That One Time I Sort-Of-Kind-Of Had an Eating Disorder

I wasn’t really good at anorexia. I lack the will power or self-hatred to really starve myself. I gave it a shot though. I lost 40 pounds off my pretty average frame when I was 15. I was never a Cassie Ainsworth or that Emma chick from Degrassi, I was never hospitalized and never spent hours picking granola out of my yogurt. But it happened.

Dark humor aside, I was really very lucky. I did Intro to Anorexia and several years later I rarely if ever find myself reliving the glory – I mean, terrifyingly self destructive – days. I stopped eating because I wanted to lose weight. What I didn’t understand is that eating disorders aren’t really about weight kind of like rape isn’t really about sex. Maybe these ideas are all conflicting. Good. They should be, because that’s what it’s like to stop eating.

One the one hand, you know you need food to survive. You also know that anorexia is a bad idea, that it sends you to the hospital and kills you and makes you crazy. Actually, I’m not sure if at age 15 I knew that anorexia drives you crazy. I’m not sure I noticed my mentality start to change. Those things are always more subtle than you expect them to be. Like, maybe it’s crazy to try and find things to stick down your throat so you can throw up your last meal and feel only disappointment when it doesn’t work. Maybe.

But the most important knowledge is that you lose weight when you don’t eat. You know that being skinny means looking gorgeous in whatever you wear, having attention all the time, having power. You know it in the way we fanatically know things that we worry might not actually be true.

I should explain here what I meant by saying I wasn’t good at anorexia. I by no means wish to undermine the experiences of individuals whose experiences were like mine. I’m aware of the fact that many people experience eating disorders the same way I did, and between all of us there is a very large scale of how badly we hurt ourselves, how badly we were traumatized, and how seriously we take it years later.

At the same time, I don’t wish to say that my experiences were as serious as the Cassie Ainsworths of the world, or that anorexia is something someone should get over just like I did. Maybe I just went through a phase that many teenagers go through. Either way, it sucked. My experiences were mine and no one else’s, but here they are.

With anorexia you can’t spend time with people. People offer you food. Or maybe they’ll eat in front of you. So I stopped going to friend’s houses. Losing friends seemed like an easier option than struggling over whether or not to accept some Oreos as an after school snack.

With anorexia, feeling full is an emotion. It combines many – regret, shame, contempt, embarrassment, and a very distinct hatred of yourself for failing. It is the opposite emotion of “feeling thin,” which is airy and delicate and glorious. You can take the world by storm when you feel thin, just so long as you don’t succumb to a candy bar or something.

With anorexia, hunger is an abstract. I don’t really feel hunger anymore. The day I moved into my college dorm my mom and I didn’t eat until evening. She was irritable, had a headache, felt tired. I didn’t understand why she was being so dramatic. Now I realize that not eating is supposed to make you feel something other than an increased enthusiasm in dessert items.

With anorexia, you eat a lot sometimes. You can’t stop yourself from eating. I kept going until my stomach hurt almost every time I ate. This was interspersed with days of eating pretty much nothing.

With anorexia, you’re terrified of being caught. You work hard so no one notices, but they probably do. My friends did. One has brought it up, but we didn’t use the word “Anorexia,” because only crazy people are “Anorexic,” right?

These are your options, when you starve yourself: you can start eating again or you can keep on eating less and less.

If you start eating again, you are lucky. Maybe you will go to a summer camp that you love for several weeks, and because people are with you at every meal, you will have to eat. You will hate yourself every time you stand on a scale for a while, but then you will start to realize what anorexia really is and that it’s not beautifully tragic or strong and self-willed but that it’s actually a really fucked up way to hurt yourself. You will replace being crazy about your weight with being crazy about your grades, and you will get into college. You’ll gain weight. This will not make you less beautiful.

If you keep on eating less and less, you will eventually die. You probably have a weight goal set for yourself. This is bullshit and you know it, because as soon as you meet that goal you will make another one. And by the way, anorexia is not a beautiful way to die. It’s pretty fucking ugly, actually.

