A Food Jam

Back in my eating disorder heyday, I would often get caught in what I called a “food jam.” A forced meal. A real dilemma. For me, lunch was always the most common. When I was a highly-functional bulimic I would often starve through the day, drinking only coffee for breakfast.

Why blow through so many calories so early? When I’m not even desperately starving yet?”

I would then—if I didn’t get caught in a food jam at lunch—have a little nibble around noon, preferably a light salad or a little Special K bar (because those eighty calories are really going to hold you up). That would leave me with a whole saved-up bank of “food points” (those were real in my world) to spend that evening. Because the evening was when I liked to spend them, according to my pre-set, private, everyday routine. But, if someone wanted to go out for lunch, sometimes this would blow my whole plan.

A damn food jam!

When I did join the normal folks, for a normal meal out, I was known to always order the salad when eating out, nothing else, while my normal friends and colleagues would order and eat normal things like sandwiches, soups, burgers, whatever. Sometimes (because I was starving) I would start nibbling on the crackers that came with my salad. Then perhaps one of the biscuits or cornbread they brought to the table. Then another; because, remember, I’m starving. Then perhaps a bite of a friend’s burger. “Just a bite,” I’d say with a smile. But as I swallowed that glorious burger bite I knew I was done. I’d crossed that “two-bites-too-many” line and suddenly everything had to come up. I had to drop everything for an hour during the middle of my busy lawyer day to fill the tank and pump it out. I had to. Because my stupid friend wanted to go out for lunch and my stupid body ate a bite of a burger. And, now you see why it’s called a food jam. You can probably also see why I didn’t have many lunch dates.

“Eat, rather than work, through lunch? Who has time for that?”

I usually didn’t.

So, let’s assume on a pretty average day, I’m able to do my lettuce-and-vinegar lunch routine, leaving me with an decadent evening of putting food into my mouth. Yes, I relished this thought. Yes, way more than human connection.

Sadly, this was often a way I looked forward to spending the evening. Passing fatty, cheesy, greasy foods past my lips while curled up on the couch, watching mindless TV. Then five minutes undoing it. Never happened.

I then had two options. I could (a) binge and purge that evening, preferably once, sometimes multiple times, to the point of exhaustion, so that I could fall quickly asleep before the urge to eat sucked me down again. Sadly, this was often a way I looked forward to spending the evening. Passing fatty, cheesy, greasy foods past my lips while curled up on the couch, watching mindless TV. Then five minutes undoing it. Never happened. With the option to start right back in again if I wanted to, my half-eaten smorgasbord of food awaiting me on the coffee table. To me, that was a blissful way to spend the evening. Indulging myself with no one around to judge me.

Obviously I lived alone.

Or I could (b) justifiably gorge on a healthy dinner, even eating and keeping down what my disorderly-mind considered semi-bad foods. Microwave veggies in a light butter sauce? Ummmm … okay. But just three boxes, not four. And, because I’d starved all day and kept down a meal that wasn’t guaranteed to turn to insta-cheese on my thighs, I could wake the next day, even after four microwave-box-whatevers, and not feel like a total cow.

But, what goes down … must come back up … or it must be worked off. This is the classic sign of an eating disorder. In and out. Everything is accounted for.

Jesus, the strenuous, exhausting workouts I used to make myself do, over a box of damn veggies. I would usually workout right before dinner because dinner was the ultimate reward. The Food Point Casino! I could jog for miles thinking about what delicious savory rewards awaited. “A cracker … No three!” I would dream, as my feet pounded the pavement. And, because I was starved for calories—my body begging and pleading for fuel—I would often get light-headed. See stars. Pee my pants.

Signs to a normal person that I had pushed myself too hard were signs to me that I was a full-blooded thoroughbred.

I’m not kidding. My head would spin. My ears would pop. Very strange things happened. The little guy in my head was running around, flipping all sorts of switches and buzzers trying to get me to stop and do what normal people do. Just eat normal. Workout normal. And treat my beautiful, strong body right.

“Shut up little man. That’s what weak people do and I’m stronger than them.”

Stupider, too. I hate to say it, but I was sometimes proud when, after a workout, I would have strange sensations like this. Signs to a normal person that I had pushed myself too hard were signs to me that I was a full-blooded thoroughbred.

Way to go self!

I was such an idiot. A foolish, dangerous idiot. But stubborn, too. Even after I had wrenched my body horrifically over the toilet until I was sure every last fat-laden calorie had come back out, if I burped later and tasted cheeseburger, panic would set in. There must still be some left inside.

“Time to go jog till I see stars.” And off I went.

It still sometimes frightens me—the laughable futility of all the horrid things I did to my body. For years. As if it wasn’t an amazing, miraculous precious item to take care of. As if it was a nasty, rusty tube of industrial grime that I would beat, punch, and squeeze until everything came out. Only now—in the absolute raw, honest telling of my story—can I see my body’s continuous suffering and my complete insensitivity and ignorance to it. Thankfully, she hung in there with me. We’ve cleaned her rust off, mended her many bruises, and put her cap back on. And, because of it, thankfully, I still have many healthy years ahead of me because I finally quit.

I finally decided: I’m not going to be bulimic anymore.

I hope, if any of you find yourself even on the brink of slipping down a path this slippery, that my words can reach you. Haunt you… I hope. So, that your body and future doesn’t have to suffer any more. You can do it. I promise. My story, my ferociously-strong mind, and my mended body are proof.

Excerpt from the Prologue of What Goes Down: The End of an Eating Disorder, by Callie Bowld.

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