I love to read. I love all sorts of books, I love to savour every word, every syllable like a sweet morsel to dangle off my tongue. I love adding new words to my extensive repertoire, words like surreptitious, superfluous, vernacular, kintsukuroi, and petrichor – all of which are very real, very beautiful words you should look up the definitions for immediately. I love to caress the covers of new novels, and old ones too, and the smell of the pages being turned, and losing track of time in bookshops and spending money I don’t have on books I don’t need because the best books are never found in libraries.
When I was ten, I read a book that ruined my life. This book gave me ideas that would contribute to me developing anorexia. I’m not going to share its title, but if my description of it sounds familiar and you or anyone you know have any sort of predisposition to disordered eating or currently suffer from an eating disorder, then I am pleading with you to avoid it at all costs.
Even before I turned the pages of this book, the cover itself sparked a wave of anxiety. It is a cover emblazoned with the words “you ate too much you fat pig”, with a picture of an apple core. My sister sardonically pointed it out to me, when I was ten years old, and said “this sounds like you”.
Sorry sis, but that was a terrible, terrible idea.
I read this book, and it gave me ideas, which is ordinarily a very positive outcome for a book to have, but not this book. This is how my eating disorder started: it started with the sit ups, and the push ups. It started with measuring, and label checking, and calorie counting, and offhanded comments by people who didn’t intend to damage me. It started with social isolation, with an exercise addiction, and with dietary restriction. With cutting out entire food groups, and with weighing myself every day, multiple times a day.
Exactly as this book described.
This book was not intended to be one which sparked eating disorders amongst its readership. In fact, it’s a semi-fictional semi-biographical novel written by a girl recovered from anorexia, and her experience of inpatient treatment. It was probably intended as a warning.
Yet somehow, this was the book that ruined my life.