Trying to Lose Weight While Recovering From an Eating Disorder

When I tell people I’m trying to lose weight, they all feel the need to share their own opinions about how they think I should go about doing it: juice cleanses, special diets, cutting out all junk food, going vegetarian, exercising a whole bunch, etc.

It’s not that I’m grateful for their advice–I am. But most of them fail to take into account one detail: I’m a recovering Anorexic.

So what? some might say.

The point is losing weight healthily is hard enough without factoring in the fact that once I lost weight very unhealthily, and it’s so easy to fall back into that destructive pattern of behavior.

As a recovering Anorexic, I am acutely aware of two things:

  1. I cannot want to lose weight because I hate how I look because the last time I tried that, my life spiraled out of control for about 5 years–Being thinner became an obsession; I would be happier if I was Thin.
  2.  I cannot cut foods out of my diet because I want to restrict calories because I remember one summer when I ate nothing but a handful of crackers a day for weeks, subsisting on chewing gum and Mt. Dew.

And because of these two things this weight loss journey has been tough. I’ve started and restarted so many times. I’ve stopped because I’ve become discouraged and have seen myself falling into destructive patterns–skipping meals (never a good idea because it’s so easy to fall back into that habit), hating how I looked (causing me to push myself way harder than I should have).

This time, though, it’s different. After struggling with my self-image and self-worth for so long, I’m finally at that point where I am comfortable enough with who I am as a person that it doesn’t matter to me how I look.  I know that doesn’t make sense, but hear me out. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a low opinion of myself–it started with bullying, and then got worse after I was raped. I started starving myself because I wanted to acontrol one thing in my life.

I thought my value was based on my weight, that it was inversely proportional: the less I weighed, the more I was worth.

After years of trying to recover my sense of worth and trying to find my identity, I now know that my value lies in who I am as a human being, and not in how much I weigh. I am beautiful because of who I am, and not what I look like.

It is for that reason that I know I am ready for this journey of weight loss because I know I’m doing it for the right reasons–trying to be my best self– and not for the wrong reasons–trying to make myself more valuable.

It’s been a month since I started this journey. It’s been a month of sore muscles, burning lungs, unmotivated mornings, and days where I’d rather do anything else. But, for the most part, (minus a few days I took off for a leg injury), it’s been a month of five-day-workout weeks.

It’s been a month of making healthy choices: choosing salads over microwaved burritos, drinking water over sugary drinks, taking more vegetables and less meat. But it’s also been a month of eating microwaved burritos, drinking sugary drinks, and eating meats. It’s been a month of limiting myself rather than denying myself.

So far, I’ve lost about 12 pounds, which may not seem like a lot, but to me, it’s huge. And it may not look like a lot, but I feel so much more confident than I have in ages. And isn’t that what this is all about anyway?

Tonight for dinner I had a greasy cheeseburger with bacon, fries, and an Oreo Milkshake. And I’m ok with that, not because I had a salad for lunch and yogurt for breakfast.

I’m ok with that because life is too short to deny myself simple pleasures. I’m working on becoming my best self and the road to that is paved with leafy greens, greasy cheeseburgers, and lots of cardio.

I’ve discovered it’s easier to make healthy choices when you love who you are. And I love who I am.

 

 

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Your Body is not your own

Your body is not yours.

The first time you realize this you are on vacation with your family. You are at the beach and girls in bikinis and boys without shirts run across the sand. Suddenly your one-piece bathing suit feels too tight, too revealing, as it points out the imperfections you are trying to hide. This is the first time you only eat part of your sandwich.

The second time you realize this is first day of High School when you realize that all the friends you had are now to cool to hang out with you. They are taller now, thinner, and their perfectly tanned bodies glisten and glow with each sashay of their hips as they walk. Now only eating part of your sandwich is habit.

The third time you realize this will be the day you are looking for a Prom Dress. You want to look like a Princess but the crown was placed on somebody else’s head. While everyone else is fitting into their little dresses, you are too big. You grab a dress that could make the cut if the Beauty Pageant judge was blind in one eye and liked whales. And as you make your way down the aisle to the dressing room to squeeze into a dress, you try not to get your hopes up, because everything falls sometimes.

When your mother asks to see you, you tell her there is a mirror in the room.

Your body is not yours. It is the four white walls they built to enclose you as you try not to stare at the image looking back at you—an image who is four sizes too big  to be beautiful, with a throat that has forgotten what delicious tastes like, and a mouth that has forgotten how to form the word “beautiful.”

The fourth time is Prom Night. And while everybody else is enjoying themselves, the only thing you can think about is the way the fabric feels around you, hoping it covers the parts you hate the most, the way the gazes feel around you as people try to figure out what you are doing there, because you don’t belong. You can’t forget the way your stomach heaves when you breathe, so you hold in your breath.

Your lungs forget how to do their job.

There will be a fifth time, and a sixth time, and an “I’ve done this so many times I’ve lost track” time. You will be at the grocery store checkout line wishing your face to be on the bodies of perfection. And no matter how many times you airbrush out your imperfections, your body will still be so far from perfect that perfect has forgotten your name.

Your body is confined by price tags and bar codes and beauty treatments you think you need. Your body is a slave to society so you count how many calories society has allocated for you.

Your body is not yours. Because the money you save from not buying ice-cream will be spent on a scale to figure out how much you’re worth. Your body is the portion of food left untouched, the calorie count on the pack of chips you don’t deserve, and it all amounts to the size tag on the back of your dress.

Weight equals mass times gravity, and you learn this in physics, but you understand it when the bathroom floor pulls you against its cold, flat surface after you’ve emptied last night’s calories. Because you have too much body, and you have long since memorized your relationship with numbers. Your value is inversely proportional to your body.

