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Five Servings of Grain

It all began with the thought: I'll show them. All of them - those ninth graders on the bus who hate me, the paper-thin dolls who strut around the school with boys on their arms, my parents - I'll show them all!

I blew out the candles on my twelfth birthday cake, indulging in the luscious chocolate taste. And then I thought, “My last piece, my last bite.” I felt a wave of sadness. And then a rush of determination. And I knew I could do it.

I was twelve years old and I was a fat, short, little girl. Five feet tall and 157 pounds. I needed desperately to lose weight. I wanted to bypass the conventional methods, the Slim-fast and Dexatrim diets, even the old fashioned calorie-counter. Five servings of grains, five vegetables, three milk, two protein, became my new mantra.

Eliminating fatty foods from my diet proved less frustrating than I thought it would be. I learned to eat toast without jam, salads without dressings, even milkshakes without ice cream. The plan worked. But nobody told me my mind would love losing weight even more than my body did.

I watched the numbers on my bathroom scale go down. At first, I only weighed myself periodically, just once a week, but then, once I got to 102 pounds, that stopped satisfying me. I had to know, had to keep that 102 pounds stable. Or lower. Never higher. Sometimes I even weighed myself in my bathrobe, smiling at the pound or two that disappeared when I let it fall around my feet.

I watched my waistline slim. But my face grew paler, my rapid weight loss draining it of its colour and its youth.

No one else was in on my secret plan but other people noticed. An adult warned me that excessive dieting might prevent me from ever being able to have children. I sat and quietly listened as she told me she’d be there for me. Then I shoved the warnings to the back of my mind, certain they would never apply to me.

Others teased, "You're on a diet." But then they would say, "You're so thin, so lucky. What's your secret?"

“Hard work!” I would say, “It's not magic!” But they did not seem to understand. So, I took every step alone.

At times, I could not remember why I had started to lose the weight, only that I had to finish. It was frustrating to know that there was no one to talk to about it, that I was alone. Still, I was losing those pounds. Apart from the slightly ashen tinge on my cheeks, I looked great and I felt great.

Five servings of grains, five vegetables, three milk, two protein. You're not anorexic, I told myself. But sometimes I heard my mind answer, ‘not yet’.
I had not expected to lose weight so quickly, but I had everything under control.

Every step of the way, the people who cared about me disputed this. Indignantly, I ignored them.

Finally, I saw the fine line I was treading between dieting and anorexia. I read about someone who was anorexic, clinging to life, and that book forced me to cross back over the line. Slowly, my obsession started to fade.

Finally, after two years, I have stabilized my weight, and achieved my goal. On a Christmas trip to Disneyland I tested my success, allowing myself one treat each day –an ice cream cone, a few donuts, a giant Mickey Mouse lollipop. And when I came home, I was still not one ounce more than my magical 102 pounds.

Five servings of grains, five vegetables, three milk, two protein. The echoes have grown dimmer, but they are still there today.

Sapna Sehgal, 16, lives in Edmonton, Alberta. She writes for Young People’s Press.

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