Since I have an eating disorder, I am allowed to say Happy National Eating Disorders Awareness Week!
I don’t use past tense when referring to my ED, because my eating disorder has proven itself sticky. Every day, I think negatively about what I’m eating or drinking. Some days, it’s a passing thought that I brush aside, but others, it’s a spiral and I beat myself up for ceding control to a bowl of pasta and a glass of wine. ED is the worst kind of boyfriend. He doesn’t abuse you; he convinces you to abuse yourself.
But as I’ve gotten older and given birth to my daughter, ED takes up less and less head space, and those spirals become more rare. Quit friending me on Facebook, ED! I knew you in college, but you list Jordan Peterson as a personal hero. Gross.
Thanks a lot, Julia Roberts
I can pinpoint when my eating disorder started. It was 1991, and I was a senior in high school, at the movies watching Pretty Woman with my mother. Nothing like watching Richard Gere pick out a condom for his blowjob with your mom.
There was Julia Roberts on screen, with her super model gams and thigh gap. There I was, watching with my very fit body — I played four sports — but my legs were more akin to Bo Jackson’s than to Vivian’s. Thick thighs save lives, but they don’t get you on a movie poster, at least not during the Bush Sr. administration.
Lean and lithe was the goal.
I started asking for just veggies with fat free dressing in my sack lunches, and my mother obliged. By fueling the second half of my day, including softball practice, on ten slices of bell pepper and a tablespoon of Hidden Valley Ranch, I was starving. But you could see my ribs. Success!
What is Normal Eating?
My eating disorder was at its nadir in my early 20s, when I was clinically depressed and in a starvation/puke cycle that required medical intervention to stop. I credit Dr. Niquie Dworkin for pulling me out of my compulsive behavior and helping me forgive/understand/trust myself.
That is not to stay my issues ended there. I think I last threw up in 2006, and it wasn’t until 2014 that I started to accept Amy for Amy. I starved myself for most of fall 2017 after a bad break-up. I’m currently beating myself up for having a glass of wine every night at dinner. To quote Brad Pitt as Billy Beene, it’s a process.
The best gift Dr. Dworkin gave me — besides large doses of Prozac and thrice-weekly therapy sessions — was a photocopy of “What is Normal Eating?” that I still have today. I think it’s something that could help anyone with a body in 2020. It reads:
Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied.
This one also works if you substitute “to the table” with “to the couch with trays.”
It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it – not just stop eating because you think you should.
I always choose food I like. This is why I never ingest deviled eggs, olives or Diet Pepsi, the food and bevvies they serve in hell.
Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection, so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food.
Restrictions and cleanses are another way to label foods as bad and label you as bad if you eat them. If you mess up on your restriction, you are FAILURE.
You know that quote from Samuel Beckett that Stan Wawrinka has tattooed on his arm? Ever tried? Every failed? Eat more nachos.
Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good.
This is the hardest one of all when it comes to being gentle with yourself. We don’t place a lot of judgment on happy eating because we are usually being social and celebrating, and the dopamine is flying through our bloodstream alongside champagne and mozzarella sticks.
But eating when we are sad? If I’m already sad, it’s easy to beat myself up for adding calories to my woes. I wonder what we all ate on November 9th, 2016?
Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way. It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful.
I work from home. I think my daily meal count average is eight. I’d make a great cow. My skillset? Grazing.
Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more.
God invented Aerie leggings for a reason. No reason to let you pants make you feel bad after a meal.
Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating.
The body can cleanse itself? Our organs can right the ship? Has someone told Gwyneth Paltrow this?
Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life.
This is the most important definition of normal eating. I have to eat; I have to think about it on some level every day. It’s all about balance. Think less about food and more about Vanderpump Rules.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder and need help, contact the National Eating Disorder Association Hotline at (800) 931-2237 or select this link to chat online with a Helpline volunteer.
Amy takes pride in being a grumpy optimist. Want to talk sports ball? Amy is your girl. Her favorite New York Times crossword puzzle day is Tuesday. If your book is set in the former Soviet Union or World War 2, Amy will read it. As a recovered Southern Baptist, she is raising her daughter to be happy.