other girls are sicker than you,” he said.  “You don’t belong here.” I looked around the room. Some had tubes in their noses. Others were drinking protein shakes because they had refused lunch. Ed and I laughed at these pitiful creatures. We thought up ways I could outsmart the staff. “Exercise when you get home at night,” he told me as we sat in the waiting room. “Don’t pay attention during the activities.”

I did what he said. I had entered treatment in June, but a month later, I still hadn’t gained any weight. I was told I would need to receive inpatient treatment and defer school for a semester.

That’s when I turned my back on Ed. I still liked how I looked at seventy-five pounds. But what would it matter if I were cooped up in a treatment facility, isolated from everyone I knew, living among ghosts? I started to realize that I might become like the people around me: pale, emotionless, wheelchair-bound—barely able to move a muscle.

I began seeing a therapist. She told me I needed to get Ed out of my life. “Tell him ‘No,’” she said. “Every time you sit down to a meal, every time you want to run six miles, don’t do what he’s telling you to do. It will get easier each time. Trust me.”

I did trust her. She became a new friend, and with time I learned to listen to her instead of Ed.

It took about a year to get myself over 100 pounds and regain the trust of my parents after promising them repeatedly that I would try to get better.

Ed never stopped hectoring me. On my wedding day, he told me my dress didn’t fit properly. When I thought about having kids, Ed warned that I would gain too much weight and turn ugly.

But by then I had found a true best friend, my husband. He told me he loved how I looked in my wedding dress. Later, we decided to have children.

In the seven years since I had my falling out with Ed, I’ve learned to tune out diet fads, step away from the mirror, and divert myself from self-destructive thinking.

Ed, my eating disorder, is still around. He never does go away for good, I’ve learned. Sometimes he joins me during meals or exercise. But it’s not the same as it was. He and I aren’t friends anymore.

Jill Pohl is a military spouse and freelance writer. Website: visionsofjillhanna.com

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