Eating disorders are bad. What comes after, though, can be a hell of a lot worse.
First of all, there’s the food. You actually have to eat it this time, and you know that, but it doesn’t make the feeling of a full stomach any better. No more surviving off of three rice cakes and an apple for two days — trust me, your grocery bill is going to go way up.
Not to mention the fact that you have to deal with your problems again. After a fight with your friends or family, you can’t just throw up and automatically feel better. What used to be your own comforting, private hell of calories, exercise, and pounds has turned into the everyday issues of friendship drama, money problems, and worst of all, your uncertain future. Yeah, you can’t just count on the eating disorder to do you in after college anymore; now it’s time to catch up on all that planning for a career and a 401k you ignored while trying to only eat broth for a semester.
You have to deal with people again, too. An eating disorder is a great excuse to stay in for the evening instead of going out for dinner with that friend you haven’t seen in a while and don’t really like. You didn’t even feel bad, because seriously, even the salads at that place have bacon in them — do you even know how many calories are in that? And throwing up an expensive meal feels even worse than a cheap one.
You start to look back fondly on the good old days, when you were too exhausted to notice how boring work can be. You could count on the scale for a pleasant surprise every morning — well, most mornings at least, when you were at your best. Let’s not think about those other mornings, after a huge family meal or a drunken McDonald’s feast, when that little digital number reduced you to a sobbing mess. No, most of the time, waking up and running to see what you weighed was the best part of the day, like a little present –- really, a whole pound lost? You shouldn’t have!
Don’t forget about the clothes, either. Sure, maybe a few will still fit, but what about those size 24 designer jeans, the ones you couldn’t wait to have falling off your bony little hips? They’ll have to go, along with all the pictures you saved on your computer of stick-thin, slightly emo teenagers -– both deemed “unhealthy” for you to have around. All of a sudden, you’ll have to try things on again, instead of just grabbing the smallest size and then complaining that it’s just swimming on you (even if you were smiling with glee on the inside).
And, of course, there’s the envy. Every time you pass a skinny twig of a girl (never mind that she’s 13 and hasn’t hit puberty), every time a friend says she’s on a diet, every time you go out to eat and see the woman next to you picking at a salad. You, on the other hand, are wolfing down a cheeseburger because you can’t even remember the last time you allowed yourself to eat one, so long you forgot how damn good they taste, and the fries, too. But no matter how delicious every bite is, that salad-picker is still enough to send you into seething fits of jealous anger. This is also known as a childish temper tantrum: why can’t I go on a diet? It’s not fair!
Because it’s never fair, and it won’t ever be fair again. Once, everything made perfect, ordered sense of calories in vs. calories out, but now you have to make a conscious effort not to check the fat content of your canned soup. While other women get to kill themselves at the gym and gloat about how slim their thighs are getting, you have to watch yourself, and make sure that you’re only going for short runs at modest speeds — nothing to gloat about, sadly. And, no matter how many of your friends decide to lose 10 pounds after New Years, you are absolutely not allowed to agree with them, for that way lies madness. And more hospital bills.
Nothing is quite so easy or fair anymore. But hopefully, one day, you’ll be able to turn on MTV and wrinkle your nose at how old/ scary/ downright sad that twig-thin reality star looks, and know that you’re actually okay. One day, not even the slim plastic mannequins in storefront windows will make you collapse into a jealous, angry heap, and one day, you’ll order that hamburger and eat it slowly, joyfully, just because you want to.
That has to happen eventually, right?