It’s hard to say exactly when my diet turned out to be a full blown disorder, because I’ve been doing it literally for as long as possible – since I was eight years old. My getting bigger has always been a problem. It was a project that needed fixing, one that made my colleagues bully or ignore me, something that my doctors made fun of and sometimes publicly mocked. (When I was only 4 years old, a pediatrician reprimanded my father: “Next time, you will have to enter it.”)
In my early twenties, my boyfriend at the time told me I simply wasn’t trying hard enough, and that weight loss was just a matter of calories in in, calories out. Like anyone struggling with his weight, not to mention the growing emergencies Nutritionists And the the doctorsHe can tell you, it’s a NotActually, that simple. I had tried dozens of diets by then, and I had already dreaded the calorie count, weight watchers’ “score”, and the complex carbohydrate algebra in many laptops. However, I redoubled my efforts, deciding I would either lose weight or die trying.
I got closer to the latter than I thought.
At one point, it was my “healthy lifestyle” – or the hard work contract that won me over 80 lbs weight loss And literally praising everyone around me – it began to suffocate me: avoiding any social event involving food (read: all of them), the way just the sound of food-related words like breakfast And the Snack My ear is grated. How angry I was constantly, at the world, at myself, at everyone else; Absolutely those people who can simply eat and move around during their lives, their bodies aren’t always on the edge of a precipice. The way I kept motionless, half a smile in all of my pictures, terrified of showing an inch of long absent fat that I still could see clearly in the mirror. I was terrified that someone would find out what I really was, the whole time.
The unique despair of fear of full store is hard to explain to those who don’t understand it – as a result of the self-loathing that encompasses everyone, it motivates you to give up even your most basic needs. To live in a world where you are physically afraid of strawberries and peas, where news on your phone exclusively feeds headlines about weight loss.
And then, the inevitable backlash, those out-of-control moments where my hungry body was indulging in whatever was available – which, in my home that had orthotics, carbs, wasn’t much. One afternoon last fall, I came home from a frantic outing. I never packed snacks; I wasn’t allowed to eat until I finished, even if it was a 14-mile trek with a 3,500-foot climb. I found myself sitting on the kitchen counter as if I was fugitive, eating half a pound of raw cashews and placing a spoonful of coconut cream straight out of the can. Feeling like an animal. Realize how perfectly the thing was slipping out of my hand.
By my time Huffpost article on weight loss Posted in January, I finally contacted my attending physician. At home for the holidays, I sat in my mother’s car 1,500 miles from the therapist’s office and fixed an appointment as if it didn’t matter. The night before, I crept into my father’s back bedroom and grabbed one of the three boxes of chocolates they’d been keeping for last-minute Christmas presents. I proceeded to chew and spit each candy into the box, carefully wiping the sugar and fat off my tongue.
Then I went back to the next square. And another one after that.
The unique despair of fear of full store is hard to explain to those who don’t understand it – as a result of the self-loathing that encompasses everyone, it motivates you to give up even your most basic needs.
For our first session, my counselor and I sat across from each other while she looked at my papers. I had checked compulsive exercise and binge eating in the symptom list, but softened the blow in the open space wondering why I was looking for the cure: “Eating problems. Also being human.” I tried to convince myself and my loved ones that it’s just a New Year’s freak, take it or leave it. My new insurance policy covered that, so why not?
I was so desperate.
Meeting my eyes, she said, nodding her head to the pages for a few quiet minutes. “Most of it is from foods.”
Agreed to “most food”. I was waiting for her to give me the magic bullet technique that will prevent binge eating once and for all. Then, I’ll finally be able to drop the “last” 10 pounds and stop worrying about it. Ideally, the entire exchange will take 30 minutes.
Instead, she smiled patiently as I confessed to what I thought were the sheer numbers of calories per day and found myself unable to stop eating – which was not enough, given my daily exercise habit of two hours a day. I expected her face to wobble at these numbers, judgmental and anxious, but she didn’t. Instead, she asked, “What if you think about your food in terms of whether you’re full or not, rather than calories?”
She smiled at her stupidly, stifling mockery. You’ve already been very in-depth, and you’ve already memorized the food’s broad calculus. Even if I deleted my calorie tracker – which is a completely absurd possibility – I still saw broccoli, almonds, and croissants as Matrix-style rows of passing green numbers.
After a session or after, I just sat there and felt so shy about my body still thin and still so big, she asked me, “What are you so afraid of? What would it mean, if the worst thing happened, and I regained all the weight?”
My response was immediate, intuitive, and easy to mention.
This means that I was a failure.
I took on an intellectual obligation to eat intuitively well before experiencing my fat phobia.
