Precious Hungry Girls

Dear precious hungry girls,

I know that you think you know what’s best, and that you are doing just that – what is best for you. I know you think you are on the road to happiness.

I know the feelings of control, and what a rush that is. I will tell you, in all honesty, that the greatest drug I ever took was weight loss. THE GREATEST DRUG I EVER TOOK. The biggest rush, the biggest high. Better than booze, better than sex, better than cocaine. Better than the food I avoided, better than the food I scarfed down. I know how good it feels, I really do.

I also know that something that started for me when I was 12 stayed with me for over two decades before I even started to get help. Imagine that. Two decades. Twenty years. Imagine doing what you are doing for twenty more years, and still not being thin enough.

I know right now you think you are on a road to happiness. The control, being thin, then thinner, then the thinnest, you know, you just know you will be happy then. But the road is a lie. I promise you, it is a lie. You will get rushes of what you think is happy. When people compliment your weight loss, when you see the number on the scale go down, when you buy a smaller size and watch it go from tight to baggy, yes, you will feel a rush. And you will think that’s what happy is. But it will leave you. It took so much control, so much self-sacrifice, so much HUNGER to get you here, and in moments it is gone. You need more. It will never be enough. I promise you, you will never be thin enough. NEVER. You will never get that magic moment when you can live happily ever after in your new thin body, because thin ever after is a lie. The hunger will overwhelm you. The physical hunger, the emotional hunger, the spiritual hunger. The empty that once filled you up now leaves you more hollow than ever. There is nothing that will ever fill you up until you decide that YOU WILL NOT LIVE LIKE THIS ANYMORE. If you are smarter than I am, you will come to this point soon. Not when you are in your 30s, struggling with your weight even on the most minimal calorie diet you can manage without passing out, unable to maintain long-term relationships, forced to lie, keep secrets, and hide. You will have to hide, all the time, and hide, and hide. And one day there will be nowhere left to hide. You will see a shell of a human in the mirror, and you will know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you are dying. And the only way that you will be able to live again, is if you give this shit up. Give it up.

I promise you, it will kill you if you don’t. And even if you keep on living, it will be no life at all.

I never wanted to give it up. I was convinced if I gave it up, lost control, I would face a fate worse than death. I would get fat. Fat. The most horrible thing I could imagine. And you know what? I got fat anyway. I got fat starving myself. I got fat running until my feet bled, a throat scabbed over from my fingernails scraping it to throw up the meals I caved in and ate. I got fat anyway. Not because I “lost control” but because I ruined my metabolism. If you think it can’t happen to you, I promise you, it can. And I promise you that if you ever do get fat, you will think you have failed, lost control, and that you will never be happy until you are thin again. But maybe one day you will realize being fat isn’t the worst thing ever. Being afraid of being fat is worse. It is a prison. Because what you really fear is that you have no control. And I can tell you, that you don’t. You don’t have control. You think you do, with every calorie you count, every pound you lose, that you have control. But you don’t. You are in prison. You do not have control over your eating disorder. It has control over you. 

If you are living in fear of being fat. If you are starving yourself. If you are compulsively exercising to the point of sheer exhaustion and injury. If you are eating until your stomach feels like it might explode. If you are making yourself throw up. If you are weighing and measuring yourself constantly. If you can’t stand the thought of losing control. Then you are in a prison. And you will never escape until you stop doing all those things.

And it breaks my heart, because I know you don’t believe me. I know you think my experience is nothing like yours, that it doesn’t mean anything, that I don’t know you or what you’re going through. But I am you.

And it breaks my heart, because I love you. I know you don’t believe that. How could I love you? I do, though. I love you because I can look into your eyes and I see my young self there. The young self that wouldn’t have believed someone like me either. The young me that would have still ruined my body and my life for years on end because I was too much of a fucking coward to just surrender my precious control and my need to be right for a single goddamn second.

I know you believe, deeply, that you are right. And it breaks my heart, because I was right once too. And god, how wrong I was. And maybe now I am wrong to think my words will make any difference to anyone.

