There were years that I weighed my spinach. Looking at every gram and sticking it into an app to determine my calorie content. I am not kidding about this.
I weighed spinach, carrots, and tomatoes. If the calorie count got too high, I took some out.
There was a year that the only thing I seasoned anything with was mustard.
I have never used the phrase eating disorder because I never wanted to identify with that. I just wanted to be thin, above all else. In my mind, that had nothing to do with eating.
I was always trying to hack the system. I’ll try being vegan. I’ll try being Paleo. I’ll make my own kombucha. I’ll be gluten-free. I’ll stop eating sugar forever. I’ll only eat sugar two times a year. No dairy. Only fermented dairy. Only raw dairy. No grains at all. Only rice. Only rice sometimes. Brown rice has antinutrients, so only white rice.
I used V’s colic as a way to blame myself for food. It’s gotta be the lattes. Cut out the dairy. It has to be the sugar. Maybe it’s rice. It’s the protein bars. It’s FODMAPs. There were months that I only ate pork and sweet potatoes. I was completely convinced that how I was eating was making her cry nonstop.
Nothing helped. It wasn’t how I was eating.
During times of heartbreak I actually looked forward to the weight loss. It was at the forefront of my mind every time. Well, at least I’ll be thin.
During a time I was working from home and very broke, I lived on two Clif bars a day and actually jumped for joy the minute the scale hit 114 pounds. When my boyfriend at the time said, “Hey, how come you carry a little fat in your belly when you’re so thin everywhere else? Is it because you’ve been pregnant before?” I actually made it my mission to get down to 105 pounds. I started getting dizzy when I stood up and when I stopped working at home, I couldn’t concentrate on the new job. So I talked myself back into eating. For a while.
I would love to tell you I’ve reached some kind of constant body positive place and that I don’t use food as a system of punishment and rewards. But I would be lying to you. What I can tell you is that I am much, much better. But the obsession and control is always just hovering at the edges. I sneak diet cokes and gluten-free pizzas and then beat myself up about that. I don’t eat any sugar and still wonder why there’s this pudge in my belly.
In Japan I worked out every single day, twice a day. I would get up at 5am and do plyometrics in the kitchen. Then I’d come home from work and do a Jillian Michaels DVD. I had an elliptical machine in my kitchen. And I weighed my spinach, and never ate more than 1200 calories a day.
I stopped getting my period and gave myself adrenal fatigue so bad that I could barely get out of bed.
I have been all of the weights. Heavy, emaciated, just right, curvy, bony, muscled. My body has looked all of the ways. And I wish I could banish the mental struggle, but I can’t.
I used to get excited when my best friend couldn’t go to the gym because it meant I could do longer sprints and no one would stop me. Like an addict. (Who sneaks sprints?!)
I may always have a thing about food. What I will not do is punish myself with exercise. No matter how flat I wish my stomach was, I can no longer for a second do a grueling workout to punish myself into being thin. I can’t do it; my body revolts. It finally took a stand against my dictator mind.
No, it says to me. You will not use me for that. You may use me to feel good. To gain strength. To feel mental clarity. To relax. But the minute I sense another agenda, another flat stomach campaign, I will put this ass back in bed with fatigue or an injury so quick that you won’t even know what happened.
Aging is another beast; I’ve written about that before. Another way I can feel shame for things I can’t control.
An hour ago, I was eating breakfast at a place that I like. At some point during the meal, I pushed the plate away, half unfinished. But this time, it wasn’t because I was afraid of weight gain. It wasn’t because there was canola oil in the mayonnaise. (Canola oil is another thing I’ve demonized in the long list of the foods I’ve morphed into enemies.)
It was because, as I was eating it, I was noticing that it didn’t feel good in my body. The meat was chewy, the potatoes were fried yet somehow undercooked. The sauce was drowning everything, and taking on an unappealing color as it oxidized.
It was my body again, the formerly voiceless, that now is able to speak for itself, saying, Hey, I don’t want any more of that. It doesn’t taste good and it’s not going to do anything for me. Maybe later I’ll want something else. Something C made with love. Or something thoughtfully prepared. I know you just spent $16 on this plate, but…I don’t want it. It’s like taking a withdrawal from our health bank account, instead of making a deposit. Is that okay?
Yes, body. Of course that’s okay.
You know what I hope? I hope I look like the woman I saw in the mall the other day, sauntering along in her New Balances, her wild white hair waving with each step, wearing bright pink just because she could and not at all regarding what anyone was going to think of her, totally feeling herself, while shuffling along at a quick snail’s pace…
…holding hands with her cute little husband.
That’s what I hope.