Since starting this blog there have only been a few topics that I purposefully don’t discuss. One is anything involving my loved ones. This is because I’m not down with talking about people and their emotions and shit without their consent. The other, is my eating disorder. This story is incredibly personal to me, and I use it to inspire so much of what I do here at Fatgirlflow.com – including creating these shirts. There’s no better time than now, right?
I’ve been scared to even say “eating disorder” in many ways. There’s still a voice in the back of my head that tells me my fatness negates any pain I’ve felt around food. There’s lingering shame over not being able to control my weight the way I do all other aspects of my life. And there’s a lot of guilt over not being where I want to be in my recovery, over still struggling 7 years after starting treatment.
But, you’ve got to start somewhere, right? So here I am, telling my story.
I started restricting my food around 10 years old. I had developed a fear of throwing up after a bad illness, and used my food intake as a way to feel safe from getting sick again. I only ate very specific foods that I deemed “healthy” (meaning they would not make me sick). By 14 I trusted a Snickers bar more than I did a hamburger thanks to the sudden nationwide panic over mad cow disease. I became obsessed with avoiding foods that could make me sick. There was no real sense to any of it, some wires got crossed in my brain and I thought I was doing something to protect myself.
Throughout my teens I would go through phases where I restricted so much of my food that I would lose large amounts of weight very rapidly. I was not a fat kid, but was teased frequently for being bigger than others. My friends were small, and I was a tall athletic girl with a big personality. I took up too much space, and my peers never hesitated to make sure I knew it.
With every period of restriction came praise. Congratulations on losing weight. Compliments from people who otherwise had no intention of befriending me. I had unlocked some secret code to getting people to think I was a worthy human being. They didn’t know I felt sick constantly, or had panic attacks in the bathroom. They didn’t see me pass out after school because I had managed to go a full day and an afternoon’s softball practice without eating more than a few crackers.
And then came the binge. Because that’s what happens when you restrict your eating – your body catches up with you. For months I would be ravenous. I would become fixated on certain “safe” foods and eat them constantly. I suddenly had more energy, I didn’t feel sick or weak all of the time… and of course I gained weight. And that’s when I really came to understand what people wanted from my body.
As pounds layered on, my desireability melted away. Friends would join in with kids making fun of me, or they would fake concern. They had never noticed that I didn’t eat before – only that I seemed to suddenly be eating more now. People started commenting on my body as if it was a piece of real estate and everyone was open to make bids. My teenage fears of not being good enough were reinforced.
The cycle continued into my 20’s. Gaining and losing huge amounts of weight until my body began to deteriorate. At 22 I had to start getting vitamin injections because bloodwork showed that my body was malnourished. I was having panic attacks numerous times throughout the day, and was unable to work or attend school. I remember my mom insisting on going to the doctor with me. I had been trying to get answers to what was ailing me, why I was so weak and tired, for months to no avail. I told the doctor I was unable to eat. My mom looked at him concerned and told him I had lost 40 pounds in just over a month. He responded by saying that at my size weight loss wouldn’t hurt, and to allow me to eat whatever I feel like eating whenever I felt like it.
And then I saw a commercial on TV for some anti-depressant. You know the one – “depression hurts”. I still did not know that my eating habits were abnormal. I knew that eating only a cup of yogurt a day didn’t feel great, but here I was – still fat. My body had plenty to live off of, right? So I thought maybe I was depressed. And I made an appointment with a therapist.
It didn’t take more than 3 appointments for my therapist to diagnose me with EDNOS or Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. This is the catch all term for “your eating is disordered and fucked up but it’s not necessarily anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder”. She began teaching me about intuitive eating.
I wish I could talk about eating intuitively with confidence. I wish I could say that I’m recovered and understand my values around food and how I like to eat. I wish that the shame and guilt and food obsession was gone. But it’s not, and I’m not. And some days are really fucking hard.
I know that I’ve been through a lifetime’s worth of shit with food and our culture’s obsession with it. I know that it’s going to take a very long time to unlearn those things. I feel good knowing that every day I get closer to peace with food. I’m close. I’m doing really really well. I’ll get there eventually.
We have a few sayings in our house that help remind us that shame around food isn’t cool. “Don’t yuck my yum” was introduced to me by a therapist who reassured me that if I wanted to eat fried pickles for dinner every night I could. It’s all about eating what you want without shame, and telling people to back off with their moral assumptions about what you’re putting in your mouth.
It’s important to me that I share my journey with all of you. Not only so that we can connect and understand one another, but so that I can be accountable for my own recovery. Because being silent for so long hurt me. And I know that so many people living in bodies that look like mine are struggling in the same way.
You are valid. Your journey is important. Your struggle is not in any way less painful than others.
If you are battling an eating disorder, need resources to find out if you may have an eating disorder, or just need someone to talk to, please visit Nationaleatingdisorder.org.
If you want to make “Don’t Yuck My Yum” part of your no-food-shame life, check out the pre-sale for the shirts here!