It’s not about the food…

12 Jan

It occurred to me recently that there is still a lot of misinformation about eating disorders.  I have a voice.  I figured it was time I used it.

When people hear about eating disorders a typical response is:  “Well why don’t you just eat normally.”

Um sure.  If it was about food.  Except it almost always is not.

Trust me.  I’ve lived live lived it.  Eating disorders are not about eating.  Eating disorders are about (not) speaking.  You just speak though (manipulation of) food.  Whoops.

Let me try to explain…

We’ve all got needs.  Big, beautiful, scary, appropriate, audacious, real, needs.  Sometimes they can be fulfilled and sometimes…  But a person with an eating disorder does not trust his / her humane right to have needs.  Maybe this person’s needs were not met early on and she / he mistook this personal flaw.  (Wrong!)  Maybe this person is still unsure that is it okay for needs to exist.  (WRONG!!)  Maybe this person is just suffering from a situation that feels so entrapping and painful that they would rather divvy out their suffering in controllable kcals.  (I’m SO sorry…)

Either way– ALL ways, when you are in a disordered mindset, your own needs, beyond proving a point without words, do not exist.  Except they are the biggest elephant in the room.  (No pun intended.)   And, people will care.  But, if you are a championing denial, no needs, and ‘I’m fine’ (you’re not) those caring people will not have a clue what to do.  They’ll tell you to eat a sandwich.

(Which is ‘not the point!!!’– you want to cry.  But, on the other hand, can you really blame them?)

Because honestly, what can these people do for you– you mute, Food Network obsessed suffering creature?  Fight you?  Feed you?  Trick question.  Yes.  You probably need food but that’s not what you are hungry for.

Reality.  Real needs.  Mine.

When I was sick, I needed to feel seen.  I needed to feel loved.  I needed to feel like I mattered sans everything.  Of course, I could not say all these things and instead I got chocolate which I denied myself out of both agony and spite for the lovely people-who-gave-a-shit-but-didn’t-know-how.  (I’m sorry!!!).  It’s funny how my needs have not fundamentally changed.  I can now just type them to you.  Instead of trying to numb, and mute, and starve them away hoping someone stops me…

Russians and false celebrity aside, my worldview has not changed.  I still love connection.  I still think too much and judge too quick.  I still laugh at the word poop.  I still love too much and am heartbroken by selfish and self-defeating behaviorsPrecisely, my way of feeling and being compelled to associate with my world has not and probably (hopefully?) will not change.  I just use different ways to processes these associations.  (Yoga, friends, Grey’s Anatomy…)  Most are more successful.  Some are not.  That does not make me a failure.  It makes me a human.

I had an eating disorder.  Now I eat.  Most times appropriately.  (Reminder me to tell you about my latest burger tour… :P)  My intense emotions still remain.  I just don’t speak in cookies.  Too many or lack there of.

Yes, now I speak.  Brashly, brazenly, foot-in-the-mouth crazily but I speak.  I say:  “Do you want to marry me?”, “That makes it sound like you are stringing me along”,  “I am SO SICK of having to prove myself”, “I need some help”, and  “I’m opening a business” (SPOILER ALERT).

Turns out a voice can be a good thing to fill a mouth with.

At times, my speaking has gotten me into a lot of trouble.  Incidentally, when I speak, evidently, I also need to own my words. That comes with being a healthy, realized adult?  F*ck me.  There is a thinking- sitting- honoring- waiting component I have yet to fully learn.

I have much to learn.

But, eating ‘normally’.  I’m getting there.  Because, like I said, it’s not about the food.  Eating disorders are reactions to not wanting to feel or sit with an emotion.  You change your feelings a thousands times by puppeting their fuel.  You can starve them away.  Ha!  I’ll stifle your fiery anger by not giving you a log to burn on.  You can confuse them into submission like the Polish  in WWII by not telling the body which way is in.  After a while it is all shit.

When you have an eating disorder you create a pattern where you avoid the deepest moments of emotionality by siphoning or flooding a source.  When you have an eating disorder you attempt to avoid road that leads to NEED.  It’s a heart-wrenching, impossible journey.  And, it goes nowhere.

Nowhere good that is…


There’s an option.  Beyond the sandwich.  Or, greek yogurt ;).  It’s called admitting-you-have-needs-and-feelings-and-a-VOICE-to-talk-about-them.  So you talk.  And, talk.  And, talk…

(Just ask my beloveds.  I’m a good rant! :P)

It matters.  Now, unlike, being that sick girl speaking with her body and DESPERATELY wanting someone to SAY SOMETHING sometimes I fear I’ve said too much.  In the best way.  And, the people who do not like it– well they do not need to be a part of my kind-loving-life. 

I do not need that energy.

*If you are struggling, there’s help.  Tell someone.  In words.  It gets better.  Resources*


6 Responses to “It’s not about the food…”

  1. wartica January 12, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    I dealt with similar issues growing up; if I had a problem dealing with something, I would immediately turn to the “bad” foods. It wasn’t just a bite or two, it was until I was either sick or completely full.Great post and I look forward to sharing more with you:))

    • Jamie January 12, 2012 at 9:48 am #

      It’s funny how quickly the “good / bad” metric lands. On everything. That was a hard thing for me to let go of. It took a while. And, a lot of yoga… Thank YOU for sharing. Have a sweet day!

  2. Monika January 12, 2012 at 4:02 pm #

    Thank you for your entry.
    Do you think you could answer the question what one COULD say to someone with an eating disorder to help? You wrote you wanted people to say something? My sister in law is anorexic and I try not to talk with her about food and not make it about her not eating but about her but I also don’t want to see her starving away into death and I can sometimes hardly stop me from shoving something in her mouth or comment on her not eating.
    I don’t know – maybe I am just wondering if you have any ideas what might have helped you from outsiders during your hardest time?

    Take care!

    • Jamie January 12, 2012 at 9:13 pm #

      Hi Monika-

      Thank you for writing. And, for your honesty and care. Let me first say that I’m sorry for the pain that you and your family must be in. And, I’m sorry that your sister-in-law is suffering. As far as what you “could” say. There is really no easy answer to this… When we talk about food we are talking about symptoms. And, this can be very terse terrain, since people who are symptomatic guard this territory. (I once threw out an entire sandwich because two lovable deli owners had buttered my bread w/o me asking for it… Sigh.) And, it’s not REALLY about the food.

      Maybe try asking… ‘How are you?’ ‘What do you need from me?’ ‘How can I support you because it seems like you might be struggling right now…?’. I know this might seem simple or not enough. But your care will come through. And, maybe the talking can start.

      Unfortunately, for REAL recovery, a person needs to commit and WANT to get better. From the inside. This will always be up to said person. Still, it sounds like you will be a wonderful support when that commitment happens. What a beautiful thing.

      Be Well,

      • Monika February 7, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

        Thanks so much for answering!

        I am still looking for answers but yours helped a lot already! So thank you!

      • Jamie February 10, 2012 at 9:23 am #

        Thank you for being there. I hope you find some peace. Take care!

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