Transitioning allowed me to present a body image that was reflective of my gender and the next part was to shape that image to an imagined ideal. I don’t think I set out initially with any thought other than to lose some excess weight so I would be healthier and prettier. There was nothing wrong with whether I was pretty or not but I was convinced that I wasn’t pretty enough. The diet started fairly simply with come general cutting back and increased exercise. The diet was actually a very healthy one but it wasn’t going to remain that way as things were about to get out of control.
The pounds dropped and I watched every one with great enthusiasm. My mood became tied to the magic number I spied every morning on the scale. I would have a good day whenever the number was lower than the previous day and a bad day if the number didn’t change. Initially, the number dropped everyday until my body adapted to the diet. Another factor was the introduction of estrogen for my transition and estrogen tends to hold on to fat. Becoming me was going to be more complicated due to the changes from the diet versus the feminization.
Once the weight stopped dropping I lowered the calories and increased the exercise until my scale began to make me happy again. Plateau after plateau, the cycle continued as the amount I was eating became less and less. I, on the other hand, was feeling amazing. My energy levels were higher than I had ever experienced and the shrinking me was building my confidence and I felt like I could do anything. At one point, it kind of dawned on me that I might be swimming into the anorexic end of the pool and I didn’t care. It didn’t even bother me that my breast growth was slowed down by my dieting. There was some growth and I was happy with that though I think a lot of my feelings were beginning to become filtered by the diet.
People began to notice that I was getting smaller and smaller and the pieces of my weight loss puzzle were coming together for friends and also members of a support group I had joined for transgender people. My roommate first used the word ‘anorexic’ on me just after I had pushed the diet to a new extreme low. Soon after a lot of people were using that label and I denied it to them though I secretly liked it. The funny thing is the more people used it the more I was inspired to keep doing what I was doing. Then, there was the muscle loss and this excited me. Many transgender woman dreams of smaller muscles and the anorexia, was shrinking them for me.
I loved the new me a lot as I was smaller than most people and I could wear anything and I really felt invincible. I ate a little bit though most days my little bit consisted of 10 saltine crackers spread out over the day unless the scale showed me a bad day then I ate nothing. I was very good at not eating and I managed to keep things going for close to two years before I would come to my senses. One of the things that did really surprise me is that I only passed out once which luckily happened in my living room. I think if I had passed out in public the story would have had a different ending.
The beginning of my recovery was a random pizza I had encountered one day as I was on one of my long walks. I was strutting along feeling very euphoric as starvation can feel pretty good. Then, I encountered a pizza delivery guy making a delivery and the smells of the pizza assaulted my senses causing a hunger I had been repressing for a very long time to wake up. Like a vampire smelling blood, I could feel a beast stirring in me and I wanted the pizza more than I had ever wanted anything in my life. If I were a vampire, the delivery guy would have been in serious trouble. I stopped walking and suppressed my craving with a little bit of difficulty. I could have just refocused all my efforts and continued the diet but I realized in that moment that the diet had come to define me and somewhere in the process I had lost me.
Control as it turned out was the big illusion as the more I controlled the diet and my food, the more it was controlling me. Anorexia is a pretty scary beast and I have come to realize that in some ways it will always be a part of me. I know it is always somewhere below the surface urging me back into it’s embrace but I know the enemy now. I can diet and lose weight without falling all the way in. The key for me is to create limits that I am not permitted to drop below and to never compromise them. If I don’t do that, some of that control returns to the beast and I sink back into the numbness.