In the Summer of1982 three things happened in my life that transformed me into a different person. The first was meeting Jody Cordova. Jody had been arrested her freshman year for drug possession and was whisked away from our small town and into the legal system. I didn’t see this happen but when I asked around I found out she sold the “bad drugs” which in small town lingo means “not marijuana”. There may have even been needles involved.
“You should have seen her when the cops came and arrested her right out of gym class” Yolanda Zigler was telling me with the glee that only comes from having witnessed really really good gossip “She punched one of the cops and tried to run but she’s so fat they caught in like three steps and knocked her down. They had to use two sets of handcuffs on her because they couldn’t get her hands together behind her back! Because she was so fat”
“Wait a minute” I stopped her “I’m talking about Jody Cordova. That girl over there smoking in the bushes” I pointed toward the bad kids to a girl at least six feet tall with a thick layer of base make up two shades darker than the rest of her skin. Her heavy eyes were painted with, not one, but two shades of blue eye shadow. Her solid helmet of heavily feathered and heavily sprayed hair sat on top of a frame that couldn’t have been weighed more than one hundred pounds.
“That’s her” Yolanda said. “She lost weight”. Yolanda, who could be described as pudgy if not exactly fat, got a funny look on her face as if something unpleasant had occurred to her and then simply walked off.
Within a few days I found myself next to Jody again. I don’t remember if it was while waiting in a line or on a bench in the cafeteria but I took the opportunity to get a really good look at her. I was looking for some evidence that this was the same girl that was so fat she needed two sets of handcuffs but I didn’t find anything. She was pretty, though. Pretty but not gorgeous. Something about her big hair and the way her make up was applied made her look like a new prostitute or maybe she looked like a mannequin in a consignment store. This can’t be the same person, I thought. Could it?
“What are you staring at, faggot?” Her voice was deep and husky and pitched in such a way to convince whoever she was talking to that she had a sharp weapon hidden somewhere on her person. I suddenly had no problem believing she’d been to prison.
I ignored the fact that she called me Faggot. Most of the school had heard a rumor that I beat up a football player from our rival school. A rumor I started. This stopped most teasing from classmates. The fear of getting beaten up was bad enough but the fear of getting beaten up by a faggot was worse. Jody hadn’t heard the rumor and it probably wouldn‘t have stopped her from stabbing me even if she had.
“Someone told me you used to be fat” I blurted out with not a trace of tact.
“So?” She pulled out her vented hairbrush and started to fix a hairdo that hadn’t moved since right before she left home.
“So how did you lose all the weight?” I asked. I must have sounded like I sincerely wanted to know because, although she didn’t stop brushing, she answered me.
“Drugs” She was so blunt with her answer I didn’t take her at face value.
“Oh, you mean like Maxi-trim?” I asked her, thinking back to the caffeine based over the counter diet pills I had tried and failed at.
In the same matter of fact way that she used while brushing her hair she answered “No, speeders, cocaine, heroin... you name it” She switched sides of her hair making sure the part was severe and the back of her head had enough volume to look like a well rounded ass “But no pot, pot will make you fat.”
I don’t know what visceral knee jerk reaction kicked in but I suddenly took on my superior air and said “You know that stuff will kill you”.
“I know that’s what I was trying to do but now I’m thin and people like me.”
For a split second I had the urge to tell her that wanting to have sex with someone wasn’t the same as liking them. I wanted to tell her that people would like her even if she wasn’t thin. I wanted to tell her that it’s the inner person that makes friends and that beauty was only skin deep. But I knew it wasn’t true. I had struggled with my weight for a few years at that point and I knew how cruel people could be to someone too fat to chase them down and kick their ass.
Instead I asked “Was it worth it?”
“Yes, and I would do it again”. The phrase fell out her mouth like it had been practiced or, at least, repeated several times. Like maybe to a parole officer or court appointed psychiatrist trying to convince her to love herself for who she was without the the use of pharmaceuticals.
