I couldn’t fix what was swirling in my brain. I didn’t understand it and I couldn’t control it. However, I could try from another angle. In the beginning of my OCD turmoil, I visited the doctor. I clearly remember him saying that I could stand to lose a little weight. I will never forget that. His callous remark would spark years of me using my body as mechanism to try to keep control. Even if I couldn’t control the things in my head or the chaos around me, I could control what I ate. At that time, I don’t remember what I weighed, but I was certainly not overweight by any stretch of the imagination. I’m not sure what chart he was referring to or what mechanism he was using to measure this. I didn’t care. Those words spewed from his mouth and I would never be the same. I later learned my mother was furious at him. Didn’t he know I was an impressionable adolescent? Didn’t he know what a voice of authority could do to a young molding mind?
I clearly remember this was the beginning of my high stakes game. I would compete against myself and I would win. I refused to let the scale become three digits. I would not eat. I would burn calories. I would do whatever it took to maintain that control. The number one hundred on the scale was the enemy and counting caloric intake was my bible. It didn’t matter if it made sense, I was determined. Maybe my ultimate destination was to disappear. I don’t know, but it felt so good. I got such a high from consuming so little calories that I could barely function. I spent hours tabulating and calculating. I loved staying under 900 calories. A sandwich could easily be a five-course meal. If you take the whole thing apart, the bread is one course, the lunchmeat is next, followed by small bites of cheese and lettuce. The smorgasbord would end with the second slice of bread. There you have it, a full course meal. That was only if I allowed myself an entire sandwich. Usually, it was a bag of raisins, lunch meat, and carrots. I was winning.
My period stopped, and I looked so pale. I was always shivering. I loved that I shivered. It meant that I was lacking body fat. I was winning this contest! My body was starting to develop. The muscles in my legs were developing. I hated it. I liked how it was straight like a board from my hips to my knees. I didn’t want to have muscles. If I didn’t eat, maybe I could stop it.
I also developed these strange habits with food. If I poured cereal into a bowl, I had to put a spoonful back into the box. I could not, by any stretch of the imagination, lick a spoon. I would have to count those calories. I spent countless hours reading and dissecting fitness magazines. If my eye landed on someone who was overweight, I had to find someone on the page that was thin before I turned it. If I couldn’t find that than a lower case “L” would do. That’s a good thin letter. Ok, you can turn the page. Crap! Did you look at something else? Do it again. Ok, look at someone skinny. Now, turn the page. Did you do it right? No? Do it again, and again and again………………………If I saw an overweight person, I would get physically sick. I just couldn’t handle it. What if that happened to me? Apparently, I had convinced myself that looking at a heavy person or licking a spoon would cause instant weight gain.
After I got married, I was so worried that just getting married caused weight gain. You’ve read the stories about weight gain after marriage. I would constantly obsess about this with my Mom. I constantly bounced everything off her. I had easy access since I worked for her. It was enabling at its finest. I tried working for someone else before but was never able to emotionally handle it. Fast forward to my first “real” job 25 years later and my subsequent nervous breakdown. My poor husband. I seriously don’t know how he survived everything. It takes a lot of compassion, love and a large dash of selective hearing. My first pregnancy magnified these petrified worries of “improper” weight gain. I was fearful of gaining too much weight or not losing it afterwards. I was consumed by horrible obsessions and to combat them I exercised, a lot. At the time of my pregnancies I had moved on to over-exercise to combat the demons in my head.
I could write a book on how society affects young girls and their body image. It was hard enough with television and magazines. I can’t imagine growing up in the digital age. Since I have gotten older, I realized, I don’t want to spend my life waiting for the “when”. What I mean is this; I will be happy when I lose 10 pounds. I will be happy when my stomach is flat. I will be happy when I whatever. Guess what, I had all those things and more and you know what? I wasn’t happy. You have to live for now. Don’t spend another second listening to people you don’t care about say you are fat or not pretty enough or whatever. Now, I’m not saying eat crap all day and lay on the couch. What I am saying is LIVE YOUR LIFE. Live it by eating good stuff and sometimes eating bad stuff. Eat in the grey area. You know studies show overwhelmingly that people don’t die from eating crap and not exercising. They die from the constant anxiety of worrying about it. Spend your time counteracting stress by doing things you love. Listen to music, meditate, exercise, take a hike, watch your favorite show, travel, get out of debt and then shop (in that order-it’s way less stressful), do yoga. If you are tired, then sleep. If you are hungry then eat. Do whatever it is that brings you joy (legal joy-have I told you I am a rule follower?) and if that is not the life you are living, figure out how to work towards it. I am not doing what I love right now, but that’s ok. I’m working towards it. Guess what? HINT: I started blogging.
During the anorexia phase and for many, many years after, I only knew of black and white. I was taught that at an early age, and it is a hard one to overcome. You are either good or bad, fat or skinny, naughty or nice. There was no grey area. Personally, one of my favorite colors is greige and now I try to live that every day. Greige in my decor and greige in my life and diet. But I digress. Again, I need to stress the miracle of medication and therapy. However, it is not a magic pill. Another mention is that it is a constant work in progress. It is so easy to fall back into these irrational thoughts. It is so easy to fall into black and white thinking. It takes continued hard work. However, instead of falling down the rabbit hole and beating myself up for hours, days, weeks and months, I can pull myself out of it and snap myself into reality. Do not let the recurring story you heard in your childhood ruminate until you are sick. Just because you heard it over and over, doesn’t make it true. Read every book you can get your hands on that portrays life in its full abundance. Listen to podcasts that talk about positiveness. Surround yourself with people who are positive. Know that God loves you exactly how you are. Life is living in greige. It’s a beautiful color!
- Body Positive – Jenna Kutcher
- Therapy with Rach – Rachael Chisenhall
- The American Life is Killing You – Erik Rittenberry
Society tames the wolf into a dog.
And man is the most domesticated
animal of all. ~Nietzsche