First: a person would have to be wasting away to nothing in a hospital bed while their families begged them to eat SOMETHING for their “illness” to count as an actual “eating disorder.”
Second: only (or, at least, primarily) younger people, obsessed with their appearance, have eating disorders.
Third: restricting yourself from eating “junk foods” and “unhealthy” foods is MANDATORY for losing weight AND… losing weight is the healthiest thing anyone can do. In other words, to pursue “health” is to pursue “weight loss” -- period.
Fourth: It is okay for thin people to eat intuitively – i.e., basically whatever they want – but un-thin people (like me) need to watch what we eat very carefully or else… we’re bad. Period.
I went to my medical doctor and my therapist about what was happening in my life because I thought there might be something wrong. Physically, yes, I had some digestive issues that were becoming troublesome (once again) but, more than that, I felt like my behavior might be suspect. If I saw my daughter, my friend, my sister, or my niece behaving this way, I might be concerned.
A month prior to my appointments with both medical doctor and therapist, I had decided to undertake the gruesomely stringent practice of an elimination diet. I told myself and the people who recommended it to me that this was strictly to find out what was causing my intestinal distress but in the back of my mind, my real motive was always clear to me. GET. SKINNY. AGAIN. On this diet, there were a list of about seven things that I was allowed to eat. And I ate them, and nothing but, for an entire month and a little weight came off.
The behavior that was unusual though was the extreme panic I felt around food. I have always been obsessed with food. I have always hated my body. I have always restricted calories and starved myself at times then swung the opposite way and binged out of rebellion and desperation. This has been my way. Diet Culture has taught me that this is just THE WAY, the only way. I never thought, for one moment, there was anything wrong with this way other than the fact that I was obviously too weak, too stupid and too incompetent to manage to parlay this obsession with food and hatred for my body into lasting thinness.
One night, I went out with two of my closest girlfriends for “drinks” only my drink was hot water with lemon. They ordered French fries and wings to go with the beer they were drinking. I ordered a “salad” with nothing on it but lettuce. I was not “allowed” to eat any of the other vegetables or the cheese or the croutons that would have normally come on my salad. Both of my girlfriends are much thinner than I am. I reasoned that I was on this elimination diet because there was something wrong with my body. There is nothing wrong with either of their bodies so they were allowed to have the food and drink they were having. For me, it would’ve been a sin. One of my friends questioned me about my choices that night and I shut her down with an, “I don’t want to talk about it.” She respected my wishes, didn’t push, but later admitted to me that she had been very concerned.
But… back to the panic. What was MOST disturbing about that night and indeed that entire several months of my life (the panic had begun long before the elimination diet) was how inside, I felt like I was being chased by a tiger or like someone had a gun to my head. Every single time I had to put a bite of anything in my mouth – even if it was LETTUCE – I would berate myself for being disgusting for having to eat. I would tell myself if I were stronger, if I were smarter, if I were just a better person, I could stop this madness – stop eating, stop having a body like I had, be good, be normal, be attractive, be thin, be worthy. But I couldn’t. I had to keep eating, as humans do and so I just kept on hating myself, living with the tiger at my back, living with the gun to my head.
I had experienced panic like this before in my life during periods of restriction but it was limited to panic around putting “junk foods” or “unhealthy” foods in my mouth. During a period of massive restriction if I had the nerve to eat a French fry or one piece of pizza, I would hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate myself – the tiger, the gun would all be there. I would sweat. I would feel sick to my stomach. I would feel exposed, like the entire world was watching me “cheat.” But, I had NEVER felt panic around ALL food before – even fruits and vegetables and brown rice and plain chicken breast. EVERY time I had to eat or drink ANYTHING was a moment of panic and… well, trauma, for me.
So I went to find out what this was. The doctor recommended therapy and I told her I had that covered. My therapist recommended another therapist that specializes in “healing people’s relationships with food” which I later realized was, only mildly disguised code for “specializes in eating disorders.” The eating disorder specialist recommended A LOT of therapy and after a little therapy a visit to a dietician (who also specializes in eating disorders). And the most shocking recommendation made by every single one of these people – EVERY SINGLE PROFESSIONAL that I saw – was: “STOP. DIETING.”
The eating disorder specialists agreed I had what is called “atypical anorexia” which is, basically, all the madness with none (or very little) of the thinness. They also agreed that I had suffered from this disorder since I was a teenager, based on the history I had given them. They also said that, in recent years, I had begun to suffer from a more and more commonly occurring – and, as yet unclassified disorder—in our culture called Orthorexia, an obsession with the healthiness of one’s food.
Because I have had to stop dieting and embark on the journey of healing by learning intuitive eating, I have gained more weight than I ever thought I’d be comfortable with. These are different stories for different times. But the point is, here I am: 44-years-old; “overweight” according to mainstream, agreed-upon standards; with not one but two different eating disorders; and transitioning into a new career in the health and fitness industry. Just. Fucking. Embarrassing.
could it be the moment – MY moment – to heal EVERYTHING? Could this be the next pile of ashes I rise up out of?
You bet your sweet ass it is.
Keep Rising, Teamies. Always, with Love.