Trusting the Body: Fast Food as Medicine

I was that child who ate her mother’s make-up.   I was also the kid who in kindergarten snuck bits of play dough into her pockets to snack on when no one else is looking. My mind was plagued with irresistable urges to put things in my mouth: glue and vaseline and paper, as well as the salt of the sweat licked off my own arms. Speaking of salt, I once stole a friend’s salt rock from her collection and carried it in my pocket to suck on when the craving arose.
Given these facts, you can see how  I might have developed a belief that my cravings were untrustworthy,  that my appetite needed to be tamed and taken under the rule of willpower.

Fast forward thirty years.

My recovery from anorexia and bulimia has been bumpy, a path strewn with switch backs and fire closures, torturous hilly climbs and sheer cliff drops.  I’ve proved myself capable of tremendous growth and progress, and equally impressive relapses.

All this time, I’ve battled a feeling of powerlessness.  Not the good kind of powerlessness, the kind that leads 12 steppers to surrender and freedom from obsession.  Rather, the kind of powerlessness that feels like a bodily invasion by an insatiable monster. This monster takes over at regular intervals and is not the least bit effected by any of the interventions I’ve tried.

Under the guidance of an excellent therapist and nutritionist, I’ve stabilized my weight, gotten rid of some terrible habits (like a case-a-day diet coke habit), found ways to eat adequate protein on a vegetarian diet.  I now generally eat a whole foods, plant based diet with adequate calories and a high level of nutrition.

Except, of course, those days when the monster takes over and I stuff myself with all the processed junk food and fast food I can get my hands on.

I’ve always blamed my insatiable cravings for processed food on my eating disorder.  Every out-of-control detour to the drive-thru was evidence that I was still sick, still out of control.  Clearly, I was eating my feelings, stuffing my emotions, using food as a substitute for love, rebelling against authority, sabotaging my happiness, resisting my recovery, etc.

Even when I wasn’t really.

Here’s how the scene typically plays out.

The Monster Within:  I am dying for a veggie burger from Burger King.  Seriously dying over here.

Me:  No, you’re not.  You’re just having an urge, you sick bastard.  Let’s use our skills.

Monster:  No really, please, you gotta give me one.  I think I’m dying.

Me:  I’ve made you this perfectly nutritious, yummy, and filling dinner to eat.     I can’t afford for you to keep eating fast food all the time, I’m on a budget.  Also, it’s not healthy.  Let’s meditate or pray or reach out for support or—

Monster: I’m not going to leave you alone until you give me a Burger King veggie burger with cheese and mayonnaise. How can you do this to me? I can feel death coming on as we speak.

Me:  Let’s try breath counting.  One…two—

Monster: VEGGIE BURGER CHEESE AND MAYONAISE VEGGIE BURGER CHEESE AND MAYONAISE VEGGIE BURGER CHEESE AND MAYONAISE VEGGIE BURGER CHEESE AND MAYONAISE VEGGIE BURGER CHEESE AND MAYONAISE

Me (in the Burger King drive-thru):  I’ll take a veggie burger with only cheese and mayonnaise, please. 

And that’s the point when the other voice takes over.

Eating Disorder: Well, you just blew it.  You’re literally hopeless.  You are such an out of control pig.

Me:  Just tell me what to do. Tell me what will make you shut the hell up?

Eating Disorder: Okay, okay. You know what would really help?  Hear me out, cause this is going to sound crazy, but I think I have the answer.  You’ve already messed up, so obviously you have to start over.  You’ll have to destroy yourself and start fresh tomorrow, it’s the only way. You might as well keep on eating and then purge.   Just one more time.  You’ll feel so much better. One more time and then you’ll finally be done.  You’ll be ready to quit for good.  You’ll be so strong, starting tomorrow.

Over and over and over, same script, same players, same outcomes.

