Sunday, February 3, 2008

Rawness & Eating Disorders

That's Zeke, by the way, the little rat bastard who keeps distracting me by snuggling up to me.

So I was talking to a vegan friend of mine online and she told me that she relapsed into her eating disorder again. She put it like so: she'd gained weight at college, people started noticing, and so once she went home she figured that it would be a chance to become thin before she went home for college. And it's not like any of us can do anything half-assed.

Really, that's just fucked up. Well, okay, so several things about it are fucked up: first things first, that she even developed an eating disorder in the first place. Let's face it, we are absolutely neurotic about women's bodies. Be thin but not too thin! Be light-skinned but not too light-skinned! Make sure you eat but not too much! Exercise but sweaty and muscular women are gross! Etc. etc. etc. etc.etc.etc.

Women are faced with the choice to eat or not eat every day, and the praise goes heavily to those who choose not to. When I lost 30 lbs. in less than a month through starving myself, the praise was endless. "How did you do it?" and "What's your secret?" and "I'm so jealous!" up the fuckin' wazoo! There really wasn't an end to that shit and really, this is the way eating disorders begin - or continue. If being thin weren't, as Marya Hornbacher called it, "considered a strange state of grace", then perhaps she - perhaps we both - could have chosen a less deadly way to keep, as I have called it, a "safety blanket".

Something you must understand is that eating disorders do not appear in a vacuum. Eating disorders appear where there is at least the public condemnation of desire - and when it comes to desire for food, women have loads of that to spare. Women's appetites are overwhelmingly condemned: slut, pig, whore. If you're female, you know the shtick. (Pornography, by the way, contributes to this by making a subliminal connection between "women who desire" and "women who deserve punishment" through the massively and largely brutal lines of films featuring, as their main attraction, women being hurt because they desire. Just because they
act like they like it doesn't mean they actually do.)

It's amazing, really it is, that more women aren't becoming anorexic, since it seems such an
easy way out. But we are also put into a materialistic culture, one that demands rather than asks for excess consumption of all things - whether it's gadgets or food. This is paired with a cultural neurosis about fat (which is, actually, relatively harmless). The result? Massive epidemic of eating disorders.

I'm not talking about anorexia and bulimia anymore, or any eating disorder (commonly dismissed as ED-NOS, or Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) that covers exclusively or largely the symptoms of those two. I'm speaking about all eating disorders: we have a cultural neurosis about women's bodies and that is causing women to flee in hordes to the safety and relative comfort and security of eating disorders.

Because you can't control that jackass on the street who just called you a fatass. You
can control what you put into your mouth. Or, rather, you can't control all the people who tell you, "fat is unhealthy YOU'RE GOING TO DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE!!!!!!!!!11!1" (yeah, shows a real big concern for my health, practically gloating in the (false) idea that I'm going to die an early death from being fat). But you can make the feeling of being utterly hated - by yourself or by others - go away with food... either by refusing it or gorging on it. (And I am by no means saying that fat people get to being fat because they gorge; usually they do it by dieting.)

See, here's the thing. It's not just fat people they hurt with this fat-people-must will-die rhetoric. It's the thin people, too. They're literally causing girls to become eating disordered because they are projecting so much of their own fucking appearance-insanity upon
other people.

That's fucked up.

Now, I don't have any Ph.D. in psychology, but I do have one thing that most of them don't: I lived it. I lived in that hell for two years, plus many more when I wasn't overtly eating disordered. (Of course, that brings up a question for myself: wasn't I? My mother is quite obviously eating disordered, now that I know how to look for the signs.) And I have one more thing that even
more of them don't have: I got out.

I got out through veganism and raw foods. Like I said, I'm no Ivy League grad, but I do have that. And I do know that if you're ready to let go of that safety blanket - ready to let go of the eating disorder - then you've got to do it slowly, but make sure you keep progressing so that you don't slip back into it. I know that you'll have good days and you'll have okay days and you'll have very, very fucking bad days, but you've got to keep going.

