Illustration © Sergi Balfegó

It all began when I was about 12 years old. I was then a chubby girl. Eating habits at home were not good; we simply ate what we felt like. I remember that vegetables were never served and fruit was scarce; all we had was potatoes, meats, battered and fried food, pizzas, sandwiches, cold meats, fast food, ice-cream… This was my mum’s answer to avoiding a daily battle with my older brother, who was a fussy eater. By cooking what he liked, there was no fight at home, but the family’s diet was not very good.

I was being bullied at school because of my weight, and this only got worse during my teenage years. Not only was I bullied at school, I was also at home, where my father and my brother would call me “little piggy”. Back then I loved eating and didn’t care at all if I was given any names for it.

When I was about 13, I started to struggle to find clothes that fitted, as stores aimed at girls my age didn’t have my size. I then began to take notice of my problem and started to worry about my body and weight. Nothing had changed at school, but all of a sudden insults became annoying. When I noticed I was being disdained, my real concern kicked off. I felt increasingly unloved because of my weight.

I can’t recall how one day I told my mum that I no longer wanted to be fat, that I needed to see a doctor who would set a diet that would help me lose my extra weight. She agreed and took me to an endocrinologist, who admitted that there was much to do, as I was 25 kg over my recommended weight. However, he indicated that thanks to his hypo-caloric diet and exercise I would be able to lose weight.

Without a fail, once every fortnight I would see my endocrinologist. Not once I had not lost two, three or even four kg. I was doing a good job. My mum and I followed the diet strictly, we never skipped it, and on top of that I exercised. So the ugly duck eventually became a swan. In few months, I went from being the ugliest and clumsiest at school, to one of the most popular girls. Everyone wanted to look like me, and my self-esteem soared. My family was delighted with this situation, especially my dad, who was so proud of me and my progress. Moreover, my academic performance changed a great deal too: from being an average student, I became one of the tops on my promotion, with excellent marks in all subjects. I wanted to be perfect in every possible way.

After one year dieting, my endocrinologist recommended I should stop. That’s when our relationship ended, as I didn’t want to stop whatsoever. However, he wouldn’t want me lose more weight, so I stopped visiting. My mum’s cooking went back to normal, but I would refuse eating her food. I started cooking my own meals, which were the ones included in the doctor’s diet. After a while, and gradually, I started skipping food and grams of the diet, and intensified my exercising regime. My weight went down drastically.

I became really active. I would walk everywhere, I could spend 8 hours a day walking, I wouldn’t rest… My mum, concerned about me, took me to a specialist who didn’t deliver the diagnosis my mum had expected. To her surprise, she was told not to worry as I was fine; I was just going through puberty changes and there was nothing to worry about. We looked at each other, since we both knew what was actually going on. However my mum had no choice but to wait for it to become too evident.

A few months later I lost control over my weight, and she took me back to the specialist. It was then when he re-considered his first diagnosis and admitted that I was in an early stage of anorexia nervosa. I had actually realized, way before my former endocrinologist suggested I should stop dieting, that I was developing an addiction to diet, exercise, weighting myself constantly, burning calories off and off… Deep inside, I knew something was not quite right, but I didn’t want to scare my family. My mum was a worrier, so I didn’t want her to get too concerned about me, and just kept it to myself. On top of that, I knew that if I ever confessed, I would lose control over myself and would not be allowed to do what I wanted to do at the time.

Back then, everything I ever did was aimed at losing weight. It was my only concern. However, deep inside I knew well enough that I suffered from anorexia. I fell into it slowly, it began almost like a game that I’m still playing and that eventually led me to where I am today. You spiral into this disorder very easily but getting out of it is a different story …

Nina Febrer