Feb 8 2016

Ella Steinbeck,


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Addictions, Health

You Can Never Be Too Rich or Too Thin – Unless You Weigh 89lbs

You Can Never Be Too Rich or Too Thin – Unless You Weigh 89lbs

I quit eating food one time for about a year. I called it being vegan. My Uncle called it “hot”, he has no boundaries and likes submissive women. The hospital called it “anorexic”.  It was my junior year of high school. I started the year weighing 112lbs and eating anything I wanted. I was always super skinny. I tell people that  I used to weigh 400 lbs though. Everybody likes a weight loss success story. Nobody likes a naturally thin person. As a teen I ate whatever whenever and had never looked at the calories or fat of anything ever! All of a sudden I started seeing all these magazine articles about fat and fat grams. I started realizing how many Doritos were in a serving and I was eating WAY more than a serving so I decided to count out chips to be a better person. Chips lead to crackers to cheese to raisens to carrots. I knew the fat and calories of EVERYTHING. I started weighing myself . I noticed some weight had left my body. That must be good right? I mean I have the rest of my life to GAIN weight this is just prevention for future weight. I never thought I would get under 100 lbs. Let me just say that in the the 7th and 8th grade I couldn’t wait to weigh 100lbs all I wanted was to look like other people! I didn’t want to be skinny! Why was so obsessed with losing weight? I didn’t think I was fat. I wanted to die. I was slowly killing myself. But why? I was feeling so alone. So scared. Once I was under 100 I couldn’t believe it. I played a game of Russian roulette with the scale. I got to 89! 89! I was living in Florida with my Dad and Step-mom who were paying attention but not as much as they should. They told everyone I was vegan and not to worry.  I stopped by the little local modeling agency I did stuff for once in a while and the owner said “what happened? You need to gain weight”. But this is the same woman who sent me to an agent who wouldn’t sign me because I had a “double chin

When I went home to visit my Mom that summer she was hysterical. When you are 5’9” and weigh so little it is alarming.  What is even crazier is apparently how good at manipulation you become when you are protecting an eating disorder. She sent me to the doctor who I had convinced that I had gotten off track with my eating but had every desire to become like Naomi Campbell who was ALL muscle and I just needed to put muscle back on and I would be good as new. In my head, that was my goal. To get rid of all the fat and replace it with a beautiful black woman’s muscle.  My mother had other plans and that “plan” meant being put in the hospital. I went to hospital. I was relieved to be there I was exhausted. I was tired of fidgeting to burn calories. Staying up with the TV and stereo on so I wouldn’t fall asleep . I didn’t want to be at rest for even one second. Resting meant not losing weight. I desperately needed rest. I stayed in the psych ward for 30 days. They fed me constantly. I wasn’t allowed to exercise. They gave me all kinds of anti depressants. When the month was up my father wouldn’t pay for more treatment because the insurance was done paying. I weighed 102 lbs when I left. I wasn’t supposed to leave until I weighed 120. It is all very confusing even now. I am not sure how I am supposed to care about myself when the most important male in my life didn’t. This was when he wanted to emancipate me. I didn’t agree to emancipation. Or what would later be called “a father’s plan to not pay for college”. I was such a mess in my head that I didn’t want to go live at my Dad’s and I didn’t want to go live at my Mom’s. A friend’s family said I could stay with them until I figured things out.

It’s important to say that I  started my anorexia for one reason and continued for a very different one. I felt out of control of my life. I was always weird as an only child and it was hard to fit in with people my age. It still is.  Generally speaking, my mother was very concerned about me where as my father was never  very concerned about me. I think having such extremely different parenting tactics left me in such a state of wanting to free myself from my mother and  yet I wanted to have my dad become more attached to me.  I felt so alone living at my Dad’s. I was more of a roommate than a daughter.  All I wanted was for my Dad and Step-mom to love me weirdness and all. I needed to feel important to them. I spent a lot of time fidgeting to burn calories. I started smoking for appetite control. I would stay up late and try not to fall asleep. I put the tv on and the stereo to make sure I didn’t get much sleep so that my body was always awake and working to become thinner. I wanted my Dad to come to me and say “ I am worried about you. I love you. You need help. I am going to get it for you.” My Mom kept saying it but I didn’t want her to want it for me. I wanted my Dad to want more for me. The thing is, no matter how you decide to act out, drugs, drinking, sex, cutting, whatever it is YOU ARE ONLY HURTING YOURSELF. Nobody else carries those scars, diseases, or anguish. The pain on the inside does not go away just cause you are showing it on the outside. It also doesn’t mean anyone is going to come save you. You only have you. Cheesy as it sounds, you have to be your own hero. You can’t punish others by punishing yourself. It doesn’t work that way. It’s taken me years and years to put things together. I have new realizations all the time. A few years ago I realized my father wasn’t interested in me. He had never wanted a child. I wasn’t defective. I quit imposing myself into his life and I assume that was best. I haven’t heard from him in years. It does make me sad, however, I am grateful that I was able to come to terms with the reality of it. There really isn’t any reason for he and I both to walk around being tortured. Does that make him a bad man? That he didn’t want me? I don’t know. Sometimes I wonder if he wanted me to die. Maybe that’s why he didn’t want to get me help. It’s an awful story to tell yourself but I will always wonder. He had a Master’s in social work and did therapy for people like me. It almost seems criminal that he allowed it to get so bad.

I was released from the hospital and I moved in with my “new” family. I started to drink a lot. I ate a lot of Pizza Hut. I ate a lot of everything.  I still hated myself but I sat down and ate my food and enjoyed every bit of it now that I had “permission” to eat I couldn’t stop. I gained weight and eventually moved in with my Mom. Fortunately, I had done really well in high school prior to the hospitalization. I had started my senior year late and was still able to graduate early and at the top of my class. I had entered the school with more than enough credits to graduate but had to take driver’s ed and economics in order to graduate. They were mandatory so there I was, hung over and in driver’s ed after having my own driver’s license for more than a year.  I just had to pass these classes which was about all I was capable of. My mind was fuzzy and I was pretty sure the starvation had shrunk my brain and all of the smartness I ever had was impossible to access. I liked writing and learning but after my eating disorder I stopped enjoying both of those things for a very long time. In fact, I didn’t start writing for fun again until I was well into adulthood. I wasn’t sure I was intellectually capable of it.


Actress, comic, writer, humor columnist for The Rockland County Times, contestant on Season 10 of America’s Got Talent, cover of Time Magazine Oct. 12 2015 issue, Tracy on the new HBO series Vinyl.