My therapist has been working with me to quiet the self-critical and self-hating voices that are the constant background noise in my head.  With a tiny bit less hateful shouting in my mind, there’s greater capacity to hear the quiet truths that rise up from time to time.  A new truth I’ve noticed:  I really feel like shit when I follow my whole food, healthy meal plan.

The truth is, when I follow my meal plan, I feel weak, headachy, and dizzy.  I feel depressed.  I get lightheaded when I stand. I have trouble writing because I can’t seem to get my brain to communicate with my hands.  All of this has gotten worse over the last year, since I developed symptoms of Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrom.

And I am tormented by obsessive food thoughts, by a constant demand in my head for Burger King veggie burgers and other processed foods.

Recently, in a fit of frustration,  I decided to abandon any efforts to control myself.  For about a week, I ate all the fast food I wanted, which ended up being two out of three daily meals.  With some of the self-hatred noise turned down in my mind, I had enough awareness to notice something during this experiment.   I actually felt much, much better.  Although I still have my POTS symptoms throughout the day, I found that processed food seemed to offer a bit of temporary relief.  For an hour or so, I felt more energized, less droopy, less headachy.

I took a closer look at some patterns in the nutritional data I’ve been logging into the Myfitnesspal account I’ve been advised not to have. I noticed there really wasn’t much difference between “good” days and “bad” days in terms of caloric intake and macronutrient distribution.  Obviously the fast food days didn’t come close to hitting micronutrient levels—except, for sodium.  On fast food days, my sodium intake tripled.

Sodium.  Interesting.  Sodium plays a vital role in fluid regulation, which is something my body struggles with.  I can’t keep my blood volume up, resulting in chronic low blood pressure, low pulse pressure, dizziness, and lethargy.  Despite drinking more than a gallon of water per day, I always feel thirsty and dehydrated. POTS patients are frequently instructed to increase their sodium, which I haven’t done intentionally yet because  I haven’t been able to get a doctor to diagnose me.

Is it possible that my inability to stay out of the drive-thru is less a manifestation of my eating disorder, and more a message from my body that I should consider paying attention to?  Is it possible then that my intolerable, desperate drive for processed food is merely my body’s attempt to medicate itself with increased sodium?

I brought my theory to my nutritionist at my next appointment with her, and she felt like it was worth investigating.  She explained that there have been studies that show humans will experience a drive to continue eating, regardless of satiety or calorie intake, until their bodies hit their own unique need for macro or micro nutrients.   The logs on Myfitnesspal show that on my “bad” days, I tend to eat until I get to 5,000-6,000 mgs. of sodium.  Is it possible this is my body’s specific level, the level below which I will experience cravings and intense drive to eat and eat and eat?

The goal my nutritionist and I agreed to this month is to find a healthier (and less expensive) way to meet my body’s possible need for increased sodium.  My instructions are to add some vegetable broth, V8 juice, and pickles throughout the day.  I’ll track my sodium and water intake and observe the effect on my blood pressure, pulse, and symptoms.  I am extremely hopeful that this experiment is going to give me the information I need both for my eating disorder recovery and for relief from my physical symptoms.

Another Conversation with An Allosexual

You’re frustrated with me today, exhausted by my persistent hopelessness about intimate relationships.

“I feel so alienated,” I say.

“But look around.” you reply. “We all feel that way.” Nothing irks you more than when I think my despair is special.

But do you feel it? The experience of never seeing yourself reflected in another person, nor in any book, movie, song, painting, television show, story–except villains, those subhuman monsters who similarly lacked a capacity for romance?

I did look around. I watched my peers relinquish hobbies, identities, and free time.  Money, futures, sports.  Having found real love, true love, they moved away from me, devaluing the relationship space we had occupied. They ran away from home and dropped out of school and got pregnant/married/engaged, were disowned by their families.  Over and over, they declared true love was worth it.

(The only thing worth it.)

“I just find it so difficult to connect to other people,” I confide. Given this intolerable reality. Given how disposable I am. “There’s always this wall around me.”

