Leftist commentary from a mouthy bitch
It’s not drugs, or alcohol.
It’s disordered eating.
Whenever I get stressed, I stop eating. A lot of eating disorder biographies will tell you that it’s about control, about being able to control one thing in a world that is completely outside your control. But really, it’s about punishment. Things aren’t going so well, you can’t be as perfect as you think you should be, so you punish yourself. My therapist helped me see past the “control” lie. Because that’s what it is. It’s a lie people with disordered eating tell themselves so they don’t have to admit that what they are really doing is punishing themselves.
It’s an illusion of control that does double-duty by punishing you for your evil, unnatural appetites.
And I’ve had my problems with other things like drugs and alcohol. But when I’m stressed, I can avoid those things. I haven’t done drugs in so long, I think I’ve forgotten how. And as for alcohol, I know that when I’m like this, I don’t go near it. I don’t even look at it.
But not eating, as a woman, is an activity that is praised in this society. People reward you when you’re punishing yourself. They tell you how much strength and will-power you have, pretty much right up to the point your hair starts falling out, and for some people, they’ll keep on with it even then. Or, even better, tell you that you still have a ways to go.
Honestly, giving up dieting and starving myself is still harder than any other addiction I’ve ever given up. Because there is so much positive feedback involved. And there is so much condemnation for not doing it. And because women who do not meet our impossible beauty standards are looked down on, particularly if they’ve decided not to play that game anymore.
I just remember being the smallest I had ever been. Eating next to nothing, working out compulsively 4-6 days a week, living on yogurt and white rice with the occasional bit of chicken or broccoli, and still feeling like a huge fat cow because I still couldn’t wear smaller than a 10. And having other people reinforce this, constantly. I swear, the sentence, “You’d be so pretty if you lost some weight” still makes me want to stab people in the face, repeatedly.
And these ideas are so ingrained in our culture, that I can show someone an article about a study that finds, “Yes, indeed, when you diet and then start to eat like a normal person, not only do you gain back the weight you lost, but you gain more because you have borked your metabolism” they will point at the article and say, “But it says you can lose weight.”
Head, meet desk. Repeat.
“Well, I just have to try harder.” Why? Why do you have to be in a constant state of battle with your own body? Just so strangers can feel better about how you look? Fuck them.
“I’ll feel better.”
I don’t know about you, but when I was starving myself to meet the ideal (and failing) I didn’t feel better. I felt like hell. I was always tired, constantly sick, suffering from malnutrition, had recurrent cases of bronchitis. I was cranky, irritable, weepy (ok, weepier than normal).
It’s taken me years to be able to eat in a fashion even remotely resembling intuitive, and to learn how to eat “forbidden” things in moderation. Once I gave myself permission to have chocolate whenever I want it, I find that a Chocolate XOXOX bar will last me about two weeks, if Ogre doesn’t eat it first. When I allow myself to have chips if I feel like it, a bag of Lays will last weeks. And I’m healthier. Last year’s little escapade with Whooping Cough following 5+ months of prescribed laxative use not withstanding. I haven’t had bronchitis in YEARS.
When you are desperately craving something, that’s your body’s way of telling you that something is missing from your diet, something your body needs/wants. I’m still not sure what the every three to six month Pepsi craving is answering, but it’s obviously answering something. And I don’t have intense cravings near as often as I used to. It used to be that every PMS week, I would crave potato chips and chocolate like a crazy person. Now, I don’t. I just don’t, because my body already gets those things if and when it feels like it, so there’s no need to kick my brain into overdrive looking for it. And I haven’t gotten any of those formless, nameless cravings for a while, either. You know the ones, the ones where everything and nothing sounds good. I hate those.
Yeah, right now I could stand a little more exercise, and I’m working on getting back into the swing of that, with everything else that’s going on in my life. Good Lord, am I busy. I’m starting back up with the bellydancing. I’m trying to walk more. I need better shoes.
But right now, what I really wanted to talk about was the relapsing into disordered eating. Ogre’s good about poking me to eat occasionally, and making sure I eat with him when I get like this. I’ve had to learn to ask him to help me with it, to remind me that hunger isn’t a booby-trap, it’s a biological imperative telling you to take care of yourself.
Sometimes I forget that.
Once I get past this damn draft, if you need a lunch buddy, let me know. My life should be freer after this quarter.
That’s the problem with food. It’s something we need to survive but in this culture it’s been turned into something evil- at least for women.
