I wasn’t one of those people who had an eating disorder “as long as I could remember.” I wasn’t a child who struggled with food.
I’d say it wasn’t until I was 13 that food became a problem. Only a year before I was bringing fried chicken smothered in garlic butter, a bag of chips, and a Mountain Dew to lunch everyday at school. I could eat in front of people, I could finish everything, and I could go about my day not worrying about whether or not the calories (650 calories) were going straight to my hips. And when I got home, I could eat an entire plate of spicy chicken wings with ranch dressing and another Mountain Dew (1020 calories). Taking breakfast into consideration — a bowl of cereal with milk (340 calories) — that’s about 2,010 calories, not counting any other snacks or sodas I had during the day.
I’m not sure how I managed to stay underweight given that diet, although I know I had fruits and veggies on most days (at least at dinner — those plate of chicken wings were special, or in other words, mom was too lazy to cook).
The point is — I was fine with food. I didn’t have to think of it between meals.
But once I started thinking my stomach was fat, I started only eating when I was hungry. Oh, I’d still have microwavable french bread pizza for breakfast on the weekends, but if I wanted one when I wasn’t hungry? Nope.
And then I started asking my mom to get me fruit for breakfast instead.
Then I started telling my mom to only get me beef jerky for lunch.
When she protested and said she didn’t want me to develop an eating disorder, she still continued to enable me by cutting the jerky into bite-sized pieces, sticking it in a baggie, and putting it in my lunchbox, never putting anything else knowing I wouldn’t eat it anyway.
And then when she died a year later, I turned my mild frustration with food into complete disgust and stopped eating all together.
I hated food.
But underneath, it’s not really the food I hated. It was the effects of food that I hated.
Because when I’m starving, food all of a sudden looks so incredibly different. The smell of french fries just isn’t good, it’s sexual, and the desire to eat becomes primal. Food never looks so good until your body needs it, and the moment it touches your tongue and you start salivating, it’s like you’ve left planet earth and entered a total and complete state of nirvana.
And that is bingeing.
And although I “hate” bingeing, I love it, because food not only cures my physical hunger, for the moment, it cures whatever bad thing I am feeling. It’s an instant cure for boredom, sadness, anger, and depression. And although the moment of euphoria is fleeting, nobody knows how wonderful eating really is until they’ve deprived themselves of all the different textures, smells, and tastes.
You don’t notice those things until you’ve had them taken away.
I love food. I walk though a bakery and feel overwhelmed. I look at the donuts behind the glass counter like the desperate girlfriend who longingly looks at engagement rings behind the jewelry store window. Admiring how pretty they all look but knowing it’s not yet time to get one, worrying that my time to get one may never come in this lifetime.
The only difference is once that girl gets an engagement ring — she doesn’t buy three more to go with it.
I look at food differently than other people, even in recovery.