You’re sick to death about hearing about the wall. “That’s just not how I experience you,” you say.

But wasn’t it you who once told me you couldn’t survive without your husband? Yes, yes, it was.  I still remember. You said you couldn’t bear to be here anymore, if he went first.  Even though I’m here. Even though I’m here loving you, too.

Tell me again that lie about the buffet. The one where you said I’m standing in front of a banquet of food, complaining there’s nothing for me to eat, refusing even to take a plate.

A Conversation with an Allosexual

I tell you about a movie I saw,  The Age of Adeline, where a woman stops physically aging, then lives nearly another century in the body of a 29 year old.  By the time she is 107 years old, almost everyone she ever loved is long gone, and even her daughter is an old woman.  Adeline has stayed alone all this time, finding it too painful to love other people when there is no prospect of a future together. Her casual relationships are shallow and temporary, and she withholds her true self.

I’ve concluded that without a physically intimate romantic partnership, my life is likely to be a similar procession of transitory relationships. So far, my acceptance of this reality isn’t going well.  It hurts like hell.

“I just can’t bear the impermanence of friendship,” I say.

“Well,  but that’s life,” you reply.  You’re finding it nearly intolerable, how I complain about things that everyone else experiences too, like I’m the only one who finds pain in living.

“It feels too hard to connect with people when friendship feels so temporary, so unsafe. I just want a best friend who will be my friend for life.”

“There are no guarantees,” you say.  “Even in marriage.”

Which, I will realize later, really pisses me off. Easy for you to say, “nothing is guaranteed,” and then go home to your husband, a person you intend to stay with for life.

Yes, yes, yes, of course you’re right. Marriages fail, families break, terrorists blow up people in theatres and shoot them on bridges. And yet…I don’t think other people really know this, really feel the fragility of their love, not down in their bones—it simply hurts too much there. We humans have organized an entire reality around our collective need to delude ourselves about the permanence of love. We figured out, thousands of years ago, that in order to survive, to feel safe enough to truly enter intimacy, we need to believe the story that bonds of love are unbreakable.

I may be asexual, but I have the same need.  Can’t you see your sexual/romantic society is organized in a way that excludes people like me?  The story you created, the story you tell yourself to survive, is that while all other love is impermanent, romantic love lasts. True love endures where everything else falters.  Even those who retreat into celibate religious orders often make use of the same story, such as when nuns get married to the church. Then people like me are left outside the wall, without a story.

I want to say to you, “Imagine living without him.  Imagine never having had him, never having the hope of him. Really feel this.  Now do you understand the emptiness?”

But I don’t say this. I’m afraid you can’t really feel it, or that you won’t really feel it. So far, you’ve refused.  I know it hurts too much, to feel it in your bones.  I know I’m alone in my grief.

Today you asked what you can do to help me.  My answer: Please believe my grief is real.

On Being a Ruiner

I once wrecked up the passenger side of my Jeep three times in one week.  Twice in one afternoon.

First, I backed out of a parking spot at my office and knocked my passenger side mirror off on stone pillar. “Oh, man,” I said.  “I cannot believe I just did that.”  And I kept on going to Burger King for lunch. Upon my return to the parking garage, the spot I’d left earlier was still vacant, so I pulled in,  scraping up my entire passenger along the exact same parking pillar I’d hit an hour before.

Unable to face the damage, I got out of my car and went back to work without looking. It wasn’t until after I got home that night that I took an assessment:  a crushing dent along both the front and back passenger doors, a deep gash in the paint down to the metal.  A few days later, I backed into an Oldsmobile in a Bojangle’s parking lot, completing a line of wreckage all the way to the rear bumper.

I had a $1,000 insurance deductible and no money, so the damage never got repaired. Over the next three years, the gash rusted and the paint around the wound flaked away.

