65% of women have a “disordered relationship with food,” according to a study by the University of North Carolina, in partnership with Self magazine. This means they suffer from “unhealthy thoughts, feelings or behaviors related to food or their bodies.” Another 10% meet the criteria for anorexia, bulimia, or binge-eating disorder (i.e., an eating disorder).
I don’t know where I fall anymore, but I suspect it’s square in that 10%.
When I was pregnant with my second and final child, I gained over 100 lbs. I had good reason, namely gestational diabetes and anti-nausea meds that made it hard to get out of bed, let alone work out—but I felt bloated. I didn’t recognize myself.
My entire life, from my childhood on, my mother had dieted, and I had always been praised as the “skinny-minnie,” the tiny one, the thin one. Suddenly, that identity was gone. I had to buy clothes in sizes that would have horrified my former self. I tried to embrace body positivity, but though I easily saw the beauty in other bodies, I could never, ever see it in myself. I lost 50 pounds only to gain it back.
Then my doctor upped my dose of one of my medications.
Suddenly, I had no appetite. Zip. Zero. Nada. I skipped breakfast because it was a pain in the ass. Then lunch went out the window, because why bother? I noticed myself getting cranky around 3 p.m., so I compensated with a regular, miniscule tiny carb upper. And I lost weight. Man, did I lose weight. I went from a 16/18 to a 14 in a few months — and it would have been more but for the leftover baby belly — with zero effort.
I got addicted.
I started just not eating. It was gradual. I’d go a full day without food, just to see if I could. Turns out I could, easily. I’d keep to a 200 calorie Starbucks wrap, just to keep my blood sugar up, or a banana so I wouldn’t sugar crash and melt down. Left alone, I’d go 48 hours without food, running on coffee and adrenaline. My meals shrunk, too; when you don’t eat, your stomach gets smaller. I just naturally ate less.
A month and a half later, I was cruising the mall for size 10 jeans. Finally, I didn’t feel fat anymore. But I still wanted more. I’d look at my favorite actresses with their bird-bones wrists and think, by summer, that will be me. I will look like her, all collarbones and ribs.
Maybe I could have been content. After all, even I admitted I looked okayish. I just wanted more. But then I made the mistake of posting a full-body pic on Facebook. The likes and comments flooded in. “Did you lose weight? You look fabulous!” one friend messaged me. “Your face is so much thinner!” “I love this pic of you,” another said. “You look adorable,” one told me. I wanted to throw my computer across the room. Do you fuckers know what I had to do to get here? I wanted to scream at them. Do you have any fucking clue what I’ve been up to?
Of course not, because I have a normal BMI, and I’m sneaky. My husband suspects something. But he has no real idea.
My therapist knows I probably have an eating disorder, but you have to want to get better before you can improve—and frankly, I want to lose weight more than I want to get off this roller coaster. I’m not exhausted. I’m not famished. And my work output is nothing short of prodigious.
My doctor wants to help me, but her hands are tied. She says there are a lot of reasons I’ve ended up where I am. The loss of control over my body: the yo-yo of gaining during pregnancy, working hard to diet only to gain it back, plus some other important life events: my husband’s cancer scare; my mother’s second marriage falling apart — messily — and her leaning on me for support; my lack of real-life friends to help me; my children growing up. All of these things had contributed to me feeling a loss of control, and that loss of control had led me to seek control where I could: my food intake.
I know I should stop. But I have to want to stop. I don’t want to yet. I want those tiny wrists. I want those collarbones. I want a size in the single-digits.
A few online friends know how bad it’s gotten, and they keep me company. They sit with me in this fresh hell when I need a someone to talk to, someone to vent to, someone to cry with. I’m more grateful to them than they will ever realize.
I am almost ready. I am getting there, slowly. I recognize my eating is disordered; I have talked about it to people; I’ve sought help — even if I’m not ready to take it yet. Slowly, I’m crawling my way out of it. But it’s hard. It’s hard when I see those models. It’s hard when I look at my favorite actresses. It’s hard to walk around Target and compare my body to everyone I see. It’s hard to be a mother suffering from something people associate with teenage girls. But I am getting there. Bit by bit. Drop by drop. I am trying to fix myself. One day. One day.
But not today.