Starving to Be Perfect
I was tuning my guitar for youth group worship when my friend Sarah ran up excitedly. "Hey, Josh," she said.
"I got my roll of pictures from our retreat developed. I thought you'd like to have this one because it's of you playing music."
I glanced at the photo. "Wow, that's great," I said, smiling. "Thanks!"
As she went to find a seat, I slipped the photo into my guitar case. Later that night, when I was alone in my room, I took the picture out and stared at it.
I hated it.
I look so hideous, I thought. I'm so big, my guitar looks like a little toy. I want to be a musician? Who's heard of a fat rock star?
I'd been overweight for as long as I could remember. Now, I was one of the biggest guys in my junior class. I hated being the best friend and never the boyfriend. I hated being the funny guy people laughed at and not the cool guy they envied. I want to be more than the happy–go–lucky chunky guy, I thought. I am tired of being fat. I am done with this.
I decided that if I wanted to weigh less, I just needed to eat less. So early in the winter of my junior year, I started cutting back. Within weeks, I was hardly eating anything. Some days at lunch, I'd eat only a pack of crackers. Soon, I'd lost three pounds. I was so happy. Wow, this is working. I thought. Now, if I cut out the crackers, I will be that much closer to where I want to be.
It got to a point that I was proud that I'd eat less in a week than most people eat in a meal. During a weeklong summer camp, all I ate was a slice of pizza, a little fruit and some fries. But usually, my daily menu was a cup of plain noodles (there was no way I'd eat sauce!) and an occasional bagel.
I lost a lot of weight and I lost it fast.
By the first day of my senior year, I was a new man. It'd been about nine months and I was 70 pounds lighter. When I walked through the halls, all eyes were on me. I wasn't "the fat kid" anymore. I was getting attention and lots of compliments. It's working, I thought. Now, I'll just eat a little less and I'll be perfect.
The only problem was my parents. They kept asking questions and trying to make me eat. One night at dinner, my mom loaded a plate full of chicken and broccoli for me—knowing that if I served myself, it'd stay empty. We sat there for a long time as my parents ate and watched my plate carefully.
"So how was youth group, Josh?"
"How's your music class going?"
They played it off like we were having a nice family conversation. But I knew they wouldn't let me leave until I ate. Finally, I stabbed a big lump of chicken with my fork and stuck it in my mouth. When I finished my plate, Mom smiled and took the dishes.
"Well, I'm going up to my room to work on all my homework," I said and ran up the stairs.
As I went up, I thought, Sure, you can make me eat, but you can't make me keep it down.
I went straight to the bathroom and made myself throw up.