You know how normal people will start a meal and then quit when they’re full? Can you tell me what that’s like? I’m afraid my life-long attitude toward food can be best described through the following Louis C.K. quote: “The meal isn’t over when I’m full. The meal is over when I hate myself.”
I’ve always had a gluttonous appetite. My tendency to polish off an entire row of Fig Newtons in one sitting, or an entire DiGiornio pizza by myself, made my childhood fat and miserable. I lost weight due to an extreme growth spurt in middle school, only to gain the weight back due to a new-found Ben & Jerry’s obsession. Finally, at the age of 15 when I tried on a size 12 bathing suit, I decided something had to give. I went on a diet, started running for the first time in my life, and went down to a size 6.
Sounds like a success story, right? Wrong. No amount of weight loss can erase a lifetime of being taunted, ridiculed, or made to feel ashamed for being overweight. The emotional damage carried with me as a teenager and lead to my first eating disorder- binge eating. In order to stay skinny I’d starve myself most of the time, and then binge like crazy when I couldn’t take it anymore. My mother had a habit of overbuying when it came to food so no one in the house really noticed. I estimate that during this time I would polish off thousands of calories in just a few short hours. How did I not gain 100 pounds? Well, I’d spend two hours on the treadmill and not eat for a day or two afterward. It all evened out in a sick way.
The binge eating fell by the wayside in college when that void was filled by binge partying instead. I met my future husband, we graduated and got married. I was eating like a normal person around the time of our wedding, but afterwards the “happy” weight starting creeping up on me. None of my clothes fit and I hated seeing myself in photos next to my thinner friends. Instead of saying to myself, “Perhaps I should lay off of the frozen pizza and late-night snacking,” my solution was bulimia.
It started off as “maintainance”, throwing up a few times a week after a particularly large meal or if I ate something decadent. It soon evolved into throwing up after every dinner, and not long after that, throwing up everything I swallowed. I was soon bingeing and purging up to four times a day. I lost 20 pound in three weeks. Needless to say, people began to notice and ask questions.
After over a year of lying to my husband, family, and friends about my frail appearance and frequent bathroom visits (not the mention my hair falling out and the rash around my mouth, lovely!) I decided enough was enough. It’s been two years since, and while I still struggle with the beast of bulimia, I can happily say I have it mostly tamed. Running had helped tremendously- you can’t run on an empty tank. And though I sometimes look in the mirror before a run and focus on the cellulite and flab I see in the mirror, I always see a strong, healthy, and happy person in the mirror when I return.
We live in a culture of body shaming, and I don’t see that ever changing. I need to learn not to let my negative body image hold me back from enjoying life. I am happy that I am able to write about my eating disorders as something in the past and not in my present. One of my proudest moments in life was crossing that finish line at last year’s Charlevoix Half Marathon, and as I posed for photos with my family afterwards, never once did it cross my mind, “Do I look fat?”