The Number 13

For the average-ly superstitious American, this number is something to avoid.

Some places don’t have the 13th floor.

Some places don’t have the 13th house number.

I had the number 13.

I had it and I hated myself for it.

I’m not talking about the number of my apartment or the number on my passport. It’s not the number of countries I’ve visited, nor the number of dresses I have.

The number 13 to me meant 13 pounds.
When I came back from Spain I knew it, I knew that I’d gained weight. But while I was in Spain I didn’t think much about it. Because no one else cared or noticed so I didn’t notice. Well, neither did I have access to a scale to show me such a number.

Over winter break I did.
Over winter break I saw +13.
Over winter break the pants I found from last winter and put them straight into a pile for Goodwill.

Over winter break I went back to the United States for 2 weeks and people knew it too.

“It went to your butt”

“Guys like that anyways”

I didn’t know which was worse. The fact that some people realized, or that they were okay-ing it on the basis of “guys like something to grab anyways”. Being decreased to an object of pleasure for the other gender. Not “numbers are arbitrary” or “you look good don’t worry!”.. no but a “you look good in regards to guys’ preferences”.

I remembered my years of mental struggles with the idea of food, and ideas of anxiety, and the months where they were one intertwined horrible thing. In middle school and high school I always wanted to gain more weight, as I just lost it during my worst anxiety periods. Eventually I did gain weight by my senior year. I was happy and content.

The year I had my first relationship (yes, I say first because others have passed since, no signs of them on facebook but it’s better that way) was when I started to get food obsessed again. Freshman year of college.

(Do you remember your comments? Of course not.

Do you know I’m still working on my self esteem, do you know that?
Of course you do not.)

I had this app that counted calories. If I forgot to log a food and remembered at 2am, I would get out of bed, go look at the ingredients and log it.

That summer I avoided carbs, I avoided sweets.. I woke up early to do burpees and lungees. I really liked my body and fitness progress… but was it even for me? Was I doing it for me? Or did I merely like what other people said about my body?

So passed my sophomore year of college where I cooled down with that stuff, and the next summer was in a relationship where issues surrounding eating/avoiding food never crossed my mind.

Then came “after Spain”.

Winter break and the number 13.
I traveled alone to Budapest & Brussels, I barely ate anything, because I knew there would be times when I would eat with other people. (Because how can you eat food all the time Patricia how dare you?)

In Italy the first few days we ate together for orientations, I went out to eat with my roommates and friends: breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

One day in February I went hiking by myself and then rushed to class because I was late. The only meal I ate that day was dinner.

I was lightheaded and grumpy.

But for some reason I felt accomplished.

The next day i did the same thing. Laughing to myself as I brought merely a pack of almonds in my bag for the whole day. LOL Patricia, you’re eating 10 almonds for lunch! Nice!

The day after that, the week and weeks after that.

I stopped eating breakfast and lunch, my meal vouchers piling up.

But then I would eat dinner and feel unaccomplished all over again.

A cycle of not eating real food throughout the day and then having a normal meal, or more food, at dinner.

Feeling in control of something was the focal point.

Because who knows what could happen tomorrow, or the next year, but at least in this moment I have control over my mind, my body. Who knows if I’ll ever make it to Spain again or have a career in Europe? But I can sure make sure that I never eat lunch.

Not eating is like the ultimate form of self-control. Like winning an imaginary prize in my mind.
I’ve lost some weight, but it’s not about that anymore. It doesn’t become about what # hole on my belt but about how little can I eat today, tomorrow, but still enjoy the food in Italy and still get some worth out of the meal plan I have. A mind-game.

Alternating between not eating and then binging on chocolate.
Eating small things throughout the day, a banana, a lollipop a cookie, up until dinner. So it feels like I am really eating. So it looks like I am eating.

Over spring break, without my meal plan and meal vouchers was the ultimate game. I want to travel and see as much as possible, I want to have alot of time, I want to save money where I can. Solution? Don’t eat!

Because when you don’t eat a meal its as if you “won”. Hooray! You beat your body’s needs! You beat something! You won!

But the game never ends. Because when you do eat a meal there’s that constant guilt. That “you were doing good all day and then look what you let happen!!!” You were on track, you were in control. So then you don’t eat again for a couple meals.

Amongst chaos of the inevitable future, of traveling, of boys and friends, of trying to find myself, eating is the one things I can 100% control.

The other day I went to a restaurant for the first time in over 1 month during lunchtime, thinking it was time to get over this, and stop the starving vs. binging… going back to eating normal portions and meals throughout the day.

The restaurant was closed. shit. “You’re stupid Patricia, this is a sign.” Go back and just eat your banana for lunch. Do you want to see another +13 this semester?

How could I really be actively having these kinds of thoughts?
This is all happening in my head and no one would ever know.

Please don’t think that just because a person doesn’t seem the part that they are not struggling with something or other. You never know what is going on in a person’s mind. You probably don’t know much about the people around you. Everyone has their own stories, their own troubles

And you are enough. As a person, as a living being.
That’s something I’m trying to bring to the front of my mind.
I don’t need to prove anything to myself, I don’t need to create problems to test my own willpower.


A number is just a number.

If you worry about what your friend/significant other will say if you do x or y, you’re in wrong company

Solving the problems created in your own head is not worth the brief feeling of “accomplishment” before you create another problem

You do not need to feel like you earned your food