What I Lost by Alexandra Ballard
LOSING IS WINNING
Interests/Topics: mental health, eating disorders, family, friendship, identity
Curriculum Connections: English, Health and Physical Education
Blurb: My grandmother hated nicknames. She purposely gave her children names that couldn’t easily be shortened, and insisted that her grandchildren be called by their full names. Thus, I’ve always been Christine and not Chris, Christy, or Chrissy. This is not to say that we didn’t end up with nicknames from other people. My least favourite of all? Bones.
I was super skinny as a teenager. I had a fast metabolism, and I couldn’t gain weight no matter what I ate. Some would say that I was lucky, but I hated my body. I envied the curvier girls in my class and wanted more than anything to “fill out.” I was teased, of course, and was told repeatedly to “eat a hamburger.” The most hurtful comments came from those who accused me of having an eating disorder. I wasn’t sick, I told them; I was dainty.
For Elizabeth, in What I Lost, there’s no such thing as being too skinny. She’s a size zero and is darn proud of it. She loves how her tiny clothes cling to her newly thin body. She’s lost 40 pounds and never plans on gaining an ounce again. The problem? Elizabeth has restricted her food intake to the point that she suffers from anorexia nervosa. The other problem? Her parents have admitted her to a treatment centre for girls with eating disorders.
“No problem,” Elizabeth promises herself. She’ll do whatever she needs to do to get released and then she’ll start restricting again. No one can tell her what to do with her own body. But as the days go by and more calories are consumed, Elizabeth slowly starts to realize that she’s lost more than just weight. The problem? Elizabeth will have to take an active role in her recovery in order to gain everything back. The other problem? She’s not sure it’s worth it.
WHEN DID LOSING BECOME WINNING?
Flavour: “Then again, if you know anything about anorexia, you know that a lot of things mess with your head. Like TV, and fashion magazines, and skinny jeans, and social media, and the Internet, and pro-ana websites, and Diet Coke, and People magazine’s diet issue, and peer pressure, and every tabloid with celebrity cellulite on the cover…. But mirrors are the worst. One reflection lifts your spirits and another crushes them. A good one can make you feel like the most beautiful girl in the world. But a bad one can make you burst into tears.” (26)
“Dad, I want to be done with this. But it is so hard. So. Hard…. I liked going into a store and have everything be too big, and I liked feeling my ribs, my hip bones, the muscles in my thighs, my Achilles tendons, and my wrist bones. I don’t want to not feel them. And I loved that my stomach was flat. It made me feel special. I like my bones, Dad.” (344)