I've wanted to write about disordered eating for some time now, a less known eating disorder. I put it off because it's not easy to write about. However, when the news was filled with stories about how Instagram is ruining young girls' lives, I thought maybe it was good timing to discuss it. Disordered eating is defined as an unhealthy preoccupation with food, calories, and weight gain." Can I just say "duh" to everyone who didn't think an app specifically designed around images to be wouldn't at some point be bad for young girls?
Growing up my mom never felt well so I tried to be helpful around the house. One of my responsibilities was to take care of the weekly food shopping. I didn't mind and was usually happy to help. As a reward when we returned home from shopping, my mom would let me tear into whatever I felt like eating before the food was put away. This wasn't novelty food, instead, it was items like thinly sliced cheese from the supermarket's deli counter. Basically if it wasn't dog food, I would take a taste. I would also open the peanut butter not to eat it, but to carve my initials on the top. This of course could only be done when the peanut butter was still in its virgin state.
I was using food to comfort myself like many individuals who have eating
disorders in a ritualistic way by age 14. At the time I watched General Hospital and The Edge of Night from 3 to 4:30 pm after school. I wouldn't just sit and watch Luke and Laura, I would start eating as if we were all together at their wedding. I would make myself onion dip and consume an entire pint of sour cream. With either potato chips or celery and a coke to wash it all down, I was literally in my own private Idaho. I could never understand why no one noticed we never had any sour cream but purchased it weekly. My home wasn't the only place I would commit this carnage unnoticed. I would actually go to a friend's house and make dip and eat all my friend's chips. It's amazing to me that my friend's mom's never asked what the hell was wrong with me? Who goes to a friend's house and instead of a small snack makes themselves a buffet? At that age, no one could convince me that the skinny body I saw in the mirror wouldn't be mine for eternity. While my eating habits could make a healthy person uncomfortable, I didn't think I had an eating disorder. Instead, I just ate a shit-ton of whatever I liked.
I graduated high school perfectly healthy-looking and then in college gained the freshman 20. I believe it's commonly called the freshman 15, but I'm an overachiever. Because this weight gain happened to everyone I knew, I didn't waste time feeling bad over it. In fact, I used it as an excuse to eat massive meals. My college was a technical school for fashion and freshman weight aside, everyone there was runway ready. These girls were so spectacular looking that at times it didn't seem like I was a peer of theirs. They were so pretty that my guy friends from high school would come by and sit in my dorm lobby to pick up girls. My college friends were obsessed with exercising and at that time there wasn't a term for it. Now it's called anorexia athletica, which I agree sounds strange. When I would bring up the idea to friends that maybe we were going too far with the exercise the response I received was classic. I was told my college paled in comparison to the food exploits at other schools. I was told that The University of Amherst in Massachusetts was having continued plumbing problems because of the amount of acid-filled vomit coursing through them on account of purging girls. I believed this.
After college graduation, I entered the real world of ten-hour days and skipped lunches. In my mind skipping meals showed how hard I was working. If I stopped for an hour to eat a sandwich I could be perceived as weak. This should have been a warning that I could end up with an eating disorder, but it went unnoticed. I loved working in fashion and don't recall ever worrying about my size. I never compared myself to other women and whether I received a compliment from anyone on how I looked was the least of my cares. Hard to believe that was the case since currently, I spend all day thinking about my weight and comparing myself to others.
I moved to Hawaii in 2001 after the Attacks on the World Trade Center. I made this move without having ever stepped into Hawaii, without any friends, a place to live, or work. It took a full year to find a safe residence and become gainfully employed. I had almost no money at this time and was purchasing so little to eat that it was sometimes hard to get food down because it didn't feel natural. Those were tough years because I never knew how much money I had for food. However, if I saw photographs of myself, even with constant stomach pain, I loved how I looked. I was likely doing something terrible to my body by starving it several days a week.
I only noticed that I had a sick relationship with food 15 years ago at age 37. Since that time I have self-diagnosed myself as a disordered eater. Unlike anorexia nervosa, after I binge I don't vomit. Instead, I experience large amounts of shame. To reduce the shame I have recently started to tell people that I have an eating disorder. I get points for honesty, but telling people you murdered someone still leaves you a murderer. Bad example?
Not every disordered eating sufferer expresses their sickness the same way. Maybe I had a bad or a good day and I want to celebrate. There are also times when I'm lonely and feel like self-medicating. While shoving chocolate cookies down my gullet, I come up with reasons to excuse this behavior. I could be shooting up meth or hanging out with the wrong crowd. Instead, I'm just having an enormous snack that won't harm anyone other than myself. I've considered seeking treatment or at least seeing a therapist who specializes in eating disorders. The truth is I have a tad of many psychological conditions for which I don't seek treatment. In the end, I spend a ton of money on food that's gone within hours and replaced by a serious stomach ache and shame.