Because, let's face it, being unhappy when you're in recovery doesn't even come close to the shit that goes down when you're unhappy and suffering quietly under your eating disorder. Face it. You know it's true, because if you've been there, if you've been in recovery, then you have tasted, just for that one little glimpse of time, the kind of hope that it would take to pull you through. And that little bit of hope can sustain you for a long, long time - we know that, too. We know that because we continue to watch the scale stay the same and we try drinking only broth and eating only vegetables or doing 2468 and we continue to hope even through our pain.

The hope of recovery is a better kind of hope.

See, the logic of eating disorder clinics is completely backwards. They make you gain weight
first, then make you focus on how the food is just food. That's just bizarre. If you haven't made peace with food, how can you ever hope to not freak out when you see yourself in the mirror? It's so... off, I mean, they push you way past your limit until you just can't wait to get out of there so that you can relapse in peace. It's a weird, unintentional kind of reverse psychology. And I can't imagine why more doctors don't get that.

So, when you're ready to recover - when you are really, truly ready to give up that safety blanket and
deal with the world on a shared set of terms instead of merely your own - when you are really, truly ready to get your personality back, to feel healthy, to feel good, to feel HAPPY! then you need to do these things, gradually.

You need to throw out your scale. This may come later or it may come sooner, but it is absolutely necessary.

You need to stop getting into material that triggers you. Really. Stop watching ANTM. Stop looking through fashion magazines. Throw out your TV if you must. Just STOP HURTING YOURSELF WITH THESE THINGS.

You need to start eating right. I'm biased because of what raw veganism has done for me, so of course I'm going to say that's best. But if it's not, you need to decide that for yourself.

You need to start going to therapy. Not group therapy; that just makes you feel like you're not "sick" enough or it gives you pride in being the sickest one there. Cherry-pick your psychologist so that you KNOW they have experience and expertise in treating eating disorders and, if you have BED, then someone who won't hold up weight-loss as your ultimate goal.

You need to find someone who will understand, who is already in recovery and won't let you slip back in. If you want me to do this, don't hesitate to ask me, because I've been there.

You need to throw out all your "thin foods" or your "binge foods", the foods you use to make yourself hungry or tide you over when you're starving/binging, and you need to
never fucking touch them again. Life is too short for celery sticks. It's also too short for processed cookie crap that you don't really taste. I mean it.

You need to develop a healthy eating plan (note: NOT A DIET) that will allow you to be full without being too full and that will allow you to progress slowly towards your goals of healthiness.

You need to never go on a diet.
Ever. Going on diets will merely trigger your eating disorder again. Do not starve yourself in any way.

And finally, you need to listen to your body. It deserves better than punishment from you and, let's face it, an eating disorder is punishment both for you and for your body. You may
think you feel better, but it's a false kind of "better" and furthermore, you deserve to feel better all the time - not just when you're starving or binging. Eat when you're hungry. Stop when you're satisfied, rather than sedated. On special occasions (defined solely by you), feel free to eat more than you would otherwise, because that's animal nature - food is not just fuel, it's love.

Thank you and goodnight.


Miss Kris Dove said...

Thanks for sharing :)

I was reading this realising how fucked up my own thoughts still are- and here I was thinking I'm getting better, I physically am but the fucked up thinking still resides- because of your mention of losing 30lbs in a months, and I must admit, I'm just another woman in the long queue "wanting to know your secret." Even though I know it involves unhealthy behaviour, I'm thinking to myself, "it'll just be for the month and it will spur me on to keep it maintained thereafter..." ugh... :(

It's sad how this disordered thinking is ingrained into so many womens minds.

Reverence Lily said...


I know the feeling. But the "secret" is to hate yourself so deeply and thoroughly that you cannot bear to waste any food on the body that you see as being utterly worthless just because it carries you around. I'm glad you realize that's not healthy.

The really fucked up part is that we're taught to think that not only is this okay, it's desirable. That it doesn't really matter how we're destroying our bodies and our minds as long as we're thin and pretty.

Then the question becomes, thin and pretty for who? Yourself? Hah, no, no one loses weight for themselves, because you are, after all, capable of accepting yourself just as you are, however hard it may seem. No, it's society you're losing weight for - and remember, you can never please anyone.

Though you can try.

That's the trouble.