At the time I had bought the Jeep, it was the nicest used vehicle I’d ever owned. It was a step up from my previous vehicle, an elderly Nissan Altima with no reverse and only the merest suggestion of brakes. I’d truly meant to take care of the Jeep.  I still remember my sadness the first time I failed to get the oil changed because I didn’t have the money. And then it came time for 75,000 mile maintenance tasks—I didn’t have the money for a single one. So much for my lofty ideas about becoming a responsible adult who takes care of her business.

Over time, I simply gave up trying, settling into my comfortable idea of myself as a ruiner. The vehicle served as an outward expression of how I felt about myself.  Every time I approached it in a parking lot I cringed and thought, Crap that looks terrible.  Followed fairly closely by, I’m such a loser.

My Jeep rotted from the outside in, and when it finally died a painful death from transmission failure, I towed it to a dealership for a trade in. The man at the receiving lot at Carmax took one look at my crushed up vehicle and asked if I’d been hit by a deer.

A series of unwise decisions later (it’s never smart to buy a car with no money), I pulled out of Carmax with a used Kia.  Now this was the nicest car I had ever owned.  I’d never had a car so clean and fresh and cute.  I loved how compact and sleek it was.  It smelled of the previous owner’s perfume.  It boasted 38 mpg highway.  It had power windows.

It took me weeks to believe the car was really mine (or, would be mine, in like 5 years). I couldn’t get comfortable in something so nice. I watched myself anxiously, waiting to see how I would ruin it.

One day I knocked my computer bag against the middle console, spilling a can of Diet Coke all over the front seat.  I was filled with a strange combination of disappointment and relief—it was happening.  It was becoming my car. Reminding myself that I was trying to do things differently this time,  I cleaned up the Diet Coke the best I could, even using a bit of upholstery cleaner.  Crisis averted. For now.

I got the idea that maybe I could find some other way of personalizing my car besides banging it up or staining the seats.  I googled “car decorations,” and then on payday I ordered a purple steering wheel cover from Amazon.  On Etsy I found a crystal pendant to hang from my rearview mirror.  The crystals showered little rainbows all over the interior when the sun hit it.

I really tried. Every time I stopped for gas, I cleaned out the trash from the little garbage bag I’d bought.  I picked up the leaves and pine needles from the floorboards.  I washed and vacuumed twice per month. I got the oil changed.

I started thinking, I am one of those people who takes care of her car.

In the Jeep days, I had needed at least twenty-four hours notice before anyone could ride in my car, because there was some heavy duty cleaning required to avoid utter humiliation.  Now I found myself saying, on the spur of the moment, “I’ll drive!” And, “She can ride with me.”  I even let my father move my car to a new spot on his driveway during a visit—without feeling violated and ashamed.

When I walked through a parking lot to meet my car, I felt proud of how it was shiny and clean, and how the seats were empty of crap—clearly, someone with her shit together owned this car (or would, in like 5 years).

But I just couldn’t shake the feeling that the ruining was coming.

Three months after purchasing my Kia, I went to withdraw cash from a drive-up ATM.  As I pulled my car up, I heard the unmistakable sound of metal meeting concrete.  And I went immediately into panicked denial.  This isn’t happening. Instead of acting like a sane person and stopping, I just kept moving forward, waiting for that obnoxious scraping sound to go away.  Nope, this isn’t happening.

Ah, but it was.  After withdrawing the money I needed for my therapy appointment, I got out of my car and inspected the damage.  I had dragged the side of my car across two knee-high yellow pillars, creating a two foot gash across the driver’s side door. I had done it again. I had ruined my car.

It appeared that I was still not ready for nice things.

It’s been eighteen months since my run-in with the pillars at that ATM, and I must confess  I still haven’t fixed the damage (there are so many more pressing needs to fill with the insurance deductible money).  Every time I appoach my car in a parking lot, I think, Crap, that looks terrible. Followed by,  I’m such a loser.

