I can’t really remember a time when I liked food. Sure, there are things I’d rather eat over others – Indian cuisine, in particular – but at best, I get annoyed that I have to eat. I know that I need to do it, but it just takes up time, both in the act of eating and the act of creating said food to eat.
At worst, though, food is an adversary. It is here where I reside most of the time. I could blame the girl who said only a girl “with a figure” should wear a certain shirt back in 6th grade, but I know now that she was also struggling with image issues, like so many young women. And I was the one who internalized that self-loathing into something much more sinister, a disease that will stay with me until I die.
I wasn’t diagnosed with anorexia until I was in college, but I suffered from it for years, thinking it was normal. Meals with my parents were plays in which I took smaller portions, and skipping lunch at school was fairly easy, especially as I got into higher grades. Nobody ever guessed that I was starving myself, and I’d like to say that it was because I was super stealthy. I just hadn’t mastered it just yet.
That mastery didn’t come until I was a sophomore in college. I had already trained my brain into thinking that hunger pains should bring joy because that meant I was losing weight in my mind, a belief it holds onto to this day*, but college added the secret ingredient: access to the campus gym. I swear, I practically lived at the gym, and almost every time I ate something, I’d just head over to do a quick 15 minute run on a treadmill. Or if there was a fitness class in between classes, I’d just be sure to pack my after-workout body spray so I didn’t smell in psychology 1010. I dropped to a ridiculously low weight, but to me, I looked amazing. Did it matter I didn’t have any energy? That my fingernails were brittle and would break if you breathed on them wrong? Not even a little bit.
If I’m being completely honest, I look back at pictures from my early college years and yearn for that sickly frame. Like, I know I was dangerously thin, bordering on needing to be hospitalized so I could be fed intravenously, but there’s that part of my brain which thinks, “Damn. I looked good.”
This is a cold war that I’m never going to win. I’ve mostly come to terms with this, similarly to how I struggle with chronic depression: it’s a part of my life now and kind of ebbs and flows, depending on multiple factors, none of which I am going to get into. Not because I’m embarrassed, but more or less because it’s boring. But I’m better at identifying what’s going on than I was even a year ago, and that’s how I’m basically going to ride this out. I’m currently in the middle of an anorexic episode, but I’m aware of it and I’m trying to curb my lack of appetite by keeping to a fairly set schedule. Oh, it’s noon? Time to grab lunch! Even if you don’t want it! You already went to the park this morning, so no, you don’t need to do another hour’s worth of cardio. Oh, hey! Time to take vitamins!
It’s a system, right? And I’m just doing the best I can.
* I logically know that this isn’t true, but I created a Pavlovian response to hunger. #shrugs