When you’ve been an eating disordered thinker, it never leaves you, really. Moments of high stress, body chemistry changes, lifestyle changes, disasters, and other inevitable “life-y” things, can bring you right back to face those demons you thought you left behind you.
Winter 2010. I lay there, gorged, bloated, my stomach swelled like a tick, with a full salad, four hunks of garlic cheese bread, a Mediterranean calzone, and a huge double (or maybe even triple) slice of chocolate cake. I was hungover from a night of drinking with friends (5-6 vodka-sodas and maybe even a beer or two). I felt disgusting, loathsome, too full, but I was too afraid of barfing to become a bulimic.
“Tomorrow,” I vowed to myself. “Tomorrow I will change. I will stop eating like this. I will exercise. I will quit drinking so much.”
I ate because, deep down, I felt lonely. Here I was, a fat girl, in Los Angeles, a town full of pretty people. I went out with all of my skinny, pretty friends, and, while I whooped it up and tried to enjoy myself, I always felt as though I would never really fit in. I wasn’t pretty enough to be loved. I was just this fatty, along for the ride.
When I got Sheila, my Beagle, the ache of loneliness subsided for a bit, as the unconditional love of a pet, especially a rescue, is one of the most special loves in existence, but it didn’t get to the root of my problem, and soon reality sunk in once again. I ate to help soothe the pain, to fill the emptiness inside. Of course, by eating, I only further enhanced the part of me that I thought made me so unlovable, my weight.
Binging is like any other addiction, except, in some ways, worse. You can’t just stop eating, cold turkey. It’s like telling an alcoholic to learn to stop at one drink. Plus, food is everywhere, it’s accessible. People bring it to work to “share” with everyone. My old boss would go to Costco and buy boxes, bags and barrels of candy and processed snacks for the office. Temptation, all day long, every day, and the weak, physically addicted, and emotionally damaged are supposed to have the iron willpower to say “No”?
So, like any addict, I had to get “good and sick of it.” I had to wake up at my lowest hour and decide it was time to quit. I think my “bottom” came when I decided to kick off my weekend “binge-o-rama” with two cans of frosting and two unfrosted cakes. I consumed entire packages of mac and cheese, pizza, cookies, nuts. I ate enough for an entire party of people. There I was, a party of one, and no where to go but up.
It wasn’t long before I quietly decided to make small changes. My vows of “Tomorrow I will do everything healthfully” hadn’t worked thus far. So, I made small changes. I was flexible. And slowly, slowly, I changed.
For me, this relationship is not about perfection. I can’t promise myself that. To this day, in a moment of feeling misunderstood or lonely, I might reach into the cupboard for a little bit of edible comfort. I might go through quarter of a package of Trader Joe’s S’Mores Bites because, dammit, I need the serotonin boost, and it is too enjoyable to stop myself…but I stop. In the end, I stop. I stop because I know I’m not perfect, but I love myself.
I love myself enough to understand what happiness really is, and where to find it, and through all of the boxes and bags, the crumbs and wrappers, I know that it is not where I was looking for it before.