I'm having a difficult time returning to reasonable eating. I have a strange combination of loving to eat (I mean, wow do I fucking love food) and loving how I feel in a fasted state (decreased inflammation, clarity of thought, control). Coupled with a 30+ year eating disorder that was/is a combination of anorexia and compulsive/binge eating, it's a nasty thing. I am alternately controlled by my desire for food and my desire to have control over food. I love how I feel when I (over)eat and I love how I feel when I don't eat.
Confusing, isn't it? On one hand, it's like win-win I'm happy either way! But on the other (rational, reasonable) side, it's super fucked up.
I've talked about my eating problems before, but for those who haven't heard the story: My compulsive and binge eating habits started when I was a kid, visiting my paternal grandparents. Of course both sets of grandparents loved me (because I was a fucking awesome kid), but my dad's parents, man. They doted on me. Adored me. Had pet names for me like Baby Doll and Pistol Packer (no idea). I was the only child of their only child, who was born very late to them and was himself a spoiled Golden Child Who Could Do No Wrong. And Gramma, well, her favorite thing to do was eat and her favorite thing to eat was sweets and that is what she shared with me. She was the one who introduced me to miniature powdered sugar gem donuts, eaten straight out of the white paper bag. When I visited them, I would sleep in her bed with her and we would secretly eat bagfuls of Reese's Miniature Peanut Butter Cups in bed after tooth-brushings so my parents wouldn't know. My mother limited my sugar intake at home (in all the wrong ways, poor mom, you tried) but there was no monitoring when it came to visits with Gramma. Clandestine eating was a joyful experience and it's something I still struggle with because secret eating feels god damned delightful.
And now, forty years later, I still (less often than before, thankfully), want to occasionally hide myself in a room and eat sweet things until my tongue is sore from sugar burn. I am (again, thankfully), past the times when I would become psychologically consumed by the idea of consuming a certain food (usually miniature powdered sugar gem donuts), but the general feelings are still there, lurking in the back of my brain and whispering "you know you'd feel better" because I know I would feel better. I never felt (or feel) guilty about my secret eating unless I am caught doing so. If I get away with the binge, nobody the wiser, I don't feel a shred of guilt. In fact, it pleases me--both the eating and the getting away with it.
In seventh grade, I discovered the joys of deprivation. Thanks to a childhood of questionable eating habits and absolutely no encouragement to physical activity (in my parents defense, no one has ever been able to convince me to do anything I didn't want to do and I most certainly didn't want to do sports because people, ugh), I was a pudgy pre-teen who was tired of being one of the fat girls in school. I started not-eating. I was selective about it, though, and my eleven-year-old brain discovered that the satisfaction I'd found in secret eating could be approximated (if not duplicated) by secret not-eating. I stopped eating breakfast, ate a minimal lunch, and had a regular dinner in the evening with my family.
My mother, if she noticed, never said anything. Perhaps she was relieved I was finally cutting back on my food intake. After all, she was the first person who pointed out to me (when I was in fourth or fifth grade) that I was fat. She'd struggled with her weight since she was pregnant with me. Maybe she was grateful to see a sign that maybe I wouldn't go through the same thing. Honestly, though, she probably never noticed.
Didn't notice, that is, until in eighth grade home-ec, we had to make a food diary. I didn't bother lying, and at the end of the week the teacher pointed out to me that I was eating only 800 calories a day. And then it was never mentioned again. Probably, you know, because I was fat and they were all trying to save me from life as a (god forbid) fat adult. And sure enough, a few years later, my body went through puberty (very late, and gosh I wonder why) and my chub just...went away. At sixteen, I was 5'7", 130lbs, and 34-24-36. Not eating had totally paid off. Score!
So that cycle of hidden binging/hidden fasting continued until, well, today if I'm honest because after last week's bout with the flu and three days of minimal intake, it's been super difficult for me to return to normal eating. This happens every time I have an extended period (two or more days) of near-fasting. I already don't eat that much, even normally. My 800-calorie-a-day eating habits (which continued through high school) took their expected toll so that my resting metabolic rate (I've had it tested--twice) is about 1,190 calories a day. So when I say I'm not eating much I'm really not eating much. And that's obviously a problem.
Fucking eating disorders. Even when I'm past the body-consciousness stuff, when I no longer care about my round belly, when my self-worth is not defined by how much or little space I take up, the psychological tug-of-war between eat and don't eat still affects me. Because damn it, either extreme still feels really, really good. Do they feel better than healthful, mindful, appropriate eating?
I wouldn't know.
I am thinking about revising this into an article for The Toast. If anybody who has experience with writing/critiquing personal essays wants to help me with that, let me know and we'll work about some sort of equitable repayment, possibly in bloomers or somesuch. Dang. Just checked their submission rules: "We accept only original material; we cannot publish anything that has appeared elsewhere, even if it’s just on your personal blog or Tumblr." Guess I shoulda read that first.