I took on the intellectual commitment to eating well before I could tackle my lipophobia, and listen to body positive podcasts like It’s all fat And the Trust your body project While continuing to grind in the gym. I wanted to have both ways – get my cake and refuse to eat it, too. I wanted to quit my turmoil without actually making any changes, to push talk about accepting size without actually wearing the body that’s meant for me.
After all, I’ve spent the last 10 years burying the older girl I have been, wearing my hard-earned hard-earned body like a badge of honor. Of course I wanted to keep it: I wanted to keep curled heads, the attention I craved when I was a teenager and suddenly reached the age of 22. As a skinny girl, that attention was everywhere, everywhere heady and always surprising.
I wasn’t required to attend the party, but I made up for it by riding on the back of a stranger’s motorcycle in a foreign country, and setting off to a seaside birthday party where free drinks were repeatedly pressed into my hand. Or by grinding my “new” body against a never-ending group of guys who are so desirous of dance clubs. Someone pulled my ear to his lips to whisper to me. “You are so cool. I had to tell you, but I didn’t want your boyfriend to get angryHe said, shake hands with her boyfriend afterward.
I wanted to preserve the praise of the doctors, feeling victorious and accomplished every time she appeared smaller. I wanted to believe that the slow heart rate and two-digit blood pressure readings were a result of exercise, not anorexia.
I was still skipping breakfast to “make up” for what I ate the day before dinner, and I still got hungry like a promise, like a reward. I’m still tossing everything but a token, swallowing it on Instagram of the sourdough I’ve been walking through the snow for. But in the end, I realizedIf I ever wanted to pull myself out of the iron cage I built – if I wanted to have a chance at Really A healthy relationship with food and my body – I had to give up dieting altogether.
Ultimately I realized that if I ever wanted to get myself out of the iron cage that I made – if I wanted to have a chance for a truly healthy relationship with food and my body – I had to forgo dieting altogether.
I had to watch my body soften, my traditional hard-earned beauty fading into the mirror. I had to look twice at the toilet bowl when my blood came back – the return of the period I’d been missing for a full three years. I will never seem Like someone with an eating disorder, so my doctors never asked any questions, even when his absence was accompanied by other signs: low blood pressure, stress fractures, and constantly feeling cold.
I had to gain weight. I had to let my body come home.
My body got bigger, yeah. But it also got less crazy. We are learning to trust each other.
The frenzied abandon with which I first ate the foods I had been restricting for so long. On most days, my meals still focus on fresh, whole foods: fruits, nuts, grilled vegetables, boneless chicken, and cheese. Yes, raspberry pie is sometimes eaten alongside creamy pale coffee.
Because I know I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want to, food isn’t that important anymore. I could walk through a bakery window or down a hallway lined with Halloween candy at Target without feeling longing, angry, or remorseful. I can buy a pound-sized package of Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups from Trader Joe’s and – seriously – forget it’s in my closet at all.
I can’t pretend I’m completely cured of the fraught body image that I’ve struggled with all my life. We all deal with diet culture, no matter how clear our vision is through its problematic messages, no matter what body size we wear. I know you do, readers – because after I published that last article, my direct messages inundated with others reaching out to say, I also.
Because I know I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want to, food isn’t that important anymore.
I scrolled back through Instagram, and saw my pics as a hungry girl who always thought she was just too big. I had this terrible thought: I amF Only you know what you have.
The diet culture means that a part of me still believes that my thinnest body is my ‘real’ body, even though I have spent far fewer years than obese, and even though maintaining this size came at an astronomical emotional and physical cost. But increasingly, I look at those old photos and see something different: How terrified that girl was. How desperate. How alone.
If the mere thought of weight gain terrifies you, trust me, I have been there. I even said it in the last clip: I loved my disease. A year ago reading an article like this would have shocked me with adrenaline. The weight gain was a complete failure. It was not an option on the table.
But I can tell you that being on the other side is much better: not being afraid I feel when a friend asks me to go out to dinner; Lover’s hand touch when they want me just the way I am; The ability to take one bowl of pint of ice cream, so you don’t feel the frenzied need to throw out every last bite of food on my plate.
I am not afraid anymore. I’m free. And that’s worth a lot more than it’s ever been skinny.
And you are there to see yourself in these words – you don’t have to work your way up in your life either. You deserve this, too. You deserve to feed yourself. You deserve to take up space.
I know it’s scary. It’s easily the scariest thing I’ve ever done. But I promise, and I promise: along with the weight, you are gaining much more.
If you have an eating disorder, call //www.everydayhealth.com/drugs/ National Eating Disorders Association Hotline At the number 1-800-931-2237.
Do you have a compelling first-person story or experience that you want to share? Send your story description to [email protected].
Summon All Superhero Fans on HuffPost!
Sign up for membership to become a founding member and help shape HuffPost’s next chapter