Yet, I am encouraged by some signs of progress.  Shortly after my accident, I learned from Google how to remove the yellow paint marks from the door, which significantly improved the aesthetic.  And while the upholstery is stained from where I’ve dropped food in my lap and spilled red beverages on the floors  and from where a lipstick tube melted on the back seat , I do not have heaps of trash and wrappers and empty diet Coke cans piled on the floor boards.  I’ve washed the exterior and vacuumed the interior within the last month.  I am only a thousand miles behind on oil changes. Since I no longer smoke, I don’t have ashes and burn marks all over.

If someone needs a ride in my car , I can offer one without terrible shame, and without needing to stall so that I can do an emergency clean up.  “Excuse the dented door,” I might say, but overall, I feel not humiliated to welcome guests inside my car.

And I must admit, I enjoy how the crystal pendant hanging from my rearview mirror showers rainbows all over the interior when the sun hits.

Stating the Dream

Recently I’ve been devouring videos of  hikers documenting their thru-hikes on the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail.  I’ve always been a fan of  hiking, and also camping, though I’m an amateur at both and have never combined them.  There is something so liberating about paring down to the essentials and immersing oneself in nature–freedom from the kitchen, from mirrors, from external shouting, from internal shouting, from liquor stores.

The freedom from craving that occurs when acting on the urge is not an option:  I long for this relief, for this deep dive into radical acceptance.

Watching thru-hiking videos brings up my usual patterns of jealousy and negative thinking.  I could never afford to do something like that.  There’s not a way for me to create the kind of life I want.   There are only a handful of good lives issued each generation, and these jerks got the last ones.

A few weeks ago my therapist asked me, with her usual gentle seriousness, “Are you feeling ready to move onto hope, or do you need to hang out in hopelessness just a bit longer?” I have to say, what I felt most from that question was gratitude.  I greatly appreciate the choice, the respect for the depth of my hopelessness.

Maybe you move into hope in uneven fits and stages.  Though I am optimistic about an eventual life of fulfillment and episodic joyfulness,  there are places where I still need to cling to hopelessness.  I feel hopeless about ever fully recovering from my eating disorder.  I feel hopeless about developing quality, fulfilling intimate relationships as an asexual. I feel hopeless about ever feeling true belonging.

But maybe I’m ready to leave behind hopelessness about my work and peek out to explore the hopeful landscape of a new career.

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m utterly miserable in my current work.    I can’t think of a single job I’m qualified for where I wouldn’t have to do the tasks that make me so unhappy:1.  Faking competence 2. Faking enthusiasm 3.  Having a good, subordinate attitude to superiors 4.  Dressing professionally 5.  Pleasing people.

There’s a constant why can’t I just voice in my head these days.  Why can’t I just have a job where I work for myself and set my own schedule and wear what I want? Why can’t I just write all day (what I want to write, not some lame assignment from others) and make enough money to get out of debt and have a comfortable life and hike the Appalachian Trail?

And then I judge myself and beat myself up for having these thoughts.

What makes you think you deserve to have the life you want? Greedy, greedy pig. 

Yes, I know that most of the world toils and labors under brutal conditions and for poverty wages, and I deserve better only to the extent that everyone on the planet deserves better.  Its not about deserving.  It’s about—well, why not just imagine and try and reach, and see what happens?  I’m already extremely privileged, after all, and ought to be grateful for what I have (and I am!  I’m just sort of also full of self-pity.) Striving for what I want doesn’t take away from anyone else as long as I act in ethical ways.  What’s the harm in dreaming?