I, on the other hand, have to be careful to check in with myself to see if I’m snacking because I’m bored or stressed. Identifying when I was not actually hungry and not snacking has not, in fact, resulted in a bunch of weight loss because I didn’t eat all that much to begin with but I do feel healthier because, quite often, the snacks available to me at those times were not good. I will, instead, try to take a short walk to release some of the stress.
Desserts were made into a coveted item when I was young from all the dieting and denial my mother put me though. Since I began reminding myself I can have them when I want them the imperative to have them has lessened. I have chocolate bars around for weeks more often than not. Ice cream is the one thing I just have to limit having around. I still have to work on finding non-food rewards and non-dessert rewards to change that programming.
I get appalled when, like the last couple days, I eat more than usual – even though I’m not necessarily eating a bunch compared to even my co-workers – I’m just eating more than *I’m* used to eating. That said, since I have learned to pay attention to it, eat what my body is craving, and stop fighting it – I have become more healthy.
Eh – I lost track of what else I was thinking in regard to this and I need to get back to work now…
One of the good things about the Overeaters Anonymous program is the committing of your food for the day to another person…Some one close to me is in that program and it seems to work for all sorts of Eating Disorders ..Just sayin…As you know I am active in a 12 step program and find the doors wide enough to accomodate a UU pagan. I do have to sometimes remember the bumper sticker “Jesus Save me from your followers” But all are welcome..
Booze is the only “drug” I cant seem to use on a controlled or as prescribed basis..all sorts of science around this THIQ brain enzymes etc.
A lot of the principles are the same, but I think it’s also important to remember that it can be incredibly triggering to someone with a restrictive eating disorder to hear intuitive eating put in terms of eating less rather than more. For anorexics, in particular, being surrounded by a culture that privileges and encourages food restriction can be a really important part of the disorder, as the look around for signals reinforcing both their negative body images and restrictive behavior. Questions that are therapeutic and helpful for someone working to overcome overeating–i.e. “Are you really hungry? Is it physical or emotional?”–can be twisted into means for anorexics to rationalize further restricting already restrictive diets and convince themselves that they don’t *really* need food on occasions when they’d otherwise eat.
I agree, was only suggesting the “commit our food to another concept” not recommending OA to some one who isnt an Overeater.. That is a bad as the Courts and the “treatment Industry” idea that a drug is a drug and sending addicts to AA. AA is for Alcoholics..NA for Adicts..While many are dually addicted , the dynamics are different and sending an anoerxic to OA is about the same as sending an addict to AA..They may get something out of it but it dilutes the message to those who need it.
When I have those days (and I am staying vague because this is something I’m having a hell of a time with the idea of being out about, even now that it’s little more than old echoes; this comment is the most I’ve ever said in a public place), I make myself go back to this. And read it. Twice, sometimes.
The first time I read it, it changed the way I looked at food, and at our culture, and especially at diet culture. It was scary, and then enlightening, and then sad, and then infuriating. Since then, it’s become a sort of touchstone to help ground me back toward intuitive eating when my first impulse is to stop cold.
Thank you for sharing that link.
Thank you doesn’t even seem enough.
Just keep passing it on. =)
It really does change everything, though, doesn’t it? Like getting your first pair of glasses and seeing how different the world looks in sharp focus.
Between finding out my pill-pushing quack of an ex-doctor may have made a medical mistake that’s screwed with my metabolism for the past 9 years to reading that article, to my mother and sister and their ‘concern’ for my ‘weight problem’, I have such a bee in my bonnet right now.
My current doctor and I are going to have a nice long chat on Monday.
I love Junkfood Science.
I’m also a big fan of Every Woman Has an Eating Disorder.
Junkfood Science is marvelous about nutrition and not so great about food allergies. On the whole, though, it’s a marvelous blog.
Every Woman Has an Eating Disorder is great, too–I’d stumbled over it once and really liked it, but then promptly forgot. Thanks for reminding me!!
I don’t have time to go on about this the way I want to. I’ll only say that the “hunger is a weakness to be conquered” viewpoint pisses me off, and makes me want to point out to such people the staggering luxury and privilege of living in a country and a culture where one can choose to go hungry. I’m pretty sure people in, oh, North Korea or Eritrea don’t consider themselves “virtuous” for being constantly hungry.
I swear, the sentence, “You’d be so pretty if you lost some weight” still makes me want to stab people in the face, repeatedly.
Isn’t that called “justifiable homicide.”?
Well said, all of it. And since it’s 5:00 p.m. and I still haven’t eaten, you’ve reminded me to get up and make myself a goddamn sandwich.