Small Steps Forward by Katherine Orfinger

Small Steps Forward

By Katherine Orfinger

I am not the same person I was at age fourteen. No, I am taller, smarter, more widely-read, more experienced, happier, healthier, and yes, I am heavier. But why shouldn’t I be? Can you imagine how dull life would be if all progress stopped at fourteen? No driver’s licenses, no college graduations, no weddings… In my current state of mental wellness, it seems silly to want to pause my life in 2010, but when I was in the grips of anorexia, I was obsessed with the idea. If you have ever been fourteen, you’re probably wondering what in the world was so great about that age for me, and the answer is simple: nothing. My first two years of high school are a blur of poor study habits, subpar boyfriends, and waking up too early. The only clear memory I really have from that age is my weight. That’s what was so great about being fourteen; I was comprised of a very small amount of mass.

As my adolescence wore on, my eating disorder tagged along. I lived in a constant fog of hunger, and very quickly forgot how miserable I was at my lowest weight. As I sat in a treatment center during my sophomore year of high school, I thought, as soon as I get out of here I’ll start restricting again. I’ll get my fourteen-year-old body back. During my senior year, when I bought the biggest pair of jeans I’d ever worn, I gazed at pictures of my fourteen-year-old self. She looks happy, I thought, ignoring the tired eyes and the fake smile the photos depicted.

The truth is, I was not happy. I was prioritizing weight loss over friends, family, school, my writing, and everything else. It wasn’t worth it. I missed out on a lot of what high school had to offer. I missed out on parties, friendships, concerts, publications, and life itself. Today, at nineteen years old, I am proud to say I am a completely different person from that anxious, miserable fourteen-year-old. I’m finally learning what it means to have a normal relationship with food. I’m learning to accept my body unconditionally—not when I hit a certain weight. My mind is sharper and more creative, and I actually feel in control of my life, not just in control of my food. In fact, it was only when I relinquished control of my food to a treatment team with my best interests at heart, that I was finally able to take control of what really mattered. Today, my fourteen-year-old self is just a memory, not a goal. I joyfully embrace change and growth, and I am excited to see where life will take me next—without anorexia in the passenger seat. Katherine Orfinger is a photography student at Daytona State College. Her work has appeared in Teen Ink and Crashtest Magazine.  She is passionate about writing, swing sets, and burritos.  You can read more of her work at

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