I’m Italian. I’m Genetically-bred to love food.
My mind, however, once believed food to be my enemy.
You see, throughout High School and into my first year of College, I had an Eating Disorder. (For those keeping track at home, that’s 5 Thanksgivings.)
Thanksgiving is literally the worst time to have an Eating Disorder. It’s a day about giving thanks. It’s a day dedicated to eating food, and for people like me who tend to avoid eating food at all costs, it’s a day dedicated to our worst nightmare. It’s like diving into shark infested waters when you’re terrified of sharks. It’s a special kind of hell.
You’re surrounded by food all the time. You feel guilty for not eating the food. You feel guilty for eating food. It’s the everlasting battle between being told to eat and telling yourself you don’t deserve to eat. You want to eat the turkey, but you don’t want to be compared to the turkey.
Your stomach is telling you to eat, but your mind is telling you, “Nah, bro. No good.” And how can you argue with that? You know what they say: Mind over matter. Or in this case: Mind over stomach growling. It’s finding the perfect balance between how much you want to eat and how much you’re willing to let yourself eat. It’s about taking one bite at a time until you hate yourself so much you can’t take another bite. And then it’s about repeating this action over and over.
And every year I thought to myself, “How am I supposed to be thankful when I want to change everything about who I am? I don’t match society’s idea of beauty and therefore, have nothing to be thankful for. How am I supposed to make it through this grand feast when I can barely eat a bird’s amount of breakfast?”
They’re valid thoughts. How is anybody supposed to be thankful when they are so depressed they can’t get out of bed in the morning? How is anybody supposed to be thankful when they find so little value in themselves they don’t eat? Because really, the only thing I’m capable of feeling is nothing.
For some people it’s hard to hide Anorexia. For me it was easy. I’ve never eaten a lot, so when I took smaller portions, it was easy for me to take a few bites and leave the rest, because my plate would have the same amount of food left as it normally did. I would eat just enough to stop my stomach from growling, enough to quench the hunger, but not enough to feel stuffed.
I don’t know how many people in my family knew.
And when people ask me why? I respond: I felt like my whole life was out of control. So, I tried to control the one thing I could: how much I ate.
And I don’t know when things began to change. I didn’t wake up one day and decide to start eating. And I don’t know why I had the sudden change of mind. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide I was worth enough to eat. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide I was beautiful. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide my life was back in control, because it’s not. I don’t have my life controlled. At all.
All I know is somewhere between then and now I started eating again.
So, this year when Thanksgiving rolled around, I decided to make a list of things I am Thankful for (which can be read here).
This year I was actually excited to eat lots of food.
So, I did.
This year I had two Thanksgivings. This year I ate a lot of food at both. This year I didn’t feel guilty. This year I took too much food instead of not enough. And if that’s not something to be thankful for, I don’t know what is.
Because, yes, I still felt like a turkey when I was done eating. But I didn’t hate it. Because I realized that despite what society tells me: I am beautiful. And that’s enough reason to eat.