It was the summer of 2004, and I was in the best shape of my life. I ran six miles a day, went to the gym, and ate tons of green leafy things. But it still happened: Just when I thought I was looking my best, I would always bump into a group of women who were skinnier, prettier, more talented, and smarter.
Then I would look in the mirror, and it would reveal even more horrors—horrors I somehow overlooked the last time.
Insert: more running, more broccoli, more discipline.
I was a hamster in a ball, working really hard and getting nowhere. My identity was wrapped up in external beauty. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t keep up. And chasing after culture’s expectations for beauty inevitably led to failure, disappointment, and insecurity.
Middle school was a weird-looking time for me. Plagued with freakishly pale skin and a set of fangs, I was “all Twilight” before vampires were cool. Afraid of rejection, I’d spend middle school dances hiding out in a bathroom stall with my stomach in knots. Middle school was also the first time I remember weighing myself. I learned in health class what, exactly, I should weigh for my height. For example, BMI charts might say that the average 5ʹ8ʺ small-framed female should weigh 128–139 pounds. That word—average—I hated it and all of its synonyms: usual, ordinary, standard, typical, normal, regular.
If the average girl my age and height weighed that number, I was determined to be extraordinarily below that number. Diet pills, excessive working out, and watching every calorie that went into my mouth absolutely consumed my thoughts. The scale was my master. The fear of being average, or ordinary, controlled my life.1