Maybe I’ll start by actually stating the vision of my dream work day.  If I could have it, what I would want for my life is for my day to look like this:

  • 7—Wake up without an alarm, feeling rested.
  • 7-9—Morning prayer and meditation practice, followed by a long run and a shower.
  • 9-12—Settle into a comfy chair at a coffee shop for my morning writing session.  Mornings are when I Iike to do first drafts, my most meditative and creative work.
  • 12-3—Take a long lunch break to refill the well. Read, go to an art museum, go for a hike in the woods, watch a movie, listen to music.
  • 3-6—Afternoon writing session.  Work on editing, revisions, and business tasks.
  • 6—11—The work day is over and I’m free to do those things that make my life feel full and meaningful:  12 step meetings, church, visits with friends, ballet class, yoga, good TV and movies.

Okay, I’ve said it.  I’ve put it out there in the universe.  Now i’m going to put my head down and get back to work on my novel.

An Ace’s First Kiss, Narrowly Averted

CW:  Description of personal experience, including internalized heteronormative beliefs.  Also consent issues.

Unless you count the boy I “went with” in fifth grade, my first boyfriend was a guy named Matt from my sophomore algebra class.  He was clean cut, nice looking,  a good catch according to friends.  He was kind and had a car and there was nothing at all objectionable about him (other than the fact that he was a junior in sophomore math, which was easily overlooked).

Matt was my chance to be “normal,” to have the boyfriend I was required to have. I didn’t want it. I wouldn’t know for another two decades that it was okay to not want it.

I don’t recall the details of how Matt became my boyfriend.  He must have asked me out at some point.  I must have said or implied yes, because I found myself riding in his car, going out with him. Matt planned thoughtful dates.  Datey dates.  We dressed up in our church clothes and went to the Cheesecake Factory. We sat in dark theatres to see The Crow and Batman Forever, followed by moonlit strolls in city parks.

Despite Matt being a good catch, I found the whole dating ritual tedious and dull.  Every phone conversation, I felt aggravated.  Every meeting in the school hallway, I felt intruded upon.  When I was on dates with Matt, I couldn’t wait to get back home.

Girls were supposed to look forward to meeting their boyfriends in the hallways for brief kisses before next period.  What was wrong with me that I was hiding in bathrooms and taking the outside paths to avoid running into mine?

Perhaps, I speculated, I don’t respect Matt because he isn’t very good at algebra. I have to admit this was not a very satisfying explanation for my feelings.

After a few weeks or months of dating,  I was supposed to kiss Matt.  I knew this because the dating scripts told me so, and also because Matt started asking.  The prospect of the kiss filled me with a confused and angry fear. Confused because I was supposed to want to do this kissing thing, so why didn’t I want to?  Angry that the mandate of the kiss was being thrusted on me , that this behavior had entered my life.  Terrified because I couldn’t see a way out of it.

“I’m just not ready yet,” I explained, which worked for a bit. “It’s still too soon.”  But all this stalling did was kick the problem a little way down the road.

There came a day when the jig was up, when I was utterly trapped. My sweet boyfriend got in a wreck in his precious car. We were traveling along a road near our high school, heading to a restaurant for dinner, and Matt wasn’t paying attention.  He rearended the car in front of him.

He  was so upset that after dealing with the police, we ended up back at his house rather than going on to the restaurant.  We stood together in his garage, looking at his damaged car.  Matt’s shoulders drooped.  He wanted a hug.  He wanted physical comfort from me, his girlfriend.  I allowed the hug, feeling a prick of fear and irritation. Then he grabbed me by the arms.

“Please kiss me,” he said.  My boyfriend was sad and in need of comfort, comfort that he expected from his girlfriend.  What was wrong with me that I didn’t want to give it?  And here was the terror: I was going to have to do this thing that felt so frightening and repulsive, and I could see no way out of it.

But then, I created a way out.

“I really want to, but I have this awful cold,” I lied.  “I don’t want to make you sick.”

“I don’t mind!”  He demonstrating his recklessness and passion by squeezing my arms, staring intensely into my eyes.

“I do.”  I injected false disappointment into my voice. Looking down at the cement floor, I avoided his gaze.  “Let’s just wait until I’m better.”

