TW Eating Disorder
This week, I teamed up with Erin-Rose from The Rosebud to talk about our experiences with eating disorders. Eating disorders definitely affect the ways that we feel about and interact with food, but they can be so much more than that.
A woman is made up of a silhouette and a soul, fostered and bred in the social confines of society. Our souls are released from our cocoon under the strict contract that we will “act like a lady”; our silhouettes remain tethered to the picture-perfect image that we, as women, must uphold. And if you (rightfully) do not desire to uphold the unrealistic and long-outdated idealistic body type? Well, then you are merely just “letting yourself go.” And if you are unable to “glow up” into a six-foot supermodel with washboard abs or a size 38? Then you are defined as “lazy” and “unmotivated.” The weight of upholding the “duty,” created by society to look immaculate in a crop top, is debilitatingly depriving and malnourishing.
Breathing, having resilient vitamin-rich bones, and a heart that pumps blood throughout a healthy body is far more precious than the figure of a body; nobody should ever feel the need to decide between their life and their looks. Women should not feel the need to glorify the loss of their menstrual cycle because they recognize it as a sign that the hard work of resisting anything high in calories was “worth the suffering.” Little kids are being told they are overweight by their doctor as their bodies are morphing into what is supposed to be their future safe home and woman are walking into stores that only sell sizes made for someone with half of their waist measurement and a quarter of the width of their thighs (the relief of tossing away two-hundred dollars of hard-earned money for a pair of jeans from a non-inclusive brand is not worth years of starvation.)
The dignity of a woman’s soul is far more important than the form that their silhouette takes. Eating disorders are like an unwanted pest in a garden: they eat every last petal from all of the blossoming flowers until there are merely just starving stems left to decompose. While a woman’s body may be able to survive on zero-calorie caffeinated drinks, iceberg lettuce with a tablespoon of dressing, and cereal with ice cubes for a short amount of time, their soul can only crack and chip for so long; nobody deserves to know the feeling of severe hunger and worthlessness. Every year, diet culture gains more and more souls of all ages to infiltrate and silhouettes to devour. Every soul has a story; some, unfortunately, know this particular ache and pain all too well. Healing is seldom linear; it is filled with hills and valleys, ups and downs, and mountain peaks and slippery slopes. While the reward is worth the discomfort and chest pain, the unsteadiness can be terrifying.
I, myself, am not truly “healed” and not knowing if I ever will be or how long it will take is scary. I still catch myself slipping up often, sometimes merely from being naive and believing I am further along than I actually am.
When I first decided to restrict my food, I ignorantly told myself that the hunger was temporary, just until I lost the curves that “did not belong”; my damaged relationship with food was a great burning burden that held its weight for almost my whole life, losing a few pounds could not reconcile something that was previously broken (but it was able to send my life into a downward spiral of restriction and self-hatred.) When I finally took the daunting challenge to begin facing my issues, I faithfully (and wrongfully) believed they would seemingly vanish when I began consuming and digesting a healthy amount of calories; eating disorders stem from an internal conflict that is much deeper than restriction and the resulting behaviors linger long after recovery. While I still face many bumps along the road, I practice two key principles that help me persevere: remain patient amidst the storm and focus on contentment and acceptance when I am not capable of loving myself.
Like Erin-Rose, I avoided applying the term “eating disorder” to myself and the way that I feel about food for a long time. I haven’t actively starved myself in several years, so there’s nothing wrong with me, right? It took me a while to come to terms with the fact that I have an eating disorder and that I don’t feel the same way about food as others do. In fact, one of the main things that tipped me off that I have an eating disorder was talking to others about food and my body. While I haven’t actively tried to starve myself since high school, there are plenty of daily signs that my feelings about food are still not what they should be.
My internal monologue has never been kind when it comes to food. Between the constant guilt, obsessive thoughts about my eating habits, and thrill of pride whenever I’m able to successfully skip a meal (even accidentally), food is almost always on my mind, and not in a good way.
When you’re used to seeing food as the enemy, it can be hard to recognize that others don’t think like you. It didn’t dawn on me until recently that not everyone has a constant torrent of insults flying through their brain and concerns about what they’re going to eat at any given time. My dad told me about a golfing event that he had with my mom a few weeks back. I commented on how fun that sounded, then asked about what I was finally admitting to myself.
“Do you get a bit of a thrill knowing that you’re doing something active and will be unable to eat for a few hours while at that golfing event?”
My dad responded with a simple “no,” but for me, it was the beginning of realizing how pervasive my thoughts about food really are. While I don’t do too many activities outside of my house, I get a thrill every time I go do something where I know I can’t eat. You mean that I’ll have two hours where I can’t eat food and subsequently hate myself for it? Sign me up! Instead of being surrounded by food that I obsess over and know that I’ll hate myself for eating, I get to be safely away from anything edible. Perfect.
Every event in my life comes with mental preparation about the type of food that will be there and how much or how little I will allow myself to eat. Will the baseball game only have hot dogs and cheesesteaks? Okay, I can have a half of one, but I’m going to spend hours amping myself up and convincing myself that I shouldn’t feel guilty. Will the work event have salad? Great! A safe food that while not filling will make me feel good about myself. If there’s a dessert, maybe I’ll allow myself a bite. Or two. Thoughts about food aren’t escapable, no matter where I’m going or what I’m doing.
It’s not only when I’m thinking about food that I’m focused on my weight and my body. Even the smallest of reminders now forces me to face the fact that I’m not happy with the way I look. In some of the yoga classes that I attend, we practice deep breathing. Every class, I am faced with the fact that my stomach will press against the waistline of my pants when expanded. In my daily life, I naturally suck in and don’t take full breaths so that I can’t feel my stomach press against my pants and hate myself for how overweight I am. This realization is disheartening no matter how many times I have it. Breathing, the most basic human function, is even affected by my eating disorder.
Disheartening is really the only word that I have for it.
My eating disorder affects many aspects of my life, and while I may not be actively starving myself, realizations like this make me wonder if I will truly ever be out of the woods. I need to do more than simply try to weed out my negative thoughts around food. I can’t truly thrive while only nourishing my silhouette.
I need to nourish both silhouette and soul.
Photography by my talented fiancé. You can find him on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/hope_grows_here/
This post has been cross-posted to Erin-Rose’s blog, The Rosebud. You can read it here.