Food For Thought
by Caitlin Garcia
The scale read 104. I stepped down off the cold metal plate and turned to the right to view my profile in the mirror. I could see my ribs gorge out past my stomach. I proceeded to the treadmill to continue my daily routine. Thirteen hundred calories later I could leave the gym.
I remember as an 11 year old girl, I would always compare myself to my peers. Eleven was the first age where I realized I hated my body. Weighing nearly 80 pounds, looking in the mirror hurt me. I was convinced I was fat. At lunch time one day, I took a few bites of my turkey and cheese sandwich and put it down. I looked down at my food in front of me, then it clicked. I could stop eating to help me lose weight. I handed my half eaten sandwich, chips, a fruit roll up, and my juice box over to Sam Boone. Sam was the center forward on our middle schools soccer team, and from that day on Sam sat next to me and ate my lunch throughout middle school. Once I reached twelve the anxiety about my figure became more of an obsession. I made a drastic decision, I became a vegetarian. I figured by eliminating meat out of my diet I could easily lose ten more pounds. No one in my life could understand why a little twelve year old would become a vegetarian, but they all accepted it.
The alarmed shrieked at 5:45 and I rolled out of bed. I threw on an old teeshirt and a pair of my favorite navy blue spandex then walked downstairs and tied up my shoes. I jaunted out of my front door, the brisk Autumn air against my cheeks turned them a shade of coral. I proceeded down my walkway and I picked my speed up to a jog. Around two miles later the sun began to rise, Shades of tangerine, fuchsia, amber, and teal covered all the beautiful morning sky above me. Each step my foot hit against the damp pavement relaxed my mind from worries of calories, and pounds. It was easy to run by the board walk, I could get lost in the tussle of the waves. Seagulls were my only companions. Three more miles later, I was running up the front stairs of my house ready for the day ahead of me. Exercising was about the only thing that made me happy as a fifteen year old. Still out of breath, I turned on the shower to high heat, undressed myself, and hopped in. I squeezed my vanilla bean shower jell into the palm of my hand, and carried on to lather my body. The steam and the vanilla scent together made the whole room smell of freshly baked cookies. I could feel every rib as I washed my chest. It was an amazing feeling of accomplishment.
I didn't mind school so much. Lunch was the only part of the day that I loathed. In the lunchroom of my high school, I would accompany my best friend Alex up to the line for her to get a meal. One Tuesday afternoon, a girl I had grown up with confronted me,“Cate, is it true that you're anorexic?”
I stood there dumbfounded! I snapped back, “ No...What the hell are you talking about?”
In a very snobby manner she told me, “Well people have been noticing that you don't ever eat lunch...and you are looking really thin, so there are rumors going around that you have an eating disorder.”
I just ran out of the lunchroom into the restroom, and cried. The salty tears poured down my face into my lap, as I sat in a tiny stall.
By September of the following year, I was sixteen years old attending Norfolk Technical Center's Culinary Catering program. The hot fire jumping from the sauté pan from the first time I made a pan sauce was engraved in my brain. I took my tasting spoon from my pocket and dipped it in the reduction of onions, shallots, fish stock, pepper and white wine, opened my mouth and swallowed. I loved the instant gratification from something that only took moments to make. I pulled the grouper out of the oven, I arranged it beautifully on a plate with some julienne carrots and a generous serving of rice pilaf. Before I knew it, I had devoured the plate. It was the first meal I had eaten in years. The impulsive action took over my mind, so the guilt lead me straight to the bathroom. I turned on the florescent light and locked the door. I keeled on the ground, and stuck my finger down my throat. A few coughs later the meal I had inhaled moments ago was gone. I found my self bending over the toilet a few times a day to relieve my stress.
The summer of eleventh to twelfth grade, my life changed. I signed up for a summer cooking class in Virginia Beach at Ocean Lakes High School. My first day in class I sat alone at my table and was not very social with the other students. We had a young Chef instructor, who was a beautiful woman in her late twenties. She was around 5'6, very thin, and had short brown hair. She seemed perfect in my eyes. When she walked around the school's kitchen she exuded confidence. I thought to myself, when I grow up I want to be just like her.
