“My boyfriend thinks I’m fat!” We can all relate to that phrase. You imagine a silly girl in the restaurant who throws her fork and shrieks this out when the waiter asks her if she would like dessert.
What a snivelly little weakling. “I could crush her,” you might be thinking.
But, if you were anything like me when I was suffering from a raging eating disorder, I have admit that I was actually far weaker than her. Rather than letting some emotions out in public where they might be aired out, exposed, and cleared, I took mine home with me. I swallowed them and hid them. Fed them and grew them. I locked the door and hugged them like a toilet.
I lived with my emotions on the inside, under a bulletproof, size-four suit. No one on the outside was ever allowed to see them, because I chose to let no one else in. I was too afraid to try that again.
“People are not to be trusted. Food is to be used as a tool. And no one will ever hurt me again.”
I had been blindsided and hurt, and my mind decided it had happened because I was fat and ugly. And I made the very poor decision that I could “fix” everything by “breaking” my food programming.
For me, it became a form of torture that brought me immense pleasure and painful bouts of overwhelming guilt and shame. It was like a drug. I was definitely addicted.
Food became no longer just a form of sustenance, something necessary that needed to be consumed a few times a day, that should’ve been chosen wisely and taken in moderation, and enjoyed. For me, it became a form of torture that brought me immense pleasure and painful bouts of overwhelming guilt and shame. It was like a drug. I was definitely addicted.
The thing that brought me the most physical pleasure was binging, but the thing that brought me the most intense mental anguish was feeling shame at the sight of my hideous, squishy body afterward and thinking it needed to be tortured back into shape.
It took years—almost two entire decades—for me to begin to approach food again with any form of trust. The very unfortunate side-effect of re-wiring your relationship with food is how pervasive and perverted it all becomes and how long it can take to unravel and heal.
Food becomes such a source of angst and anger. The terrible thing about developing a mental health issue when it comes to food is that it is an addiction you cannot so easily walk away from. Think about it. A heroine addict who wants to finally stop, get clean, and get healthy can do that by simply never doing heroine again. The cutter who wants to stop and get healthy can decide to never cut again. This same pattern applies to addicts of many things: drugs, gambling, weird foot fetishes, even sex addicts. I mean, you can stop having sex altogether if you feel it’s necessary for you to heal, but that is the one thing you cannot do with food.
The fact that food is our drug and food is necessary to fuel our bodies makes the recovery infinitely more complicated and difficult.
If you compare, say, a heroine addict with someone who suffers from an eating disorder but is trying to recover, every time we have to eat (because we have to eat), it’s like asking the heroine addict to take just a little heroine today, but not a lot. The fact that food is our drug and food is necessary to fuel our bodies makes the recovery infinitely more complicated and difficult.
Food is the worst kind of addiction because the relationship can never be fully severed. While addicts of many other things can improve their chances of staying clean by staying away from their addict friends or staying away from the casino, eating disorder victims cannot do that. Our horse track, our crack house, is the table, and we fight the battle to go there, but not do that each time we scoot up a chair to eat.
But, recovery is possible.
As an eating disorder survivor, I feel compelled to share revelations like this not only in the hope that they can help others out there who are similarly suffering from an eating disorder, but also for those who may have a friend or loved one who suffers from an eating disorder to understand the immense difficulty of it. It is a war we wage every day. It is a daily confrontation with our old demon. And, it requires immense inner power to sit down at the table, eat a healthy meal, and not freak out. No matter how silly or messed-up that may sound, it does not change the fact that it is an absolute truth.
But, recovery is possible. A healthy relationship with food can be obtained. But, it is going to take courage, forgiveness, and an immense amount of patience.