This changed my life and the following Summer because I decided that anything was worth it to be thin again. To be the person people wanted to be around just for the way I looked. I was ready to do absolutely anything to make it happen. No matter what it took. “That’s right”, I told myself, “anything”.
Like as is so often the case my unbridled “anything” very quickly acquired some restrictions. I didn’t know how to get cocaine and was too afraid of needles for heroin. Of course if I couldn’t find cocaine how could I find heroin? There were pills for sale in the backs of magazines for truck drivers and to stay awake but I assumed they were the same thing as the over the counter diet pills I’d taken before and all they did was make me eat faster.
In the end I resorted to losing weight the old fashioned way. I started a regimen of heavy exercise, I avoided fat and salt and drank only water. After one week and one pound it occurred to me that if losing weight was really this easy then everyone would be doing it. I needed to up go that extra mile to get results so I started vomiting up everything I ate. Maybe it wasn’t showing the dedication Jody had shown when shooting up heroin and popping speed like they were jelly beans but it worked and was surprisingly easy.
I’m not a medical professional and would never recommend street drugs or bulimia for weight loss. but if you’re going to have days full of vomitting there are a few rules of thumb to follow.
First. If you’re going to binge know where you’ll purge.
You don’t want to accidently end up with a medium pizza and a pitcher of soda starting to bloat your midsection just to find there’s no place to return your lunch to the environment. The toilet is always the best and logical choice but garbage cans, planters, large drink cups and sinks will all work in a pinch. If you end up purging into a sink try to pick one with a garbage disposal.
Second. What goes in must come out. Liquids.
Drink a lot of fluids with your meals. It doesn’t matter what those fluids are and you can develop your own favorites but I always found dairy based drinks would sour while sodas would cause a burning sensation. Water always seemed like a waste of time since it already had no calories and you could drink that anyway.
What goes in must come out. Solids.
Chew your food. for some reason the tube in your throat coming back up isn’t as wide as the tube going down. Fast food and Italian food are perfect for bulimia since, for the most part, they taste the same coming up as they did going down. That’s handy to know if you’re going through morning sickness too.
Third. Antacid. In bulk.
Once your body gets the signal that there’s food coming it dumps the necessary acids into your stomach to dissolve and digest whatever you’ve consumed. Not finding any food there the acid turns on you and starts to digesting your stomach and throat. I was buying white chalky antacid tablets in bulk and hiding them everywhere. I don’t know why I hid them. If anyone found them they would probably just assume my mother was a terrible cook.
Fourth. Vomit breath.
Like alcohol breath or smokers breath vomit breath is almost impossible to cover up. After trying gargles and multiple toothbrushings throughout the day I switched tactics and, when I could, chewed a piece of raw onion or something equally as obnoxious. The hope was that anybody that smelled something bad would assume it was something I ate and not something I ate and threw up.
Fifth. Don’t get caught.
I was very careful. It’s a little bit ok to be seen huddled over a public toilet when there’s alcohol involved but being seen doing the same in the Pizza Caboose just after noon on a Tuesday is going to send someone for a doctor.
Getting caught usually only means one thing. Intervention. In which case a well meaning counselor or doctor who never lost a modeling job because of extra weight or never had his mother comment that your boobs are getting bigger than hers will tell you it’s not worth the risk to your health. Even worse, the same people who teased you when you put on the weight will tell you they love you just the way you are.
I guess nobody in my immediate family ever looked at me often enough to see the lbs melt off. By the end of the Summer I was down thirty five pounds and two pants sizes. I looked good and had a great deal of confidence. People treat you different when you look good. Or when you think you look good. Every day was a happier day when I didn’t struggle with jeans or wonder what people were thinking about my ass when I walked past.
To this day I haven‘t noticed any negative side effects of that Summer of extreme weight loss. I’ve since read about people losing teeth and hair and developing permanent damage to their esophagus and stomachs but I must have quit before it got that bad.
I never got caught and I never told anyone my weight loss secrets so nobody had the opportunity to ask me if risking my health was worth it to look good for a little while but I’m sure, like Jody or anyone who has gone through plastic surgery, I would have answered “it was”.