when the impulse for a binge came i could feel it travel through me. a slow, steady, steam-roll of progression.
first came the thought.
that was all. an idea. a whisper, a promise, a strand of air. the thought: binge, it would say. go ahead, make your way to the store, get what you will, and eat it. all of it.
and that was it. the thought was the beginning, middle--the end. i was helpless against it. it would slip down my throat effortlessly, burn a little as it passed through my neck and across my shoulder blades, and then it would sit heavy and pulsing at the pit of my stomach.
i was a woman possessed. there was no defense against the thought.
it was a helplessness that i'd not experienced before and God willing, never will again. it was consistent, relentless, overwhelming and at one point, near daily. and it was stronger than me. it was real and nearly impossible to describe to others.
if it's just a thought, why not ignore it?
how to explain?
to ask me to ignore it would have been like asking the waves to ignore the pull of the moon. to stop their continuous and steady progression along the coast line.
the very first time i met with tom (head of the eating and weight disorder program at one our new york city hospitals) he so clearly and calmly said to me: it's called thought action fusion. right now your brain can't distinguish between the though and the action that will follow, the binge. it's physical and it's science.
life raft. that information was the first life raft.
have the thought to binge. wait five minutes, and then go ahead.
next time, give yourself ten minutes between the thought and the action.
then fifteen, then twenty, and on and on. that will strengthen that muscle in your mind. it's exercise. and it will allow you to separate the two.
the thought is the thought. the action, the action. they are separate. apart. different.
and so it began. and i began to accumulate life rafts. little bobbing boats that pulled me from the great, unforgiving, unrelenting tidal wave of blue.
it has been such a long, slow road to finding my way back--much of it chronicled here, peppered through the now three-year archive of this blog.
an eating disorder is a disease. an addiction. but you don't get to swear off the substance you so like to abuse. and while you, like so many others need to lose weight, every lick of leading diet information and advice will not aid you, it will not only serve to make you far, far sicker.
take a minute to imagine that, will you? if every piece of good medicine or leading nutritional information or common, popular dogma only served to make you worse, immeasurably so.
for me, the process of getting better has been one very grand experiment. and as with any scientific study failure is necessary--it provides some of the most valuable feedback.
i pretty quickly figured out some basic things: counting calories doesn't work. cutting out carbs doesn't work (but don't think i didn't try both those thing many, many, many, many times just to be sure).
the long and short of what i've learned is this: if i can't do it every day for the rest of my life, it just won't serve me.
i learned to make food bigger than myself. i became a vegetarian because it's good for the environment. and what right do i have to place the human desire for meat over the welfare of planet earth? that's not to say i encourage everyone to cut out meat. or eggs or cheese or any of that. though i do implore others to eat locally. to support restaurants that employ the farm to table model. to buy from road stands and refuse the plastic bag when you can carry the container of blueberries and bottle of water the short distance of the corner store to home without it.
i learned that (for myself) i'm happiest when i delay breakfast, when i don't worry about five square meals. a late breakfast and three do me just fine. i like eating lighter in the morning and heavier at night. i do that and i lose weight--how bout that for going against the grain?
i also worked out that sometimes going to the gym just isn't in the cards. and so i get a massage instead. because there are a million different ways we can be kind to our bodies. and because when i'm ready i do return. and the pulsing and the squats and the pain of it all--well, my body likes it, even if i don't.
i learned that exercise is best when i engage the mind.
and that the further away i get from that abysmal period in which i starved myself (six years now) the more forgiving my body is of those moments i over eat. because my body knows me now. knows i won't ever withhold again, so there's no need for it to hold onto the empty calories.
as well as i am now, and i am, i'm very well, there are pockets of time when i slip into old habits and old ways. these pockets don't usually last so long but they are unsettling and difficult nonetheless.
these last three weeks i've eaten little more than entenmann's doughnuts and ben and jerry's ice cream.
there i said it. my two great accomplices. donuts and ice cream. and of course these two things make themselves visible on my body. because those can't be your two main food groups and you not see a change. and in the throws of something bigger than myself i look in the mirror and voila! i am as big as i've ever been (not true), but so the feeling goes.
the thing about this go round, this little battle with the gods of health. well...this go round life continued on. and life was good. despite the difficulty in getting out of bed. despite not feeling beautiful. despite feeling down and low and wanting to eat just to eat, i went out at night. went on dates. sojourned out with my best gal pals. i would wake in the morning and have my coffee and play the music and attempt to live normally. and all in all, life was pretty good.
better than pretty good.
and as i separate life from the eating disorder, as the two things begin to live in different spheres, i am reminded of though action fusion and the strengthening of the muscle that separates the two.
i am strengthening the muscle of life and the more space--the more distance i can put between my life and my struggle with food, the weaker the struggle with food becomes until eventually it is eclipsed, outrun, overrun by the bounty of my desire to live well and truthfully and with integrity.
most people say that those who struggle with eating issues will do so for the rest of their life. it's a lifelong battle, a lifelong struggle. a chronic disease.
i say, what a grim diagnosis. what a shortsighted, but easy to propagate media sound bite.
i'll be damned if i deal with this for the rest of my life.
there are few things i know with great certainty in this world, but this i know (in my gut, in my toes, in every fiber of the purest form of me) i know this: i will not struggle with an eating disorder for the rest of my life. i will not even struggle with eating issues for the rest of my. because i'm dealing with it now. because i'm challenging it on every level at this very moment and so it will pass and i will pass on to better things. because i am armed with invaluable tools and immeasurable amounts of (the correct) information. and because i am slowly regaining an inner confidence stronger than any amount of weight, any number of donut boxes, any stockpile of mornings in which getting out of bed is difficult.
i'm willing to venture and say that, at this point in time, my relationship with food is healthier than the average american woman's. this is not to boast, but rather to comment on the despairing nature of food culture in this country.
there is a balance that must be struck--a balance between loving the body i have in this moment and a desire to be kind to it. and the more i love my body, the kinder i am. and the kinder i am, the more my body surprises me and the more beautiful it becomes.
i have hips. beautiful, lovely, full hips. and why shouldn't i celebrate them--just as i celebrate the inordinate number of moles peppering my skin and my almond-shaped eyes that nearly disappear when i smile?
dear kate moss, nothing tastes so good as skinny feels? what a sad and constricting way to live one's life. what a small idea to think the two mutually exclusive (dangerous, even). what a lie that's being parceled out by numerous sectors of our society.
i want to live in a world where i don't read magazines in which they suggest the best way to deal with body image issues when showering with a man is to wear a t-shirt--more coverage for you, male-fantasy for him. don't get me wrong, the whole t-shirt thing sounds kind of exciting. but really? really? the men don't care. they don't see the extra weight. they're beside themselves with giddiness. it's not the men making women self-concious--it's the articles suggesting you should be aware, uncomfortable--that there is something to hide.
someone recently asked if i regret any of what i've written on the blog regarding my struggle towards health? if it's uncomfortable to know that both friends and family read it?
i would be remiss if i didn't say there were moments it was difficult or embarrassing or even shameful. but for me it was necessary. so that other's might understand, (especially so my parents might understand) what i'd never have the courage or clarity so say out loud.
but to say i regret any of it would be to diminish the power of this life--not just my life, but the sphere of life in which all things take place. to say i regret any of it would be to dismiss humanity.
so i found my humanity in a box of donuts and an eating disorder? it's a little funny, no? and a little beautiful and little bit just entirely the way life goes.
i don't regret the past or the mistakes or my few extra pounds because they're all part of the story. and the story's still unraveling. and i have this sense that i'm just about to get to the good part.