Not Good Enough
I'm on the highway, driving to meet Katie Kettenacker for the first time, and I'm wondering about a lot of things. Things like whether or not she's easy to talk to, what she thinks of college life, where she hopes to be in five years.
And how much she weighs.
That might sound shallow, but it's the reason I'm here: Katie is a recovering anorexic.
I'm thinking about these things when Katie and I finally meet in her dorm lounge. She's slim and beautiful. She extends her hand to me, confident and poised. It's hard for me to believe she ever struggled with her self-image. After introducing ourselves, we head to a nearby restaurant to grab some lunch and talk. I tell Katie I think it's slightly ironic that we're going to eat while we talk about her eating disorder. She laughs, and I'm incredibly relieved. Her easy-going personality means I won't have to tiptoe through all my questions about what happened to her.
Our waitress comes by and Katie orders her food without hesitation. When our salads and Diet Cokes arrive, we eat for a few minutes before Katie starts telling me her story.
"I was 5 feet 8 inches and weighed 135 pounds when I started high school," she says. "I was content with my appearance. But that didn't keep me from spending a lot of time and energy on how I looked. I wanted to project the image of a perfect person. I was a perfectionist about other things, too—gymnastics, varsity volleyball and softball, band, church, my grades, you name it. I was intense about these things, and I usually excelled at them. I was captain of my sports teams, first chair in band, a member of a select singing group, heavily involved with my youth group, and got straight A's." As she says this, Katie doesn't sound like she's bragging. She sounds honest.
Katie doesn't seem at all self-conscious, so it's hard to imagine she could be so concerned about what other people think of her. But she says it was exactly her desire to impress others—to have them think she was perfect—that started her down the path that led to anorexia.
"During my junior year of high school, I dated this great-looking, popular jock. He fit right in with my need to always look good. We might have looked great together, but that's all we had going for us as a couple. He ended up treating me so badly. He constantly made negative comments on what I wore, what I ate, how my hair looked. Maybe he was just joking, but his words hurt. I started to feel unattractive and insecure."
Then came the night her insecurity turned into something deeper, more troubling. Katie remembers the moment clearly. She says, "One night after a double date with some friends, my boyfriend and I were standing in my driveway saying goodbye. He put his arm around my waist and grabbed a little roll of skin. He laughed and said sarcastically, 'What's this?' I kept smiling, trying to look like his comment didn't bother me, but inside, I was crushed.
"As soon as he left, I ran inside and went straight to the bathroom. I was crying so hard I couldn't stop. I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, If a guy like that thinks I'm fat—imperfect—I'd better go on a diet. Just like that I decided to lose weight. I'm a determined person. If I decide to do something, it gets done. So literally overnight I started dieting, working out, and weighing myself all the time.