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

Goldilocks and the Three Thanksgiving Pants

It’s true; I have three pairs of Thanksgiving pants for the three different phases of my eating past. I can’t go back in time and change what I did all those years. My past is still very much a part of me, so I have to find a way to face it, forgive it, and find some humor in it. I truly believe that is the best way to make peace with it. Look back and laugh a little.

When I looked back, I was surprised to find I had somehow channeled my inner Goldilocks (I guess I can chalk that up to my natural blonde locks) when I found I had evolved through three very different types of Thanksgiving pants. I also found it ironically hilarious that Goldilocks begins her plunder hungry, looking for food, and the first thing she does is sit down and eat a stranger’s whole bowl of porridge.

I had to laugh, realizing that was a pretty fitting testament to what my ED-self might have done back then. Hide your porridge folks, Goldie’s hungry and on the hunt! And, in true Goldilocks-style, that is exactly where my twenty years of porridge-plundering began—with pants way too small in an attempt to hide my hunger. Continue reading “Goldilocks and the Three Thanksgiving Pants”

Be a Food Boss: Make Cooking a Priority to Make Yourself a Better Person

This is something very important I learned about food. The more time you spend with it, both in the selection process at the grocery store or farmer’s market, in the prep process as you wash and chop it, and especially in the cooking process—as you sizzle, spice, and meld all of those amazing flavors together—you gain a much greater respect for food. Now, how does respect help you fix your relationship with food? Well, if you respect something, you’re far less likely to abuse it, mistreat it, or waste it, right?

Think of it like a relationship you’ve been building with a superior co-worker or your boss. Maybe you’ve been working hard to get projects in ahead of time, come to meetings with fresh ideas, be more reliable in the workplace, or just come to work with a better attitude in hopes of being seen by that co-worker or boss as someone who brings value to the team. That takes a lot of time, patience, diligence, and commitment to build that relationship, to be that reliable, valuable person.

… if you respect something, you’re far less likely to abuse it, mistreat it, or waste it, right?

And, you do it, because the acknowledgement is something you want, something that will make you feel accomplished and good about yourself. You do that because you respect your boss and you want your boss to respect you. Now with all the time and conscious effort you put into that, would you decide to come to work one day super late, looking disheveled and tired as hell, miss a meeting and a deadline and give only the excuse: “I didn’t have time to do that?”

Absolutely not! Not only would it simply be mortifying because that’s not the person you are. You would never BE that person. But, it would also undo all of that very hard work you put in to impress your boss, unraveling a lot of the hard-earned respect you had gained. Now, stick with me for a minute. I promise I’m taking you to great, revelatory places: Continue reading “Be a Food Boss: Make Cooking a Priority to Make Yourself a Better Person”

Humor Heals

“The minute you can start to laugh about it …” I had always heard people say, but I did not grasp the power of that statement until it finally dawned on me. That is when you start to heal. Humor. Laughter. That is where it all started for me. It was my strength all along, but I just didn’t realize it.

Clearly, I am an eating disorder survivor. It is the entire reason for this platform and blog, and the reason I feel compelled (energized really!) to write all of these mini revelations down and share them with you, because they empowered me. Maybe you are just looking for a better diet, trying to build a better relationship with exercise and food, or whether you (I hope not, but perhaps like me) went that far and messed yourself up when it comes to eating that much. No judgment here. I did it. But I want to give you one tool that helped me mend my approach to food: Continue reading “Humor Heals”

Podcast Review: Finding the Unbreakable You: Meg Doll

And what a doll she is! Not just for putting herself out there, but also for taking the time to record her conversations with others and put them out there on her podcast: The Unbreakable You.

The most healing thing I have found in my recovery is hearing the voices of fellow sufferers. It is almost scary now to look back and realize how alone I felt, yet empowering to know I wasn’t alone at all. There were thousands of people to reach out to who would listen and not judge, I just didn’t know where to find them, so I kept trudging alone, my dirty ED knapsack slung over my shoulder, wearing my body to the bone.

This realization has made me want to share any and all possible resources for anyone out there looking. There are far more than you realize, and Meg Doll is a phenomenal, unbreakable one. Continue reading “Podcast Review: Finding the Unbreakable You: Meg Doll”