There is no pride or strength or glory in anorexia. Starving yourself to be beautiful is a false concept we convince ourselves is truth because it’s easier than believing that beauty is accomplished in confidence and ability and finding clothes that don’t cut across you in weird ways. Or even convincing ourselves that beauty is not nearly as important as being funny or creative or really good at sex. Or whatever.

So, if you’re starving yourself because you think it will make you beautiful, stop it. Or at least stop telling yourself that beauty is what you’re after. TC mark

image – Janine


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  • Dan

    Eating disorders are just so overrated these days. There are better, healthier ways to lose weight than starving. Go on Tumblr, and see just how many pathetic tumblogs there are about anorexia and bulimia, it's disgusting. And worse, it's encouraged and seen as something to be proud of. “Oh look at me, I can count all my bones without trying too hard.” And what's funny is that a lot of these girls lose weight so they can get guys, but then when they reach their goal weights of “skeleton,” no guy in his right mind wants that.

    • No

      This is so completely off-base, I don't even know where to begin. “Eating disorders are so overrated”? No. I would say eating disorders are so underrated, they have become commonplace. Borderline “acceptable”. Yes, there are ridiculous “pro-ana/mia” tumblogs, but I would say that, for good majority of people actually suffering with the disease, it is an isolating and extraordinarily private struggle. Anorexia isn't about “losing weight to get a guy” and the perpetuation of that mentality is in a large way responsible for why a life-threatening illness is seen as another fad diet for superficial teenage girls in today's society. Pull your head out of your ass. Fuck.

      • Dan

        I don't see it as a disease, I see it as a privileged white girl problem. “Oh no I'm overweight so I'm gonna pretend I have an actual problem and write all about it and wah wah wah.” You're not changing my opinion of it, so don't bother.

      • No

        Because “oh no, I'm bored and insecure so I'm going make myself feel better by waxing poetica on the internet about something that I can't even begin to understand” is so admirable? I feel sad for you and your ignorance. Go waste your time elsewhere.

      • Dan

        How am I insecure? I don't need to have anorexia to know that it's idiotic. Kinda like how you don't have to be retarded to know it sucks being a retard.

      • No

        Actually, you make a good point. I don't have to be mentally handicapped to know that they endure a terrific struggle and sympathize with it. The same way that you don't have to be anorexic to know that anorexic people endure a terrific struggle and sympathize with it. 
        I've been entertaining this conversation because I think that it's important that people see these misinformed/uninformed viewpoints being addressed, but now I'm tired of feeding the troll and I have better things to get to.

      • Dan

        Alright, and I'm gonna go eat a tasty burger and other awesome food.

      • paulie

        you're pretty lucky to have never known someone who's had one, then.

      • valentine_kitchenson

        It's a mental illness, Dan. You can say it's idiotic, but you're insulting a lot of people out there. Do you think anorexics CHOOSE to be sick, to slowly die, to look so awful? Indirectly, yes, but have a little empathy. If you have nothing positive to contribute, please remove yourself from this thread!

    • No

      I mean, did you even *read* the article? “What I didn’t understand is that eating disorders aren’t really about weight kind of like rape isn’t really about sex.”

    • Bema

      I want to commend you for trivializing the plight of women.

      • jj

        Um, men get eating disorders too.

      • Bema

        And he was talking about hypothetical women who develop eating disorders to attract men.

        Not about men with eating disorders. That's not the topic at hand, that's not the focus of the article. -> There was no need to remind us of a common fact.

      • jj

        How are you any less of a jackass than the guy you're criticizing?

    • faith

      ANOREXIC GIRLS DO NOT GIVE A FUCK ABOUT MEN. By the time you're skinny enough to stop having your period your sex drive is gone, your hormones no longer in working condition. 
      The human body will use the calories it is fed to fuel the most important organs first so the sex organs are pretty fucking dormant for however long the girl stays far enough underweight.

    • danxposed
      • Dan

        Good job finding my Facebook. However, I don't see the point in you linking it, you can't really do anything unless you're my friend on it, and I don't accept random adds. So yeah, you fail.

      • Pfft

        no wonder you have no friends.

      • Dan

        I have 132 on Facebook, and 95% of those I know in real life. I can't say the same for most people with a FB account.