Each day we would take a field trip to a local restaurant to explore the industry. On Wednesday our third day of class we went to Virginia Beach's restaurant Maia Ma's to tour their kitchen. We walked single file down the line of the kitchen, through the pantry and out into the dinning room to discuss what it is like to work in a kitchen with a high volume turnover. Throughout that morning I noticed that my Chef instructor had been watching me. On the way home to the class room sitting alone on the back of the bus, when my chef asked to speak with me. I followed her to the front of the bus. My palms began to clam up trying to figure out what I did wrong.
She starting off by telling me how I reminded her of her when she was younger. I could feel the sun's heat through the bus window, bask on my white chef coat. She continued on explaining how she had been observing me over the past few days. It was at that moment, I will never forget her words “Caitlin, I think you need help.” I had no idea what she was referring to. She continued, “I know you're sick. I can see by your behavior that you are anorexic.” I could feel my body quivering, as tears swelled up in my glassy eyes. I had never been confronted before about my weight by an adult, she mentioned when I wore me shirt you could see my ribs and my back bones though the fabric. My chef told me from the fist hour she met me she knew I had a serious problem. She then excused herself and went to talk to the bus driver.
I just sat there astonished. I didn't know what to say or do! I was confused, I didn't think I could have an eating disorder. When she came back and sat next to me, I had nothing to say to her. My first feeling was to be mad at her for such a rude accusation.
As she began to question me, tears slowly glided down my pale face, “ Do you always worry about calories?”
“Are you suffering from depression? Do you work out obsessively?” I felt like my life story was pouring from her mouth. I told her that nobody understood why I had my awkward habits. She told me that was why my hair was very thin. She expresses how you will never understand how an eating disorder firepowers your brain. Only people with addictions, understand how they consume your life. She had been going for treatment for the past eight years. My chef compared anorexia to alcoholism, she explained that it is much easier to recover from alcoholism, you can quit cold turkey and live the rest of your life without it, but with an eating disorder you have to eat. The hard part is making yourself do it.
For days I just replayed the conversation in my head. I didn't know what I was going to tell my mom. I knew she would be prostrated about this secret that has been haunting me for years. I sat her down in the living room and told her we needed to talk about something very important.
“Mom, I have a problem and I don't even know where to begin...I'm sick. This past week at chef's camp, Chef G confronted me about something that has been haunting me for years. She said after days of watching me she could tell that I was sick.” I could barely make the words out. Hysterically crying I tried to explain all the things that went through my head on a regular basis. “Mom i don't know whats wrong with me...I can't eat a meal. I never knew that there was a problem with the way I was eating. Numbers fly through my brain all day, numbers of calories I have eaten so far, how many more I can eat in a day...how many hours I can work out before the gym closes. I found out Mom, that i may not even be able to have a child anymore, if I don't get help soon.” I wouldn't let her talk until I was done. “As much as I exercise every day, I can't just let food sit in my stomach Mom. I throw up every food that I intake at one time over 200 calories. Looking in the mirror disgusts me. If I can pinch a little chunk of skin I hate myself. I feel like a blow fish, my weight fluctuates like a blow fish inhaling and exhaling. Mommy when I walk though the mall I can't even look in the windows at the stores, for fear I can see my unpleasing reflection.”
I swear she cried more than I did that afternoon. “Cate, I just can't believe all this...it's so much to take in. Baby, I don't even know what to say to you.” She grabbed another tissue and wiped her pink nose. “The thing is I have known for years that you have a serious problem. I mean I have always noticed your unusual mannerisms I just never knew what to do. Hunny, we need to get you some help, I will do everything in my power to make you better. I love you so much and I just hope none of this is my fault.”
I ran up to her and gave her the biggest hug my brittle body had inside of me. I whispered in her ear, “I'm sorry to do this to you Mom, I know I can get though this but i'm going to need your help.”
November of 2005, my best friend Katelyn was having a slumber party for all the girls after the homecoming football game. We all put on our pajamas and ran down the stairs to answer the door. It was the pizza man. Kate payed and walked the pizza to the kitchen counter. The aroma of the pizza filled the whole first floor. The girls lined up one by one to get some of the food. That one night I found myself in the line to get some. I grabbed a piece of cheese pizza. We scurried into the living room and plopped down to watch “The Notebook.” I took my first bite of pizza in years. I savored all the flavors. I looked at that single piece of pizza as bread, cheese, and tomato sauce, rather than the devil's food. It was that very moment that I realized everything that I have been doing to help my self get better had worked.