Chinese teenage girl driven to anorexia by academic stress
A girl lost about 60 pounds within a year and at one point weighed only 75 pounds, after she fared far worse than usual on a single entrance exam, which let both herself and her father terribly down.
She is still being treated for her eating disorder at a local hospital and hooked up to an intravenous drip every day to receive nutrients, which is the cause of her 7-pound weight gain.
Wang Xiaowei in hospital for her anorexia treatment on July 11
For three years, Wang Xiaowei (alias) was always among the top 20 students in her junior high school, a distinguished school in Ziyang of Sichuan province. Standing 168cm (5’) in height and weighing over 60 kg (132 pounds), she was plump by Chinese standards, and was given the nickname “Chubby Girl” by her classmates.
But last year, in the annual high school entrance examination, Xiaowei only scored 70 points out of 120 in math, despite the fact that she got almost full marks in all other subjects. Her ranking in the entire city dropped to lower than 2000th. Even though she still managed to be accepted into the best high school, she did not get into the tracked class for the brightest students.
Later, Xiaowei learned that her unexpectedly poor performance was purely caused by her mistake in filling the bubble sheet: she misaligned the bubbles.
Her father was very upset and stormed at her, saying that this exam result made him lose face, and that before that, he had been a loser professionally, but now even his daughter was worse than others’.
“I felt that I failed my father. He had always taken pride in me,” Xiaowei said. Her father used to rave about her in front of his friends and often told Xiaowei that she was his only pride. She felt that her setback in the high school entrance exam had become a setback in her father’s life. The guilt had overpowered her.
Devastated, she lost her appetite, and ate sparingly. Often, she just drank porridge for her meal. By the time the first semester of her high school began, her weight had already dropped to 100 pounds.
In the first placement test, she ranked 11th among 2,000 students in the same year, a phenomenal achievement, given that the school only enrolls the most elite students in the city. But she lived in the constant fear that she would flop in the next exam, “I so looked forward to the next exam to prove myself. But I was also very afraid that I would come short.”
Gradually, her food intake was reduced to the point where she only drank a few mouthful of porridge and ate half a boiled egg for the day.
Her new classmates often said to her she looked thin and pretty, which also motivated her to go on dieting.
Later, her ranking climbed to the 6th. “The better she performed in the exam, the less she ate,” Xiaowei’s mother said. By March, Xiaowei weighed only 75 pounds. No food could work up her appetite. Xiaowei was so emaciated that she needed her mother’s support while walking up stairs. “She couldn’t even carry her backpack, and could easily fall if others ran into her,” the mother said.
Last week, she was finally diagnosed with the eating disorder, and has so far undergone a week-long treatment. She has started to force-feed herself and plans to gain back weight.
“I will never ever want to live in that kind of stress,” she said.