I promise you, one day, if you let yourself live, all of this will make sense to you. I hope that it is soon, for you, my precious hungry girls. I hope you live. I hope you let yourself.

As Long As She’s Healthy

Well, last week was National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and it’s appalling that Her Body Politic didn’t blog about it. But… what can I say? Lately, my life has been taken up by other things: unrelenting grief, pain, loss, tidal waves of violent hysteria and feelings and thoughts so dark that I wonder if I will ever be able to share them with another human being. Enough of that.

Here’s what I wanted to write last week:

“As long as she’s healthy.”

I’ve seen this phrase more and more recently, and it’s starting to get on my fucking already rattled nerves. Now granted, I know that because of the stress I’m under, and the pain I’m in, there’s a good chance that I am just a giant bitch. I’m willing to accept that. I’d apologize for it… but fuck that. I’m sick to death of apologizing for shit that I didn’t do, wouldn’t do, haven’t done, or have had done to me by other people. This is an epidemic among women, and certainly chronic in my case. How many times have I said, “I’m sorry,” when I had nothing to be sorry for? Countless times.

If you get a chance, check out “The Body is Not an Apology” on Facebook. I dig this page, because at first I was like, “What? What does that even mean?” And then I realized… how long I lived my life, constantly apologizing, for being me. I apologized for “being fat” (whether I was or not isn’t even the point) by starving myself, devaluing myself, and carrying around a belief that the bigger I was, the less of a person I was, and that the rules were different for me. Every human being needs food to survive. Period. If you don’t eat, or receive any nourishment, eventually, you will die. There are no exceptions. I believed I was an exception. That every morsel of food I put in my mouth was a sign of my weakness; that I should be able to survive without sustenance, where others could not.

I believed that the outside mattered most, what I looked like could tell you exactly who I was. If I am fat, I am weak, unhealthy, and lazy. If I am thin, I am strong, healthy and motivated.

I can post pictures (and I probably will at some point) of myself, “healthy” (translate: “thin”). And I can assure you that when the picture was taken, I was mentally ill and most likely starving – physically and emotionally.

I can also show you pictures of myself “unhealthy” (translate: “fat”). And I can assure you that I have come leaps and bounds in terms of my mental, physical and emotional health. The sadness I’m experiencing in my life is directly related to grief and loss and has virtually nothing to do with the way I look.

I recently saw a picture of a woman in a very challenging yoga pose (on the page I mentioned above; see below). It’s a very cool photo. She is completely nude, balanced on one knee and the tips of her fingers. The caption read something about the “lines and curves” of the human body. Her body? Large. The picture? Beautiful, artistic. You can imagine the onslaught of comments.yoga pose

 

One of them of course being “as long as she’s healthy.” I’m SO FUCKING SICK of hearing this phrase. People say it about Adele. “As long as she’s healthy.” She’s a fucking singer ass-face, not a bikini model, and further more it’s her business if she wants to wear a bikini. And the woman in this photo above? She posed for a fucking picture. It’s art. Who cares what she ate or if she runs on a treadmill? It’s art. She’s not advertising some weight loss pill or exercise equipment and claiming to “be healthy,” she’s posing for a goddamn picture. And even if she were promoting a “healthy lifestyle” and you think she isn’t healthy, how about this plan? Think for yourself, dumb-ass. You decide what’s healthy for you, let her decide it for her.