Your body is not yours. It’s the mirror on the wall, the pieces on the floor, and you know all the laws and reactions governing this puzzle, but the one thing you do not know is how society could have let you devalue yourself to accommodate others. Your body is not yours. It’s generations of society defining perfection as a dress size.

And all you want to do is regain control of your mind and tell society that you have value, because your heart is too big for a little body.

 

This poem is a continuation of my last poem “Accidental Inheritance.” 

Accidental Inheritance

In her kitchen, my Grandmother prepares enough food for a small army, which is more than enough food for our 13-person family. She’s not afraid of food, but so many people are.

Sitting in the dining hall, I watch young women count the calories. They say they don’t deprive themselves, but my instinct tells me better. I’ve learned to find hidden meanings in every movement of the fork pushing the food around their plate, in every held back tear as they take one more bite. I wonder if they eat when no one’s around.

I wonder if this is why the world feels so big: it’s proportional. As girls shrink to fit themselves in the box labeled “perfection” by society, the unoccupied space around them increases exponentially. This world seems increasingly vast.

And it’s not that we are scared of food, because our lineages are intermingled with stories of big, strong women who knew how to eat. As humans, we are genetically-bred to love food, but we’re not bred to love ourselves. This world is focused on obesity and malnutrition, plenty and need, excess and want.

And somewhere in our history women were taught they were lesser without a man, and men only wanted women without excess fat.  Somewhere in our lineage, excess women turned into less women: shrinking women made space for men to enter their lives.

I have been taught that everything’s better in moderation, but I’ve learned not to accommodate others if it means devaluing myself. We’ve been taught to have a relationship with food. A love-hate relationship: love the taste, hate the calories.

The world needs more confident women. Women who know that they are beautiful despite being excess, women who know how to exude confidence when they open their mouth, women who know how to mix the words they speak into the food they eat to fill everyone up. Women who don’t begin every sentence with “sorry.”

The previous generation teaches the next generation, and even though genes are inherited, behaviors are replicated, which is why I don’t know how to knit. But I can still feel the silence weaved by the previous generation onto this collective blanket of “Topics Society does not talk about.” This blanket feels heavy as it covers this ever-growing world.

And we unknowingly pick up the habits of society when we deem somebody less because they are excess. And we pick up the crumbs of food dropped by a fugitive stealing food she does not deserve. We are prisoners to society.

I watch these girls as they figure out how many bites they are entitled to, and I’ve learned to mimic them. Because sometimes inheritance is genetic, but sometimes it’s accidental, and while I try so hard to unlearn this learned behavior, a girl more perfect than I walks by. I don’t know whether to hate her or be like her, but I don’t want to do either anymore.

We don’t want to do either anymore, but the burden of society has wrapped us up tight, which is why we don’t know the requirements we need to graduate, but we know how many more calories we can eat.

Because we spend an entire lunch time deciding whether or not we deserve another piece of pizza, a circular obsession we never wanted, but have accidentally inherited.

And all we want to do is not start every sentence with the word “sorry.”

 

see also: https://alltherestisunwritten.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/game-of-comparisons/    AND https://alltherestisunwritten.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/your-body-is-not-your-own/

 

Monsters: A poem within a poem

As Children we looked under our beds for monsters. Our monsters hid in closets. They lay in wait for the flick of the switch to conceal the room in total, utter, all-consuming darkness. Monsters that didn’t really exist, and that were really nothing more than shadows transformed into hideous beings by our overactive imaginations.

“Daddy! Daddy! There’s a monster!”

Somehow between the ages of naivety and experience, the monsters created by the imagination changed into monsters no imagination could create. Monsters hiding in the recesses of our soul until moments of weakness signals the beginning of feeding time—a feeding time that puts all the troops on high alert:

Watch out, there’s an invader. But the invader is only a darker version of ourselves threatening to destroy us. And the battlefield is our body: we are protecting our bodies from ourselves. Because the mind is a dangerous place, especially the mind of a tormented soul who doesn’t know how to deal with the pain.

And cries of “Daddy! Daddy! There’s a monster!” won’t save you this time.

The cries won’t save you from the battle raging on in your mind for control of your body. A battle that is best exemplified by a poem in the diary of a young girl who has just started fighting, a girl who has been so consumed by self-hate that she began cutting to stop the thought of ending her life.

An unnamed poem that reads:

Looking in the mirror, a tear stained face stares back at her.

She sees the hurt in her eyes.

Flashbacks of memories from the life shoe once lived control her mind;

She closes her eyes and the memories come flooding in.

Worthless. Worthless.

Ugly. Ugly.

Lying in her bed at night, she’s reached the breaking point.

Delirious from the tears, subconsciously her hands grab the scissors.

Slash.

The warm crimson blood trickles out of the newly made wound on her abdomen.

It stings like a slap in the face.

But it provides a temporary release for the pain, the anger.

Slash:

Another one.

This time on the wrist—

A cut that feels like it’s on fire.

She opens her eyes.

She looks in the mirror for a second time.

She dries her tears.

She covers her recently created marks of all-consuming self-hate.

She walks out the door to start her day.

That day’s battles will leave her with two more scars.

But the poem doesn’t have to end that way. Your story doesn’t have to end that way. The monsters don’t have to win. A simple asterisk with an alternate ending turns the poem to a happy one:

She looks in the mirror for a second time.

She dries her tears, turns around, and walks away;

She leaves the person she was behind.

She’s stronger now.

All that’s left are the scars and the memories of those long, sleepless nights.

You’re stronger now.

I’m stronger now.

We’re all stronger now.