Down With the Thickness

After a trying day of "asynchronous learning" (which, is parent code for nightmare fodder) I am on the couch attempting to process my thoughts and unwind. I've allowed myself a bowl of Goldfish crackers and a glass of Chardonnay from the box in the fridge that should say something along the lines of "open in case of emergency." The wine is doing little to soothe my mind. The Goldfish are swimming around my psyche and filling me with self-loathing more than actual carbohydrates. You see, I have a love-hate relationship with food that is, in the words of Facebook, "complicated." I love food, it's just that I hate it.

Like many women, I have ridden the calorie roller coaster since puberty. I've been strapped in, cycled through, and looking for the end of the ride but it never seems to come. The twists and turns are familiar at this point, and yet no less terrifying. I'm carrying this metaphor as far as I can, because it's just painful for me to be plain. I have played it so close to my chest for so long, that it's completely unnatural to share that I have struggled for years with an eating disorder. Even as I write this, I feel exposed

As I mentioned before, though, this venture is all about looking my demons in the face and reducing their power over me (and, hopefully, others hounded by the same devils.) This particular demon has taken root in my very being. It resides even in the quiet parts of my mind, where I am at my most vulnerable. I have tried to face it before, but it changes and shifts and slips past my defenses. 

When it all started, I was a restrictor. At 18 and 19 years old, I could easily subsist on less than 600 calories per day. I was in college and lived by myself in an apartment where I could completely control my diet without much input from anyone else. As I started my 20's and entered the bar scene, I was still pretty restrictive, but loosened up on weekends when I would be out socializing, drinking, and inevitably eating after last call. My under-the-influence mind was able to relax enough to was always the sober days afterwards where I'd be plagued with guilt and an urgency to, well, purge. You can see the writing on this wall, can't you? I moved from just not eating, to throwing up whenever I did. Up until I was about 22, I would restrict and purge, especially right before my wedding. I was rail thin when I walked down the aisle at 102 lbs, but I still remember feeling distinctly fat when my sister helped me get into my wedding dress. 

Soon after, I was working full-time, having children and generally feeling pretty secure in my roles as a woman, wife, and mother. Those years were the happiest of my life, even though the urgency to lose the baby weight after each of my kids was INTENSE. I remained healthy for a while with a balanced diet and running as a hobby. I declared myself cured! But as they say, telling God your plans is the surest way of hearing his laugh. As I neared the milestone of 30, I found myself completely unsatisfied with my career, my physique, my identity. I started to exert control in the only real way I knew how...over my body.

Older, busier, and unable to find the time (nor the privacy) to purge and similarly unable to restrict calories without sending huge red flags to my husband who holds me accountable in my disordered eating, I found a new face to the same old coin. I started what was a great routine of using fitness as an outlet for stress and time for myself. I enjoyed going to the gym each night and seeing the strength in my new frame. And then...before I could even recognize it, it become less of an outlet and more of an obsession. An hour per night on weekdays turned into 2 hours every day without rest. I was a machine, driven inexorably to the gym even at the expense of missing other plans.

I had a six-pack...and then a complete meltdown when I became physically ill and couldn't get to the gym. I had lost control, again, to this monster that I thought I had thwarted years before. The irony doesn't escape me that in trying to exert control over something, I lost control over everything. It's always the same cruel cycle of thinking that I can casually diet or work out, starting out well, and then the crashing and burning. I know all of the science behind macros and metabolism. I know that moderation is key in all things. The scientific and rational side of me, the woman who took just about every kind of -ology there is in college, knows just how bad this disorder is for me. But the disordered part, the one that screams at me for having Goldfish and wine at the end of a long day, still idolizes that 102-lb bride and the 6-pack in my thirties that made me feel confident for the first time in my life.

As I sit here heavier than I have been in a long time, thanks to the combination of a medication that is an appetite stimulant (FFS!) and a pandemic that causes most of us to stress eat, I hate myself. I have this urgency to lose weight NOW and I just can't shake it. I proclaim each morning that I won't eat for the day and inevitably loathe myself when I decide such a statement is not rational and have meals like a normal human. I exercise, but feel clumsy and strange trying to move around more body than I am used to. I am so far from the fitness level I was at a year ago, that I get discouraged and the endorphin rush fizzles out.  If running through your mind burned calories, though, I would be a waif. To clarify, I am still in a size small to medium, but not the extra-small I need to feel comfortable. I honestly wish I could get down with the thickness and for once, just be fat and happy. 

Happiness, though, when equated with an unattainable ideal...becomes unattainable. I have always had "thin" or "fit" propping up the very foundation of my identity. When these pillars crumble, so too does my definition of myself. Instead of just sitting in the rubble this time, I am trying to rebuild. I have to tell myself that people can, not just change, but evolve. If my body is going to expand, then so must my mind.  


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