The reason this phrase – “as long as she’s healthy” – bothers me is two-fold:

First: when you condescendingly say “as long as she’s healthy,” I believe it carries the implication that she’s not. If a woman has a “great body” – in other words, she fits into the narrow idea our culture has of a great body – she is assumed to be healthy. I’m sure some people have used this annoying phrase to describe super-thin women too, but mostly I’ve heard it specifically in reference to a woman who is not thin. I feel it necessary to repeat something I posted in one of my earlier blogs: YOU CANNOT TELL BY LOOKING AT A PERSON WHETHER OR NOT THEY ARE “HEALTHY.” If their body is dead, they are no longer breathing and their flesh is starting to decompose, maybe then could you say something about what’s going on. “Oh shit, that motherfucker is DEAD.” If they are coughing up blood, you can see that they have a pretty severe gunshot wound, and their flesh is turning necrotic, you may be able to hazard a guess that they are a little “unhealthy.” If they approach you and say, “please for the love of god help me, I’m so unhealthy!,” you may get the idea that they are “unhealthy.” But if they are thin, fat, or anywhere in between, and that is your only criteria for judgment, you don’t know shit about their “health.”

Second: Maybe, just maybe, the person you’re saying this about, isn’t healthy. Okay, so fucking what? You don’t fucking know her. She’s a stranger. Maybe it’s none of your goddamn business what she does. Maybe she’s got a giant ass and she had two cans of Reddi-Whip for breakfast, and she’s happy with that. Shut the fuck up and worry about your own health. She’s not your personal trainer or your nutritionist? Don’t fucking worry about what she’s eating or if she exercises. If you love and care about someone, and they are doing something to harm themselves – starving, overeating, binge-drinking, smoking, shooting heroin into their eye sockets – then, okay, you have a personal relationship with that person, and you say, “hey I’m worried about you because…” and you fucking talk about it. But if you don’t know the person: it’s none of your business.

So, now for the onslaught of “obesity” rants. People feel like they need to butt in on all kinds of shit people do. Oh my god, obesity is an epidemic, second-hand smoke kills, drinking is bad, teen pregnancy is on the rise, fast food is disgusting, sugar = Satan. They spout all kinds of statistics about how many deaths per year are caused by these social diseases and addictions we have, and that it’s costing taxpayers bazillions of dollars in medical costs. Employers are losing money because we are taking too many sick days to smoke cigarettes and eat Big Macs and we are calling in fat to work.

Oh. My. God. There is a line between “educating the public” about the dangers of something, and “banning and ranting,” and I believe we’ve crossed it. When we rant about the ills of something, and possibly try to ban it, a few things happen. First of all, we desire it that much more.

Example: I hate Big Macs. They are disgusting. When I say I never eat them, I mean, I NEVER fucking eat them. But if I knew they were going to be banned? If someone told me I couldn’t have one? I can tell you I’d be running out to get one so fast that I’d burn all the calories it has getting to it. Vilifying something often makes it that much more appealing.

Next, we set something up as bad, we feel bad when we do it, and we also judge one another for doing it. “Oh gross, can you believe how much sugar she eats? That’s disgusting.” Because of my struggle with my weight, I used to feel (and I still fight this one) that if I ate something “bad” I should apologize for it. “I’m just really craving garlic bread, I don’t know why. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Is it PMS?” Yet a skinny person has every right to down an entire sheet cake, and she doesn’t need to apologize for shit? Well, that sucks.

I eat a lot more spinach than I do cake, but if I want to eat cake, I want to do it without judgment. I don’t want some asshole telling me that I’m unhealthy.

Let us eat cake. If we want to.

Let us be judged by the content of our character, and not by the size of our jeans… or the size of our genes.

And if you think genes don’t make a difference, try walking a mile in my metabolism.

And when you are wondering whether or not someone is “healthy,” remember that even if you could judge their physical health by looking at them, do you really think you can judge their mental, emotional, and spiritual health by looking at them? And do you really think these things are less important than physical health, or that they’re not ALL CONNECTED? If you don’t realize how connected they all are, then you aren’t “healthy” either. And even if someone tells you how “healthy” she is, and you think she looks great and has a winning smile, remember: people with eating disorders are very good liars.

I agree that the Body should never be an apology, and I know that sometimes the body is a lie. It tells ignorant people all kinds of things about the owner of it that are simply untrue.

My body is a truth. A truth of everything I have put it through, good or bad, up to this point. Only I really know that truth, and sometimes even I can get a little fuzzy on that, so the last thing I need is anyone else confusing the issue.