By Anonymous, illustrated by Devin Parker:
Note: Originally published on Empathize This and republished here with their permission.
I am a recovering bulimic.
When I was acutely bulimic, and in the worst of it, I worried a lot about being too big, or about eating or not eating, about exercising and losing weight.
Now that I’m (thankfully) a lot better, the things I worry about are different.
But before I get into those, let me paint a short picture of my life: I actively work to eat whenever I’m hungry. I’ve had to (re)learn that I can actually be satisfied and not feel hungry at all times – that there are times I don’t want to eat more, because I’m full. I also try to eat whatever I feel like eating, because that is, what will most likely make me feel sated – even if that means eating a whole bar of chocolate.
I try not to think about calories and I try not to worry about my weight. I try to be satisfied with my looks and my body. I try to accept it the way it is and remind myself over and over again that even though it’s not perfect, it’s the body I have and it works well if I feed it regularly. It enables me to dance and hear music and kiss and do all of the other things I love.
I try not to scrutinize myself in every mirror (I do that a lot because it’s still kind of incredible to me, that I can eat, not purge, and still stay the same size).
I actively try not to think about sports as a way to “workout” but as fun I have with my body. I also work hard on allowing myself to stay at home and do nothing without feeling guilty.
These are actions, or states of mind that I have to actively maintain – they don’t come naturally. I work hard at it, and it’s not always easy. But it’s essential to my recovery.
But here’s the rub: all these things I have to do in order to stay healthy are things our current society doesn’t understand, or even actively discourages. Enjoying that whole chocolate bar? Scandal!
I constantly listen to girls and women of all sizes calling themselves “fat”; and to their friends answering “No, I am fat, you are so pretty” – as if being “fat” or rather “bigger than someone else” and being pretty were mutually exclusive.
Everyday I have to listen to co-workers planning what to eat in order not to eat “too many calories,” while I am supposed to try and eat without planning ahead. They tell each other what they’ve been eating and what they want to eat later, generally obsessing about their food in much the way I used to.
Friends and acquaintances seem to think it’s their right to comment on what I (or someone else) eat(s) and whether it’s healthy or not – “healthy” in this case being used as a synonym for low-fat and low-sugar. It’s automatically assumed, that every woman’s biggest wish is losing weight.
Some people say “oh, I couldn’t eat all of that, I’d gain 5 kilograms over night!,” which is not only impossible, but also a fear I’ve had to unlearn in order to be able to eat halfway normally again. It’s not easy hearing it being agreed to again and again without doubting my own actions in recovery.
I have friends, who refer to eating high calorie foods as a “sin”. Most of the time I just stand at the side and try not to listen to them. On worse days I silently agree with them.
With the way everyone is talking and acting it feels as if my eating disorder fit in better with a food-obsessed society than my attempts to recover. It’s really quite hard to try and tune out what they say, when it’s exactly what I’ve been thinking so often for such a long time. Especially since it’s obviously considered the “right” thing to say and believe.
(On a sidenote: I dare not ask anyone to stop saying these triggering things around me, out of fear they might find it appropriate to discuss my size and weight in order to “determine” if I am rightfully calling myself eating disordered – I’ve heard them do that with others.)
All of this is, of course, in addition to how the media repeats hurtful messages about body image, fat shaming and dieting. These messages are everywhere, and I – like most others – am affected by them. But at least I can openly argue against them and they are increasingly recognized as hurtful by a lot of people.
Instead, it’s the deeply ingrained habits of others that make me feel helpless. Hardly anyone notices them – they are so insidious, and all the more damaging as a result. They are very real and hurt my recovery even more.