My experience with disordered eating

In case you haven’t seen it already, take a minute to watch this video about what happened after a Swedish family ate all organic food for two weeks:

I haven’t written about food in a while, for a couple reasons — I am interested in other things, not just eating healthy (yoga, meditation/mindfulness, all things French); and also, videos like this are a trigger for me.

I started dieting around age 12

I’m not sure why, exactly, but something about that age and boys and puberty (okay, and Barbies, and Chuck Woolery and The Love Connection) leaned ever so slightly on the You Need To Lose Weight button. It felt…natural. It felt normal to want to have Thin Thighs in 30 Days. “Should” started to pick away at my brain so much so that I even remember lying on the floor doing sit-ups right after coming home from getting blood drawn for my thyroid disorder. Somehow I took “take it easy this afternoon” to mean You should still do 30 crunches today, just not the usual 100.

It took a back seat in high school and college, luckily, when I was a smidge more comfortable in my body and I was constantly surrounded by friends. We weren’t really “popular,” but we weren’t nerds or geeks either, so I felt okay. I felt fine. I may have channeled that backseat anxiety into drinking asinine amounts of keg beer, but at the time I couldn’t see it — it’s just what we did.

I started seeing a counselor around age 20

Funny, but I’m not sure what led me to the on-campus counseling center, either. On the surface it was a break-up, and I missed my family, and, as the lovely intern said to me so sweetly, I was very “sensitive.” I think I just felt sort of sad and lost, like lots of college students, probably. Yoga helped. But as soon as I graduated and got engaged, I started to notice my body again — and the healing that I never really gave myself at age 12. The body-bashing messages were sneaking into my brain again, only this time they came from the checkout aisle at the supermarket: You should be strength training. Running. Drinking smoothies and sweating, a lot. You can have a body like that model’s or that actress’s, but only if you drink lots of green tea and snack on popcorn and apple slices. I was getting married; it was so easy to fall right back into the Fat Trap.

A perfect body was always just out of reach

I looked okay on my wedding day, but under the big white dress I was still not satisfied. So when the time came to start thinking about pregnancy, I thought maybe this time I could somehow finally attain my “dream body” before having kids. You know, abs. Arms like Madonna’s. My cellulite would magically disappear, and underneath I would have taut, tan, amazing skin. I think it wasn’t until my dad got sick the first time that I finally woke up and said to myself, WHAT do you think you’re doing?! Who CARES about cellulite and your dress size? You need to focus on HEALTH! But when your relationship with food and fitness is already somewhat askew, even doing things in the name of “health” is like dressing up the same clown in different shoes.

It’s called orthorexia

Not that we need another type of disordered eating, but…they’ve given it a name. Orthorexia is “an obsession with eating foods that one considers healthy.” I started learning about GMOs; I threw out my carcinogenic lipstick; I donated my drug-store shampoo. Anything that was potentially harmful — to me or my kids — got the boot. It was wasteful of me and a bit rash, but that was how this internal wounding was presenting itself: I had to keep controlling my body in some way, and this was The New Way. On the surface, it seemed like The Best Way. But it was just another way, and the little 12-year-old me inside was still frantically doing sit-ups and thigh squeezes, never healing, never stopping to breathe in kindness and gratitude that I even had a body, fully functional limbs, money to buy food with and clean water to drink.

So this is where the video comes in. That was posted last week, and on Saturday I filled my Peapod cart with mostly organic foods. The key word here is”mostly.” Because you see, I’ve finally started listening to the crazed and panicky little one inside. Normally, in the past I would have thrown out the cookies on the counter that I bought over the weekend for my now five-year-old. I would have sworn off potato chips for good. I would have made sure Every Last Thing in my cart was organic, even if that meant spending more money or buying less food.

Today, it’s more about balance

My current thoughts about food and eating revolve around being EXCITED to eat dinner at the end of the day — whether it’s a home-cooked meal of chicken and endive or a “junky” dinner out, complete with cheese curds and whatever’s on tap. I don’t want to cook so much that I burn out (which happens from time to time), and I don’t want to spend so much on restaurant meals and high-end organic foods that I break the bank and stress myself out. It’s about balance. Organic apples this week; jarred salsa next week. A glass of wine tonight; a bottle of water in the morning. I try to remember that it’s never about what it’s about. Unless you’re a magician living under a rock, you’re affected by food, marketing, trends and advertising. It’s not easy to live and eat today without that happening. But my hope is that you see through the slimy tactics and pay attention to that little voice inside that feels overwhelmed and like you don’t measure up, whether it’s because of the size of your belly or the brand of chicken you buy.

No one deserves to feel less than, singled out or inferior because of food. If you’re into organic, be into organic. If you’re into cheese pizza, LOVE on that cheese pizza like it’s the last one on Earth.

You can listen to your body, respect all it does for you every day, honor the ways in which it asks to be fed and enjoy every minute of it.

That is all. That is living.

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