I keep on reading articles on the web and on this site about peoples’ struggles with eating disorders and semi sob stories and recovery. I don’t think recovery ever really happens. It’s a rosy depiction of something that sticks with you your whole life. I had a stage of what is “technically” anorexia around 13, when my pediatrician told me I was in the same weight class as starving African children and I fist pumped to myself. I knew it was awful, but anorexia is a sickness that leads to irrational thoughts like that. I eventually put on some weight and everyone got off of my back about it and I just realized it was annoying to let my eating habits affect other people.
Still, I have an ingrained anxiety about food. It’s not an eating disorder per se but it’s definitely a disordered eating pattern at this point. For example, a few weekends ago I was drunk and ate a late night slice of pizza and then went to bed. The next day, I felt as if acid was coming up from my stomach into my throat and burning it. I thought I was over the type of anxiety a slice of pizza would give me, but I guess I overestimated myself. I tend to manifest my anxieties into my body which is known as somatization. I may not be considered anorexic anymore and I may have lightened up all of my rules about food but there are certain anxieties that remain.
I also feel the same type of sickness if I eat a decent amount of food at any point in the daytime. If I ate a sandwich for lunch, I would feel sick for the rest of the day. It’s really sad phrasing my issues like that but I’ve just learned to accept them. I don’t keep constant tallies of the calories consumed and burned going in my head anymore because I actually need to think of other things. An eating disorder really does keep a person busy from other mental anguish. There’s no more space for the mind to wander beyond an imaginary chalkboard filled with numbers of calories.
Personally it’s never been about control for me. I just personally believe that my body looks good at a certain size. If I have to only eat one large meal a day it’s worth it. I just drink coffee with some form of calories for breakfast, then I have a bubble tea or a small salad for lunch, and then for my one full meal — whatever I want (within reason). I’m not consuming everything in sight. If I really want a certain food I let myself have it but I’m not about to eat an entire bag of chips in one sitting. It does happen though.
Most of my friends know I have issues with food. I used to avoid going to dinner or out to eat with people because I was so obsessed over what I ate. Luckily, I was 14 and you can’t really go out to eat every night if you can’t drive. I try not to discuss my anxieties about food with them because it is such a downer. It’s painful to watch a friend struggle with their own body issues when you love them exactly as they are. But sometimes loving someone does come with having to let them sort themselves out. If you are forcing recovery on someone it really makes it so much harder for them to cooperate. If it’s not a life or death situation, you need to let them figure out that an eating disorder is exhausting, especially when you’re not consuming any food. Obviously, if your friend is wasting away into nothing you should talk to their parents or whoever will get them help if they can’t do it themselves. Otherwise it doesn’t have to be that one episode of every teen show where that friend has an eating disorder and it’s a huge production.
You have to gauge your own behavior and the effects your eating disorder is having on your life experiences in order to snap out of it. If you’re traveling and won’t eat any of the local foods because you’re worried about getting fat, then you’re missing out on life. I deeply regret going to Italy and ordering steamed fish instead of pasta or whatever the specialty was because I was worried about getting fat and all of this other nonsense. Eat the damn crepe, falafel, pizza, whatever the hell it is, wherever the hell you are. You will be missing out because of your irrational fear of one meal making you fat. It’s completely impossible. You may be bloated for a few hours but it’s worth it.
And that’s what I’ve come to realize. There is a place post eating disorder that exists and I inhabit. Some weird gray area of self acceptance and self-hatred. I call it “maintenance” like they have on diet plans where you can eat normalish foods but still remain (supposedly) skinny. I am proud of my body the way it is at this point, but I still don’t really eat like a normal person. But I accept that this is the way I am and an eating disorder/disordered eating pattern shouldn’t be this whole huge focus in my life. The more you get involved with life the less an eating disorder gets involved with you.