Opening Up About My Eating Disorder
I’m not going to get into how my disordered eating arose, or why it began, or whatever else I think started it. The beginnings don’t matter in this case. I want it to end.
It’s easy to self-diagnose an eating disorder once you become aware of it. Maybe I have a specific eating disorder that a professional could inform me of—whether it’s binge eating or not—but the fact remains: I have an eating disorder. Sometimes I binge. Sometimes I purge. Sometimes I eat and I’m like “I have more energy now!” and carry on with my day.
I’m obsessed with how I look. I’m obsessed with the food I put into my body. I’m obsessed with nutrient information. And those obsessions aren’t necessarily a bad thing. They can be a motivator—a way to improve self-esteem, get stronger, and be knowledgeable about what you eat—if there’s a positive drive. But when looking at myself, feeding my body, and reading nutrient labels, the underlying emotion is guilt.
I can’t eat anything without being ashamed for eating it. Nobody else shames me these days—I distinctly remember people criticising my eating up until I was 16. Tuna salad… yogurt… Someone always had something to say to tell me I was doing it wrong, or at least in a way that let me know they were judging me.
The pattern of shame and guilt has continued, even when nobody comments on my eating. Sometimes people do, and I ask them not to; it’s a trigger for me. Even a simple, “Oo, hungry today?” or “That looks so delicious,” can remind me that 1) people see what I eat and 2) people have judged me for it. A well-meaning comment doesn’t mean I’ll take it that way. It’s hard to outgrow associations in your formative years.
I could eat two boiled eggs, half an avocado, and a banana, and I’ll find a way to feel ashamed and guilty for eating.
Let me repeat that:
I’ll find a way to feel ashamed and guilty for eating.
What kind of life is that to live? Not being able to eat without berating myself and feeling like I’m doing something wrong?
“Feeding myself is wrong.”
“Eating this is bad.”
“I should eat something better.”
There’s so much morality attached to my eating habits and I’m sick of it. I’m sick of feeling like I’m not allowed, like something is forbidden, like this plateful is taboo. Those adjectives are so fucking abstract anyway—wrong? Bad? Better? There’s a comparative to them that I don’t acknowledge. If there’s a wrong, there’s a right. A bad, a good. A better, a worse.
The right is eating. The wrong is eating something that will hurt you.
The good is eating. The bad is eating something that will hurt you.
The worse is bingeing. The better is eating.
I recently got out of a binge cycle that made my mouth sore, my stomach upset, and my intestines ache. Getting out of my head and focusing on my body is good enough to tell me that I made a mistake.
It’s a mistake I don’t want to make again, or at least not as often as I did.
I’ve been trying for four years to break out of my disordered eating. In 2014, I made some progress. In 2015, I made some progress. This year, I haven’t made much progress. But I’m determined now to truly break away from it.
I’ve set up a book for helping me through this. In it, I’ve listed some goals:
- Overcome bingeing
- Develop a healthy relationship with food
- Create awareness with my body
I’m trying to relearn my hunger, and it’s worked incredibly well the past 7 months. I let myself be hungry before I eat, especially when I know I have 1) easy access to food; and 2) good food coming soon. To me, there’s no point in trying to “maintain” a level of hunger that isn’t hungry. So many places for health and eating suggest snacking and meals in order to bring down levels of hunger so you’re not hungry.
Why? Why should I stop feeling hungry? Why should I dash that gurgle in my tummy away?
Unless I’m lightheaded, dizzy, weak, sluggish, tired, or anything affecting my activity, there’s no reason to chase away the hunger so soon. I’ve come to enjoy it. It’s a small conversation with my body, with my organs. I’m not going to deprive my stomach food when it wants it. I’ll just do it after we’ve had a little talk.
I’m also not going to punish my body with workouts, whether it’s cardio, strength training, or yoga. My body is strong and deserves a place to show off its strength: that’s where exercise comes in for me. It’s a celebration of my skills. A way to remind my mind that my body can do things that my mind said it couldn’t. In a way, my body gives the middle finger to that corner of festering guilt and shame. It says, “You see this? You see what I’m doing? You never believed in me. You have nothing to refute this strength.”
It’s impossible to refute the strength of my body. My mind and willpower are the ones who need to change—not my body.