Photo Courtesy of schwinn

“No, thanks, I ate already at Jane’s house.”


I stared longingly at the plate of food my mother offered me. My stomach growled hungrily, but I couldn’t eat it. I couldn’t.


You are so, so fat, the voice in my head whispered. I can’t believe you would even think about eating that. You can’t eat – are you insane? You can’t eat until you’re beautiful.

The voice’s name is Ana.


Ana follows me everywhere. Her shrill voice sits on the edge of my ear, critiquing, judging, hating. I can’t control Ana – I can’t make her leave. Instead, I am a slave to her will.


I’ll let you in on a secret – I never went to Jane’s house. Instead, I ran around the block – seven times, until my clothes stuck to my fat, fat body like plastic wrap covering chicken. I ran inside the garage, threw open the fridge, and guzzled water until my stomach hurt. Then, I darted inside and ran up to my room, stripping myself of my sweaty, soggy clothing. I quickly ran and took a shower. I didn’t want my parents to know about my excessive exercise.


At dinner, I ate nothing but a salad. You can’t eat anything over 400 calories, Ana whispered. I bit my lip and filled only a tiny corner of my plate. Are you kidding? That tiny pile of salad has SO much fat in it. You don’t need that. Spread it around – it’ll look like you ate. I comply, silently cursing my weak character. I know that I would be able to resist Ana if I cared less. But I desperately need to be pretty.


After my non-dinner, I announced that I was going upstairs to ride the exercise bike. My parents exchanged nervous glances – they didn’t want to discourage me, yet I could tell that they were nervous about the weight I’d been losing. My temper flared. They had no right to worry about me – it was my body. I’d do what I pleased with it.


On the bike I rode 8 miles. 15 miles for today, I added up in my head. I ground my teeth. Not enough, Ana screamed. She always seemed louder when I was alone. Legs burning, I struggled to pedal the wheels, the artificial course on the screen reaching the highest possible level. I counted the calories I was burning – I’d burned 180 from running – I kept a calorie counter and diet tracker app on my phone – and was currently burning another 200 with the difficulty of the course. That was only 380 calories! I still had 20 left to lose from the rest of the day. The voice in my head screamed – not Ana, but me this time, the real me who hid in the dark recesses of my brain. STOP! I screamed. WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO YOURSELF?!


I couldn’t answer my question. Fortunately for me, though, Ana answered before I could come up with a response.


I’m making you beautiful.


My feet pounded the pedals, willing myself to go faster, faster, faster! My legs were screaming, begging me to stop, stop, PLEASE. I couldn’t. I couldn’t stop, not until I was beautiful.


I logged the calories I’d eaten that day into the app on my phone. 400 calories from eating today, a new record! I grinned. It was the lowest I’d ever eaten. I was proud of myself.


Or rather, Ana was.


That’s the spirit! Ana cheered, or, as close as she could to cheering. Her voice was hollow, low, snakelike.


After finishing logging in my calories and exercise for the day, a message popped up. “You have eaten too few calories.” the message read. “Doing so could cause your body to go into starvation mode.”


I stared at the message in horror. Starvation mode? I couldn’t believe it.
Ignore that, Ana hissed. All that matters is being beautiful.