  • A.

    “With anorexia, feeling full is an emotion. It is the opposite emotion of “feeling thin.”” I think this was well written, and hit most major points of a not-really-anorexic point of view, without being really offensive (which articles on this subject usually are). Hopefully even people who aren't struggling with this will understand that anorexia is more about something else than just losing weight and it's just a facade for some underlying cause.

  • Michael Koh

    I had one too. Friends called it 'manorexia'

  • Jaclyn

    Dan, you clearly don't understand the psychological logistics behind an eating disorder, and so by saying girls become anorexic “to get guys”, you're demonstrating just how very ignorant you are. Go complain about something you know two cents about.

  • Kelsey

    ending is weak in this article, but i like your comment to dan, no. it is never about getting a guy. anorexia tends to make you feel disgusting and the less you think about men, the easier it is not to eat. it is a selfish disease yes, but its soooo not about men. also, men have anorexia fucktard. so according to you, only gay men have anorexia?

    • Dan

      Generally yeah, because only gay men care that much about their weight to be anorexic. Most normal guys do something like go to the gym or just diet, y'know?

      • MARTIN


      • valentine_kitchenson

        Haven't you ever heard of wrestlers?

      • ferr

        Most normal girls do too. We're talking about anorexic ones though.

      • Sophie

        Gay guys = totally NOT “normal guys.”  *rolls eyes*

      • Dan

        Gay guys are closer to girls than to guys, so yeah they're not normal guys. Normal guys don't fantasize about assfucking other dudes.

      • Meg

        They're not normal? So you're implying they're strange or some sort of alien species? 

        They're the minority, but they're perfectly normal.

      • Dan

        They are strange in their ways. They subvert thousands of years of normality with their own little ways. Guys are supposed to get with girls, that's how society functions.

      • Pfft

        grow up fuckface.

      • Dan

        Stop sucking left-wing cock, fuckface.

      • not hungry for your ignorance

        someone give this kid some judith butler to read.

      • Dan

        Why would I want to read some liberal's propaganda? Reading about queers isn't going to make me like them any more. It'll only make me hate them more.

  • Filippa

    “With anorexia, hunger is an abstract. I don’t really feel hunger anymore.” This is true! I never understand what my friends are talking about when they say they're “so hungry”. Instead of feeling hunger and eating regularly, I'm high on adrenaline. I just wish I didn't have to eat and sleep all the time. It's a pain. I don't see any point in eating, I find no joy whatsoever in eating good food. My brain doesn't recognize what my friends recognize as endorphines after eating. 

    My eating disorders stem from my history of sexual abuse, and has nothing to do with wanting to lose weight. I try hard every day to eat enough calories, but I don't seem to gain weight. Sexual abuse –> self hatred. I guess there are people who “develop” eating disorders as a lifestyle or whatever, but that has nothing to do with eating disorders as a coping mechanism for self hatred/stress/trauma. By the way– I never understand when people don't recognize EDs as a disease? Sure, maybe some people label their “diet” as an ED, but EDs are REAL to those who suffer from it. I know that my body suffers greatly, and I want to be normal like everybody else, but I'm not there yet. I do not CHOOSE to suffer from EDs, I do my best to AVOID it. Some people don't think ADHD exists– OK maybe you don't agree with the fact that there is a diagnosis known as ADHD– but the symptoms of ADHD are REAL to people with ADHD! DUH!!!

  • deadwr0ng

    got weaker and weaker at the article went on

  • Catt

    “With anorexia, hunger is an abstract. I don’t really feel hunger anymore. “

    That hit home.

    “With anorexia, you eat a lot sometimes. You can’t stop yourself from eating.”

    That too. It's like, I don't realize I'm hungry until I'm in a situation where I must eat or else someone will notice I'm not. Then I suddenly am ravenous and can't stop eating whatever I'm eating.

  • D.

    It has NOTHING to do with willpower. This is the biggest misconception of all. It's a MENTAL ILLNESS.  Gosh, I wish mine had been just an adolescent “phase.”

