By Nattalie Tehrani, 15, South HS (Torrance)
Print This Post
Nattalie says there are more important things to think about than how thin you are, like school and helping others.

One day in eighth grade I went to Bally’s gym with a friend and weighed myself. 137 pounds. How could that be? I weighed 120 before! I had quit my swim team about a month before and had been eating much more. I had noticed that I was starting to look a bit curvy, but I thought it just had to do with growing up. I didn’t want to turn into the chubby kid everyone at school would pick on. So I quickly came up with a plan to lose weight. I would watch what I ate and work out three to four times a week.

All of a sudden my life revolved around losing weight. I weighed myself every day. At the gym, I worked out on the elliptical machine while reading magazines with stick-like models. I lifted weights while watching a TV displaying Entertainment Tonight’s coverage of size-0 celebrities like the Olsen twins or Paris Hilton. I didn’t look anything like they did. When I looked in the mirror I always found something wrong with me, like my hips. I thought they were way too curvy.

After three weeks, I had lost only two pounds. I decided to cut calories because it was the easiest thing to do. Oh, my waffles don’t need syrup, my salad doesn’t need dressing, I don’t need cream in my coffee. After a few weeks I was down to 250 calories a day, much less than the 2,000 calories typically recommended for a teenage girl, and working out six days a week. I was eating nothing but soup, fruit, a small salad and an occasional Subway sandwich. For dinner, my mom usually whipped up something quick until I asked her not to make me anything. My parents would ask, "Is that small salad all you’re eating?" I would reply with a nod, which resulted in a five-minute lecture.

At first, I was starving all the time. I was so hungry I couldn’t sleep, my stomach would growl so loud that the entire class could hear and I felt nauseous. But after about three weeks it got to the point where I rarely felt hungry. Usually if I did get hunger pains it was at nighttime, when I wasn’t busy or distracted. But I had too much willpower to give in.

Illustration by Sue Li, 17, Culver City HS

By May, after three months, I had lost 22 pounds and reached my goal of 115 pounds. I loved how I looked. The best part was fitting into my clothes again, especially these cute white pants that I had sitting in my closet. My friends would say "Nattalie, wow!", "How did you lose so much weight?!" or "I want to be as skinny as you, you look great!" Those compliments made me feel good about myself and confident.

But I could not go back to eating healthy. I was terrified of going back to looking like I did. I had no idea what danger I would be putting myself in over the next few months.

I dropped to 110 pounds. I wouldn’t go to sleepovers at my friends’ houses or out to dinner with my parents, because I didn’t know how many calories the food had. At lunch, I stared at my chicken soup with stars and Jell-O, thinking how unfair it was that I couldn’t enjoy my life anymore. Why couldn’t I stop? I liked the way I looked, and I knew I would look really bad if I lost more weight. But I couldn’t help but feel mad at myself when I got on the scale and saw that I hadn’t lost any more weight. I would think, "It’s all going to come back!"

My mom was worried about me. She would come to my room, sobbing, and have long chats about how harmful this "diet" was and plead for me to stop. I’d say, "I don’t want to talk about this again" or "Don’t worry, I’m OK," even though I knew I wasn’t. It became intolerable to sit in the car with her because it was all she could talk about. My dad would leave worried messages on my cell phone at school telling me that I would do serious damage to my body and it was time I snapped out of it.

In the beginning of June, my mom, in utter frustration, took me to a psychologist. At the second session, the psychologist asked me how much I weighed and I said 110. She said, "Last session you were 115. What would you like to do about it?" Then she said that if I didn’t start eating, she was going to call the doctor. I started crying. Hearing it from someone other than my mom made me realize that it was a bigger deal than I had thought. But I was afraid that if I did start eating, I’d go back to snacking on the same junk food as before and I would gain it all back.

I didn’t like feeling depressed after the sessions so I told my mom that I wasn’t going to the psychologist anymore. She got really angry. She grabbed her cell phone and dialed the number of my psychologist’s office to get a number to a treatment center. That’s when the reality set in that yes, I had an eating disorder. For the first time, I felt scared. I was afraid that I would be terrified to eat for the rest of my life. But going to the hospital was too horrifying. It was like being labeled anorexic.

After I pleaded and cried for an hour, my mom decided she would give me one more week to start eating. In a way I understood why my mom was ready to admit me to a hospital, but I also felt that she needed to step back and let me live my life and learn from my own mistakes.

I knew I had to get better, I just didn’t know how. I would go to bed starving and reach for a zero-calorie mint. The mints filled me up because I ate the whole box. That is until I looked up the nutrition information on the Internet and learned that each mint had two calories and the FDA was able to round the number to zero. The mints were another thing I cut from my diet.

I was down to 100 pounds. During P.E. I was unable to run our warm-up laps because I felt like passing out, so I would walk. In class I nearly cried because I was so cold. I would wear a long-sleeved shirt, sweatshirt and a jacket with long pants. My teachers turned on the AC so I would sit on my purple hands to keep them warm. I was curious about why I was so cold. I looked up the symptoms of anorexia on Web sites and loss of blood was one of them. The less blood a human has in their body, the colder they are. Also, my body, in an attempt to keep warm, had grown fuzz-like hairs.

