anorexia · body image · eating disorders · mental health · writings

in this body

It is hard for me to admit this. It feels so ugly to say. The words clog the back of my throat as if I have swallowed a moth. Flapping its wings against my uvula and beating a rhythm against my teeth. The sentences feel heavy on my tongue. I want to say it but it’s so hard to open my mouth sometimes.

I still worry a lot about gaining weight. I still worry a lot about being thin. I still worry a lot about what I eat, don’t eat, should eat, shouldn’t eat, calories, macros, carbs, fats. I still worry a lot about how I measure up next to other women (I still worry a lot about how I measure up to my old self)

Now this is by no means abnormal for anyone to say in this day and age of body obsession. Nor is it unusual for any woman in a first world country to say when we are continually bombarded with images of thinspiration, fitspriration, and countless pinterest photos of the ideal body. We live in a society where more women hate how they look than those who take comfort or joy in their appearance. Hating ourselves is the norm, a language we all understand.

Yesterday I weighed myself on a scale at someone else’s house.

I saw the number and felt so much disgust for myself. My head began screaming its usual insults “YOU FAT COW. YOU WEAK FAILURE. YOU WORTHLESS PIG” I have rules and I must abide them. I broke them. And now I am weak.

Its a song and dance that never ends. It feels familiar which is why I still participate from time to time. Years go by and I still want some kind of control. I still have that need to be less in order to accept myself more. Math that makes no sense.

Today I saw a severely anorexic woman at Whole Foods.

I didn’t really want to go grocery shopping. I didn’t really feel well today and I didn’t really  want to be around a lot of food. I didn’t want to want so many delicious things and then tell myself NO NO YOU CANNOT BECAUSE YOU ARE AT AN UNACCEPTABLE WEIGHT. I didn’t want that familiar pull of desire and the brutal YOU CANNOT that always follows. But food means to love to my husband and grocery shopping is how we used to begin our week long ago before I got sick. Something we want to begin to do together in this new life we are molding.

She was by the Vega Protein Powder display. Her size 00 shorts belted tightly but still so baggy. Knees bigger than her thighs. Her entire body was a mixture of bones, sinuous tendons, and lanugo to keep her warm.

I couldn’t stop glancing at her.

There was once a time where I would’ve been terribly jealous of her. She obviously so much more driven than I to become so thin, to wittle herself down to so little fat and so little flesh. She would’ve been the star at any eating disorder group or inpaitent clinic. She couldn’t have been more than 70 lbs at 5’5″ or 5’6″. When I finally found the ability to glance at her face, she looked far older than she probably was. This emaciation has aged her beyond her years. Her eyes looked kind of wild, like a raccoon caught digging through your trash at 1 am. Maybe she saw me watching. Maybe she didn’t.

There was once a time where I would’ve reached out to her. To say “Hey I have been there, here’s my email if you need to talk”. I learned my lesson the hard way, approaching a similar shrinking girl in my biology class in college. She was immediately angry at my intrusion and defensive at my assumption that she was anorexic. I felt awful afterwards, remembering my own lashings out at people who just meant “to help”. I have never again approached anyone who is obviously struggling with anorexia.

It felt almost wrong to look at this woman in the store. Vulgar even. To see her obvious self-hatred so rawly displayed for all of us to see. We each as humans are so uncomfortable with ourselves yet her discomfort shined like a neon sign over by the vitamin aisle.

(I feel that way sometimes with my own physical issues so on display. People look at me and know something is wrong even if they don’t know what)

She glanced down at me in my chair as she walked by. The evil part of my head wondered “Did she see my thighs? Does she think ‘Im fat too? Of course she does, you  are fat!” Of course she may have looked for many reasons. I have blue hair/I have the side of my head shaved/ I am in a wheelchair/ I was sitting by the homeopathic supplements. Maybe she wanted to price check Tumeric…

I shook my head after I thought this.  It feels so insane to worry about what I weigh when there’s far more concerning things at hand like walking normally again, driving, working, jumping, laughing. That’s what always drives me insane. That this is what I worry over and cry about.

That I think I look fat because I am not as skinny as I was last summer. Last summer when I rarely ate because of the unending chronic nausea with no anti-emetic medication giving me any relief. Last summer when my own size 0s started to fall off of me.

It seems so ridiculous to feel big because I am a size larger than that. It seems so ridiculous to be embarrassed to say that I gained weight. It seems so ridiculous that I am anxious that people have noticed that I am not as thin as I have been.

The whole thing just feels ridiculous and tiring.

I am tired for me and I am tired for her, this nameless woman in a store filled with food that she won’t eat or that she will eat and then find a way to purge. It is tiresome to carry this nagging voice inside me. It feels old and exhausting that this is what constantly trips me up, that this is my cross to bear, my one true vice. I am 32 now and I was 12 when this started. 20 full years of fat thighs, shame, disgust, and the want to be smaller.

So there it is. That moth is gone from my throat and flying wild somewhere else.

And I am here laying in bed, staring at this screen while trying to ignore my naked thighs.

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photo by Foto Fiction

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5 thoughts on “in this body

  1. <3 <3 <3

    you write so well, as always. and i relate so much to that "fascination" with the anorexic women we see in grocery stores, on the streets… it's like seeing my past and being so tempted, so allured, by that darkness. i don't find myself wanting the body so much as the feeling of… empty. dark. black as the night. THAT is what tempts me, year after year, about anorexia. that other side of me.
    i refuse to go back. i know the thoughts in my brain, over and over again, romanticizes a time that was, in actuality, pure fucking hell. so much grey and so much fucking sadness.

    lots of love to you, gen <3

  2. Living in a body is hard. Struggling with disordered eating for 2/3 of your life is hard. Fighting it every day is hard. You are doing hard things.

    And isn’t it funny and maddening how our brains work? Your body has been ravaged by another illness, one that brings the pain so front and center that it is the center of your existence sometimes, and yet … your brain goes THERE over and over. To the size of your thighs. It’s insidious, man.

    I love you, and you know I get it. I struggle all the time too, in a different way, but in the same way. You have my heart. I love that you are writing again. The world needs it.

  3. My goodness lady. Your words are incredibly powerful. Your honesty and rawness is so refreshing – it cuts deep. You’re saying what so many of us are afraid too. Thank you for being so honest. And something I find most convicting about your piece is how we never truly know someones story by first glance. But yet we judge so quickly. What I mean is, when I see you, I think: she’s gorgeous, absolutely stunning. I’d never think this beautiful woman spoke those hurtful words to herself. [Words I’ve said to myself too] And it’s just a reminder that we have to be kind to each other [and kind to ourself], really kind & tender because our battles run deep, deeper than the eye can see. Thank you for writing. This piece is beautiful – like you. xoxo

    1. Oh my gosh thank you for your incredibly kind words. Thank you for reading! I have really enjoyed reading your blog. SO glad Rachael helped us find each other’s words!!

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