Published by Spoon University on February 27, 2016
It was like secondhand smoke.
My sister is a model. I am not. Cue the apologies.
“Wow, that must be difficult for you.”
Yes, it is.
“I bet you two get compared a lot.”
Yes, we do.
But this is not a sob story, and it’s definitely not an attempt to get your pity. I’m writing this for the people who have been, are, or will be in my shoes.
When I was 13, my sister signed with a modeling agency and subsequently developed an eating disorder. She didn’t all of a sudden drop 20 pounds – hers was gradual. To people who saw her every day, she seemed completely normal. It was undetectable, even by our parents, for a while.
I, however, saw it all.
Not only am I her little sister (which automatically means I watch every single thing she does), but I also happen to be pretty observant and sponge-like.
I remember the day my sister switched to a smaller plate and started making salads instead of sandwiches. Slowly but surely, the salad toppings diminished, and before long, all that remained were a few bites.
I remember the post-agency visit tears and the abusive relationship with measuring tapes, scales, and mirrors. I remember the instructions from her doctor to buy her ice cream and cake and everything fattening. I remember the diet books, articles, and recipes that only masked her growing fixation with appearance.
I remember watching my best friend, the girl who taught me how to put on makeup and dance in the kitchen, wither away physically and emotionally. I saw her crumble under the literal weight of this world’s picture of perfection. It terrified me, and I couldn’t fix it.
So, staying true to my sponge-like nature, I soaked it all up.
Before too long, I switched to a smaller plate and chose a salad over a sandwich. I sat in on the meetings with the nutritionist and learned the difference between good and bad fats along with numerous other valuable nutritional tidbits.
I wasn’t developing an eating disorder, but I was getting confused.
The confusion reached a new level when my sister started using MyFitnessPal to track her macronutrients. While I think it’s a fantastic tool for people who need it (i.e. my sister or people with other health issues), I didn’t have the right context for it. To my black and white brain, it went hand-in-hand with an unhealthy attitude towards food.