Time Not Spent Wasted: A Review of Marya Hornbacher’s Memoir

My time spent reading Marya Hornbacher’s book was anything but that. Wasted was probably the most honest account of an eating disorder I have ever read. The most shocking and intense, too. While every other author I’ve encountered has written about their own experience battling an eating disorder has been 100% honest, Marya’s incredible writing and dark humor, combined with her courage to continue to dig beyond just the awful “this is what I did” but, further, to the horrifying “this is why” moved me.

Wasted was probably the most honest account of an eating disorder I have ever read. The most shocking and intense, too.

While I understand Marya’s tone may not be for everyone, I am a 100% believer in calling myself on my own bullshit. I can’t always tell when I’m fooling myself (because my brain, when it wants to be, is quite good at it), but I agree with Marya that when you sense it—when you have some wave of reality wash over you and you then see the lines your brain has been feeding you are lies—you have to call yourself on your own BS. It’s the most important thing to do, so you can disempower that particular line of thinking from ever being able to grip you again. One fantastic example of this:

Marya talks about the “collective perfect body” that she and many of her young peers seemed to be striving toward. Marya notes all of the girls she was surrounded by in her younger years, who were talking constantly about their weight, their bodies, their diets, etc., seemed to be trying to attain the “perfect body.” Looking back, Marya discovers it seemed they were all striving toward the same perfect body, a collective perfect body, which, when those of us trying to recover can finally pull the veil of lies from our eyes, know is impossible.

Realizing your body, my body, can only be what it can be, nothing more, can be a harsh reality to face, but it is reality.

None of us can have the same “perfect body,” but giving up that dream is the hard part. Realizing your body, my body, can only be what it can be, nothing more, can be a harsh reality to face, but it is reality. The thought that you can attain any shape other than your own is a lie.

I also admire Marya’s attempt not to diagnose or offer a cure, but simply to explain what happened to her and why, her understanding of it at least. I do believe her analysis, that sometimes people with eating disorders seem to dramatize their disease to feel powerful and special, has merit. The thought of being normal and just eating and letting your body be whatever it is going to be seems almost so mundane that it paralyzes people. They don’t want to be mundane. They want to pursue something powerful and great and, for many, an eating disorder fills that role. This reminded me of Portia de Rossi’s struggle in Unbearable Lightness.

Marya’s talk of “letting go” toward the very end of her spellbinding tale almost blinded me, it was so spot-on with my own experience.

I agree with Marya’s assessment that eating and trying to be normal can feel like giving up, like failing. I’ve often said the hardest part for me was the letting go because that’s exactly what it felt like. Like I was striving for something hard but worth it, then I just gave up. Marya’s talk of “letting go” toward the very end of her spellbinding tale almost blinded me, it was so spot-on with my own experience.

While I have read many eating disorder memoirs, Marya’s probably touched me the most. Not simply because of the graphic truth of it (which will, no doubt, leave images with me that I believe will help me in many future moments when I am struggling with the decision of whether to skip a certain meal because of an old impulse to deprive myself – no more! Thank you, Marya!). But, her assessment of recovery was the most powerful to me, because I agree with her that it really never leaves you. Or, at least, it has not left me.

It’s not every meal, not every week, not every month, but I have never felt a moment that it has entirely gone away. But, I have felt, in every moment since I, as Marya explained it, felt ready to recover, that I am now stronger than that voice.

As Marya said, you can stop the bad eating habits and begin feeding your body properly, but the mind never forgets. Food never loses its tiny little nagging voice that picks at you. It’s not every meal, not every week, not every month, but I have never felt a moment that it has entirely gone away. But, I have felt, in every moment since I, as Marya explained it, felt ready to recover, that I am now stronger than that voice. I have tools and reasoning, and a hope and desire for the future, that can always overcome that voice, even though I believe it will never leave me.

I want to thank you, Marya, for putting yourself out there and braving the telling of your momentous tale. I appreciate your honesty, your humor, and—first and foremost—your exceptional writing. It is an incredibly powerful piece you have given us.

–Callie

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