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No One to Trust: Rachael's Story
I felt proud and pretty as I pulled on my new two-piece bathing suit. I turned and posed in front of the floor-length mirror. I was only nine years old, and although I wasn't sure exactly what it meant, I thought I looked very sexy. I looked over my perfect ensemble. My beach bag was the same yellow as my bathing suit, and my sandals were the same orange as its trim. I looked absolutely smashing!
It was only half a block to the beach. I had begged my parents to let me meet them there. I wanted to bask in the glory of strutting down the street alone, all grown-up and captivating.
The three boys who walked toward me must have been around sixteen or seventeen years old, but to me they were grown-up men. One of them did a double-take when he saw me coming. I was overwhelmed. This was incredible! They were looking me over! Coyly, I looked down at the pavement as they passed. I saw his feet stop. He was going to speak to me!
"Hey, fatso," he called. "Don't you know enough to cover up all that blubber?"
I looked up startled. One of the others joined in.
"That's right, piggy. Better be careful, someone might accidentally put you on a spit." He reached for my pigtails, held them above my head, and turned me around on my toes, forcing me to rotate like the pig he described. The top of my bathing suit slipped up under my armpits. My chest was bare, and I was vulnerable and helpless.
"Oink. Oink." My torturer laughed as he displayed me to his friends. "Look what I caught. A fat little piggy."
"Joe, come on. Leave the little lard-butt alone," one of the others called. Mytorturer gave one final tug and let me go, then, turning their backs to me, they walked away.
I couldn't breathe. I couldn't move. I didn't know what "lard-butt" meant but I knew it was something terrible. I was overwhelmed with shame. I didn't even notice that I was crying. I pulled my bathing suit top down over my naked chest and desperately sought to make sense out of what had happened. I knew something was wrong and I knew that I must be to blame for it but I couldn't put it all together.
Me fat? I wasn't fat. My father told me I was beautiful!
Me fat? There must be some terrible mistake. I wasn't fat. My father told me all the time how beautiful I was. He had me model my new bathing suit for him just yesterday, and he told me I looked just like a movie star. Why were these guys calling me names? Why were they doing that to me?
I was crying so hard that I couldn't catch my breath, but with each tear, as I moved closer and closer to the beach, the truth sunk in. I was fat. I really was. That's what the kids at school were whispering about, that's why no one wanted to be my partner on class trips, and that's why my mother would stare back at the adults who stared at me.
My stomach tightened in fear. Why had my parents betrayed me? Why had they lied to me? These guys and the kids at school and all the people who stared, they were really telling the truth. I wasn't pretty. I wasn't. I was just . . . fat. And that meant that I was ugly.
I made my way to the beach and plodded through the sand to my parents' umbrella. "Hi, sweetheart. What's the matter? Have you been crying?" my father asked. The tears burst through anew.
"I stubbed my toe and it really hurts," I sobbed. It was the first of many lies to come.
It would be thirty years before I would come to realize that my intense craving for carbohydrates was not normal.
Three decades passed before I learned that my intense craving for carbohydrates was not normal and that the excess weight that others found so objectionable was simply the manifestation of my addiction to junk food, snack foods, and sweets, coupled with an unforgiving metabolism.
But at that time all I knew was the need--the hunger, the cravings, the drive. Food was my focus and my joy. Breakfast was a pleasure supreme. Cereal and milk with a banana, some warm toast with butter, a tall glass of orange juice or, even better, some chocolate milk. It was all so wonderful and I wanted more, and more, and more. I felt so good when I ate, at least for a while.
But only two hours after breakfast, the warm feelings of satisfaction were replaced by a driving need for more food. I was hungrier than I had been before I had any breakfast, and now I needed something to eat with an immediacy that I could barely communicate. All I knew was that I needed food--satisfying food: cheeseburgers, hot dogs, fries, cake, cookies, candy--I needed it right then and there. If I didn't get it, I felt bad, really bad.
First I felt anxious; I would steal, plead for, or sneak the food I needed. But if it was not forthcoming, in time my uneasiness would turn to tiredness. I found myself unable to concentrate. Sometimes I would get headaches, but more often than not, I would feel as if I were walking in a fog. Even worse, at times I would strike out without warning; my hunger seemed to make me angry toward everything and everybody around me.