A few of my friends told me that I needed to stop dieting, because I was starting to look sick. They brought me a bag of chocolates, which I later gave to my sister. I watched her eat my favorite—chocolate-covered raisins—believing that I could never have one because I would get fat. One night I got a cramp and I cried as I held my clutched leg in the dark.

I hated the way my arms resembled twigs, and how my face looked sunken-in and bony. Why didn’t I stop? It had become an addiction, a monster of its own. When I got on the scale, and it said I had lost a pound, I felt a rush of excitement, even though I knew it was bad that I was wasting away.

The number on the scale frightened me

By mid-June, when school was coming to an end, I went down to a barely alive state of 95 pounds. All of a sudden, I knew I had to do something. I guess the number itself scared me. I recalled my psychologist telling me about a girl who was 95 pounds and was at the risk of dying. I was around 107 pounds then, thinking I would never go down to 95. That wasn’t the only factor. It was my grandmother’s crying every time she hugged me, the long talks my parents gave me, and how I could overhear my friends at school saying how skinny and bad I looked. I was just unhappy. Was it worth it all to be skinny? To worry those who love me? I knew I was putting my life at risk, but for what? My best friend Sanaz told me during talks on the phone that it wasn’t worth going through all this, that I could ruin my life over something so stupid. I would lie and say, "I eat, I just don’t eat junk food, that’s all." In response to my obvious lie, she would say, "Don’t lie to me, I know you’re not eating."

When summer began I slowly started to eat more. It seemed easier to do since I didn’t have stuff like homework to worry about so my main focus was on getting better. First to 400 calories, by maybe eating a piece of fruit, but the next day I felt guilty and went back to eating very little. Thoughts like "Don’t eat that" and "Your metabolism is too slow, you don’t need 1,200 calories" replayed in my head. Just as I was about to give up, I would tell my mom that I didn’t want to eat more. She would tell me that I wouldn’t get fat again, and I would have more energy and could get my life back. I just needed to be reassured.

Gradually I raised my calories to 500, 700, 1,000 and finally 1,200. I searched the Internet and read magazines on how to eat a balanced diet. My family and I go to Barnes and Noble a lot and instead of getting lost in the entertainment section, I read the magazines in the women’s health area. I learned some awesome recipes, like my favorite—chicken breast, brown rice and vegetables.

I’ve gained most of my energy back in the past few months. I’m still underweight, I weigh 98 pounds, but it takes time to fully recover. My goal is to get to at least 105 pounds. I know that is not a healthy weight for someone who is 5’5", but it is a foundation to a healthier weight of 110-115. I feel I am much closer to living my life the way I used to. I go out to dinner on the weekends again, and it’s not the end of the world when a friend suggests going for ice cream.

Still, I feel I will never be the same. I have matured. I used to go to sleep at 1 a.m. and wake up at one in the afternoon, grab a Pop-Tart and load it with whipped cream and watch SpongeBob in my PJ’s. Now, I go to bed at 10 p.m. and wake up at 6. I have a healthy breakfast like oatmeal, milk and an apple and I get on with my day.

My other goal is to help teens realize that models in Victoria’s Secret commercials are not realistic and that magazines, TV and movies are brainwashing kids with the image of beauty that they are shoving down their throats. How many of your friends at school have said, "Look at this flab, I’m so fat!" and the other person replies, "Shut up, look at me, I’m huge!" when they are at a healthy weight? It makes you wonder who they are comparing themselves to. Maybe the model on the billboard they pass on their way to school, or the magazine they flip through during lunch. It would be great if popular TV shows like Laguna Beach, the Real World and The O.C. would cast a person who looks like an actual teenager, who has flaws like each and every one of us.

I wish I had dieted the smart way by taking my time. Now that I think back on it, I don’t know how I got sucked into this mess. Maybe it was just my insecurities that got the better of my judgement, or maybe it was my "obsessive personality" as my mom usually says. I don’t know, but I do know that everything happens for a reason. From this I think I have become a stronger person, inside and out. It’s the best feeling in the world to know that you are healthy. I know I will never take that for granted.

Healthy tips

I read healthy magazines like Weight Watchers, which suggests ways to improve your eating habits and feel energized. I flip through entertainment magazines every now and then, but I don’t read every word and obsess over what diet celebrities are melting away on.

If I want a cookie, I’ll go for it. It’s really hard to fight the urge to eat the brownies, cookies and chips at school.  I also set Saturday as a splurge day when I eat anything I want. I put the fruit and veggies aside and go for hamburgers and fries.

A helpful Web site is, which has tips, compares an unhealthy food to a healthier alternative and suggests how to eat healthy when dining out.

Don’t diet on your own. Make sure someone who knows about nutrition and dieting is helping you.