I don’t remember how I got home that day.  I do remember clearly the relief, the sense of having narrowly escaped danger.  When next my boyfriend put a jewelry box with a gold(ish) bracelet into my locker,  I had to take action.  Who knew how many kisses would be expected now?  I had to break up with him.

I did it the way a girl who doesn’t know she has the right to say no does such a deed.  I did it in the manner of a girl who has no skills in asking for what she needs.  I slipped a note into his locker.

I’m sorry I can’t accept this wonderful gift.   You are a great person, but it’s just not the right time for me to be in a relationship.  It’s not you, it’s me.

Very likely this is one of the most truthful it’s not you, it’s me lines ever written.

Click here for further aromantic reflections on the biology of kissing, 

Rebel

Today when I sat down to work on my current novel chapter, I spent my time reading and rereading my work, just sort of self-indulgently enjoying my words. Lazy, arrogant slob, I criticized inwardly.   Quit wasting your time admiring your own work.

I had a sudden memory of my ballet teacher chastising me for admiring my feet in the mirror.  “Quit looking down your feet,” she’d shout at me. “I don’t know why you’re so in love with them.   Don’t you know you have shitty feet?” And I did: size ten and wide,  flat arches, inflexible ankles. I knew my feet weren’t well arched, but I admired them anyway, liked to look at them. I enjoyed my feet.

As a young teen, I liked my body, even when I wasn’t supposed to.  From the age of twelve, I was told by both my teachers and my mother that I was overweight, too fat to be a dancer.  Because this was not really true in reality, I hadn’t noticed that there was anything wrong with me.

(I’m refraining from giving the weight numbers here because I don’t want to provide any triggering content, but trust me on this one.  I was not “fat.” I was merely slightly larger than the ideal ballet dancer in the 1990s—which at that time was an anorexic dancer.)

For years, I was told pretty much daily that I was too big, too much, and just wrong.

For years, I liked my body anyway—secretly, rebelliously.

My mother said I was delusional when I defended my body.   She said I must have the opposite of anorexia—I thought I looked thin when I wasn’t.  It was true that I usually thought I looked pretty nice. My chest bones stuck out a little, though not as much as they used to, and I enjoyed those elegant stripes of bones straining at the surface of the skin.  I had some interesting muscles in my thighs.  My favorite was the one that crossed kind of diagonal from my inner hip to my knee, making my thigh look flat as a plane from the side when I stood in first position.  And I had this cool hollow dent in my butt, which was from using my turn out muscles correctly.  I knew I didn’t look like Michelle with her little twig legs, or tiny little Maureen, but I thought I looked nice all the same.

And I knew I could dance as well as any of the girls in my class, even though I was one of the  youngest. I never could understand why this didn’t seem to matter anymore.

Eventually the negative messages eroded my healthy defenses, seeped in, became mine.  Yet it wasn’t until after I left the dance world that I truly succumbed to the body hate that had been drilled into me for years. Three years after I quit ballet  I finally got skinny enough to be a ballerina– just a few months before my first hospitalization for anorexia.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of healthy rebellion, an alternative to my unhealthy rebellion—healthier ways of resisting the messages of you’re not good enough.  I’ve been using my body as an expression of rebellion since my childhood, first by refusing to adopt others’ views of my body as wrong, and then by using it as a fuck you to those who told me I needed to be smaller: I’ll show you smaller.

These days, I continue to struggle with my eating disorder, to wage a private rebellion inside my body. I’m a normal weight now, so no one can see it.  I’m basically screaming obscenities in a vast and isolated forest, disturbing only snakes and birds, hurting no one but myself.

Maybe a starting point:  The next time I notice myself wasting time admiring my own writing, I’ll refuse to judge myself for being lazy and inefficient.  Maybe I’ll refrain from labeling myself as self-indulgent.  Maybe I’ll just smile, and read my story, and savor the thought that Damn this is good.  I really said something here.