    • faith

      It has to do with control which has A LOT to do with willpower. It is a mental illness, but it does have to do with will power. The sufferer is WILLING them self into an unhealthy cycle.
      Its all about control. Anorexia is about exercising a fucked up sort of control over something because you can't control other things.
       And the article is partially about not wanting to call yourself anorexic because anorexic girls are “crazy' which explains the way the author called it a “phase”.

      • Filippa

        Nah, I would say it's more about not having enough will power to STOP, not continue.

      • spiritinquire

        Thanks Filippa, this clarifies what I am trying to say.
        Perhaps in the beginning you are trying to lose weight and eat less, but what happens with the illness over time is you become so afraid of food and it makes you feel sick. You need willpower to get yourself to stick to recovery even when it feels horrible. For someone who is anorexic, it's easier NOT to eat. Hunger cues shut off. This is where people get confused.

        For a lot of people it has to do with wanting to be in control, but for me it had to do with feeling unsafe as a woman.

        It's a lot more complex of a disorder than your intro to psych book makes it sound.

  • lee

    i kinda had the same thing, but it was from anxiety.  my family had a really rough time the latter half of 2010, and when things began to pick up this january, i began eating normally again – without going to “summer camp.”  more recently, like the past 4 weeks, i've just fallen into that habit again – of not being hungry and not eating.  not even from anxiety or purposefully – i'm just not eating very much.  i have developed a weird sense of accomplishment in myself from losing a bit of weight, though.  but when food is put in front of me, i'll eat it til i get tired of it or feel like i've had enough.  it can be candy or fried food, i'm not even nit-picky about it.  just the thought of over-eating in general is kinda revolting.
    it's a little scary if this is an “anorexic” mindset – so i hope this doesn't count as a “sort of kind of” eating disorder.

    and i'm not underweight or anything – i'm about 9 or 10 lbs away from being so. i'm just average. if i did get underweight, i'd prob start force-feeding myself. yuck, i don't wanna get there.

  • paulie

    It's not a disease, it's a mental disorder as classified by the DSM-IV

    • Anonymousse

      is there a difference?

      • angelikap

        Yes.  People in the medical establishment tend to not use the word disease because it has negative connotations, ie especially that disordered thinking is contagious/ disgusting in some way. Because quite frankly people suffering from mental health issues have already got quite enough to worry about, dontcha reckon?

        It's similar to how we don't say manic depression anymore, because the word's 'manic' and 'mania' are now seen as stigmatising. Also, people who work in mental health are also now told not to say for example “a schizophrenic” but “a person suffering from schizophrenia” to avoid labelling the person and quantifying them simply as a disorder they suffer from. 

        You might think this is taking political correctness too far but just stop and remember for a moment that we still live in a society where there is a lot of stigma and negative stereotypes attached to the concept of mental illness, and although one in four of us will suffer from one at some stage negative stereotyping such as the “violent and aggressive schizophrenic” still exist (studies show that people with schizophrenia are more likely to be assaulted than they are to assault someone).

        My dad works in psych…That is all :-)

  • Shawn

    interesting insight

  • georgia

    thank you for writing this.

  • Meg

    Thank you for writing this!

    I've struggled with similar issues.

    What I think is a little blurred about this whole body image, anorexia, eating disorder issue, is determining WHEN it is an issue. If you're going through it, or your friend is going through it, it's hard to say “Well this is a problem” if the person doesn't look like they're dying. I always felt dramatic or silly feeling like it was a problem because well, I didn't REALLY have a problem like REAL anorexics.

    But obviously this fine line between eating disorder and whatever is on the other side of that line, is something really painful even when the person doesn't waste away to 60 pounds. 

    It's tricky.

  • Dan

    Oh you liberals, you're all so entertaining with your political correctness and tolerance of anything and everything. Funny how you're all “tolerant” and then when somebody with an opposing opinion comes along, it's all “get out, go die.” Then again, when haven't liberals been hypocrites. Oh and since you guys are all so okay with homosexuality, are human + animal relationships next? I can almost see you guys in a couple years protesting for the right of humans to fuck animals legally.

    Thanks for providing my daily dose of entertainment, guys. Keep it coming.

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