We are now, but we have a bad history. Today I was going to write about a recipe that I love and make all the time both because it is delicious and Betty approved, but also because I am a REALLY terrible cook and there are only a few things that I can make without practically burning the kitchen down. Then something happened and I decided to switch gears and get a lot more serious. With this being National Eating Disorders Awareness Week the timing of this topic is appropriate anyway. I never thought I was going to talk about this on my blog and I’ve almost deleted it a handful of times already, but then I thought maybe my experience could help someone else. So here we go.
For most of my adolescent and adult life, I’ve struggled with an eating disorder, specifically anorexia. I’m sure you are all know what that is, but here is the disorder defined by the NEDA website:
- Restricting food intake to below the requirements for a particular individuals physical requirements
- Intense fear of weight gain and obsession with weight and continual behaviors to prevent weight gain
- Inability to recognize true body shape or recognize the seriousness of condition
This described me to a T. I was at my very worst between the ages of 17 and 20. There was a time when all I would eat in a day would be a bowl of Uncle Ben’s long grain and wild rice and then I would go to my apartment complex gym and stay on the elliptical for hours. I mostly dressed in tee shirts that were several sizes too big for me to hide the areas of my body that I considered to be fat. I used to obsessively feel the bones in my shoulders and would measure my thighs 10, 20 times a day by circling them with my fingers, worrying about how much they touched when I stood up. When I was in middle school, a boy told me I had thunder thighs. I don’t know if I really did or not, but that moment was burned into my brain forever.
I will never forget the sense of accomplishment I felt stepping onto the scale at my college gym and seeing that I weighed under 100 pounds. I am 5’6″ tall.
Today I look at photos from back then and can’t believe I never realized then how sick I was. With my bleach blonde hair, pale skin, and big sunken eyes, I looked like a ghost.
From high school into adulthood, it was like I was on a roller coaster. I would get better, then relapse (though it never got as bad at those late high school/early college years), then get better again, but even when I was at my healthiest mentally the body dysmorphia, food issues, and fear of weight gain never really went away. I went to group meetings for a while. Then I moved to Hollywood and while it was occasionally fun let me just tell you that it was about the unhealthiest environment for someone like me to live in.
In my early 30’s I moved back east, got married and eventually pregnant, and pregnancy was a TERRIFYING time. So many women report never feeling so beautiful in their lives as during pregnancy and I was just a mess. But I also knew that there was never a more important point in my life to put plenty of healthy food – several times a day – into my body. At around the middle of my second trimester, I started getting on the scale backwards at the doctor’s office. I wasn’t going to fight the weight gain, but I also didn’t want to know the details. I exercised and ate well throughout my pregnancy and in the end I found out that I gained somewhere around 35-40 pounds total. This is me exactly 2 years ago!
If I look like I’m SO OVER being pregnant, it’s because I was. Betty was born just a couple days later and by July I had lost pretty much all the baby weight and I decided it was time to make peace with my appearance. I am a mom and in my mid-30’s. I wasn’t going to run out to buy a pair of mom-jeans or get a perm or anything, but I wasn’t ever going to have my old body again and I needed to accept that. Now there was a little girl in my life that was going to look up to me, so even on my worst days I would not let her see me pick myself apart and I would not let her see me starve myself. At 140 lbs, I was a normal weight and BMI for my height. I kept on exercising with the same healthy eating habits that I picked up during my pregnancy, hid in my signature flowy clothes that gave me a sense of false confidence, and tried to get over myself.
Then I started running in April of last year. The running started out of pure boredom with no plan to lose weight. I already did a lot of cardio anyway so that wasn’t even on my radar. But then I did lose weight. A fairly significant amount of it. It came off very quickly and realized that I needed to eat more. For the first time in my life I started to regard food not as something to be feared, but as fuel. After running for just a few months, I would look in the mirror and feel so happy with the person looking back at me; not because I had lost weight, but because running makes me feel strong. Powerful. Accomplished. Confident. I started tossing all the flowy stuff into the back of my closet and filling the space up with things that actually fit me. Including a LOT of tech shirts.
I reached my current weight (which shall remain nameless because it’s a number that doesn’t matter) around October when I ran my first half marathon and it has been holding steady ever since. I do not need to, nor would I ever attempt to lose another pound. Finally being comfortable in my own skin – especially after the majority of a lifetime of internal struggle – is the most freeing feeling I have ever experienced.
So I wish that was the end of it, but it’s not. At this day in age we are all pretty well familiar with the concept of fat and skinny shaming (I don’t like the term “fit shaming” because you can be fit at a variety of sizes). In a society where media glorifies a waifish appearance, I think a lot of people are in denial that skinny shaming is actually a thing. But it is. Negative commentary on anyone’s weight – whether they be big or small – is inappropriate. People come in all shapes and sizes and no one has the right to make someone else’s appearance their personal business. And unfortunately I’ve been getting a lot of crap for mine.
I am writing this post on my wedding anniversary and as it is my wedding anniversary, I changed my cover photo on Facebook to one from our wedding 4 years ago. This one to be exact:
That’s my husband. Isn’t he handsome!? I look really pretty, but back then I still thought I was too heavy which I know now is just dumb (though I do think my triceps look much better now). That poor, patient guy has had to endure the question “Does this make me look fat?” more than most and I bet he’s probably pretty enthused to not have to hear that ridiculousness anymore. Anyway, shortly after posting that picture I received a text message. It was from a very close family member and I will quote it directly so that when they read this post I will not get called out for making things up:
“TBH, you look prettier with some meat on your bones. Just sayin’.”
Because that’s exactly what I was hoping would happen when I posted up a photo in celebration of my marriage. To be picked at about my weight.
This is not an isolated incident and not nearly the harshest thing I’ve heard. I have been told repeatedly that I look terrible and that no one else is being honest with me about it. I apparently have no idea how I look. This look is “unattractive” on me. My arms are “gross”. The way my weight has been approached, you would think that I look more like this:
God forbid I decide I want to order a salad out at dinner or say that I’m full without having to dodge a snide comment. It hurts. Then when I say it hurts, I get told that I need to have thicker skin. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I feel good about myself. Instead of being able to enjoy that feeling, my appearance is repeatedly insulted by one of the people I hold most dear in my life.
Due to my past, I can only hope that the reason I’m hearing these things is because the person saying them has no concept of how much my mindset has shifted. They say that the unkind comments come from a place of concern, but I think there’s a point where well-meaning concern becomes harassment. Especially after I have repeatedly asked them to stop talking to me about it.
Do I think the issues I used to have with food will ever entirely go away? No. That’s something I’ll deal with for probably the rest of my life. They hide in the back of my mind and occasionally whisper mean things when I’m pouring marshmallow topping on my frozen yogurt. But the important thing is that I’ve learned how to ignore them. Eating disorders ruin lives and I’m refusing to let mine control me anymore. Now if I could just get the naysaying to stop, life will be a delicious bowl of fajitas.
Fajita bowls. That’s the recipe I was going to post about. I’ll save that one for Monday.
Thanks for sticking with me on this one, guys. While writing about it was really cathartic for me, I feel like I just got naked on the Internet. I would like to mention that if anyone reading has gone through anything similar or is going through it now, I always have an open ear to discuss things like this and like to help in any way that I can.