I Hate My Brain

Ever have a long day and think to yourself you deserve a treat? So you get ice cream and start to feel better? That sounds normal to me. My problem is that I think I deserve a treat multiple times a day. I constantly want to feel good. To feel happy. I compulsively eat to get that high and, enjoy that “treat.” Then I feel sick. After I’ve recovered, I look for another treat, forgetting how sick I felt earlier. It’s a vicious cycle.

I do this a lot but especially when the kids are away at my mother-in-law’s. I tell myself that I need to relax, enjoy the quiet and that I need to feel good. Last night, even after I had a big dinner, I sat there thinking of what I could eat that would make me feel good. And I even tried many things, despite being uncomfortably full already. M&Ms didn’t work. Neither did peanut butter crackers, ice cream or SweeTARTS.

But there is nothing I can eat that will make me truly happy.

Now, I’m trying to give myself a break because I am in need of an ECT treatment, which is scheduled for Friday. Usually the week before treatment I run out of gas, and I try to cope however I can. BUT this doesn’t just happen in the weeks leading up to treatment. This happens all the time, even when I’ve just had an ECT.

So I pose this question, “Why do I feel the need to be happy all the time?” Honestly, that question was asked by my therapist last week. She following up with, “Can’t we sit with other emotions? Nobody is happy every minute of the day.”

And she’s right. We don’t need to be happy every minute. I think my problem is that I HATE being uncomfortable, so I’ll do anything to push those negative emotions aside. Emotions like anxiety, stress, anger or sadness. It’s clearly not working for me to ignore these problems, and even if overeating has helped in the past, it sure as hell is not working now.

This may sound strange, but I think I need to acknowledge and honor whatever feelings I’m having. Maybe I need to grab my journal whenever I’m feeling negative emotion, talk about what’s going on and then release that feeling. I don’t know.

All I know if that I need to stop coping by bingeing. It’s made me gain a bunch of weight and really, aren’t I just eating my emotions?

Sometimes I really hate my brain, which I hold responsible for my debilitating-at-times depression and anxiety. I hate that it doesn’t respond to other treatments. I hate that my mental health is so precarious, and I resent that I have to be so careful as to not disturb it. I hate that happiness seems so fleeting at times. I’m not a big fan of my eating disorder either.

I don’t like to say hate; It forces a dichotomy with the idea that I should love and respect myself. I’m trying really hard to love myself, even almost 30 pounds heavier and a handful of mental disorders. But I feel betrayed by my brain. I know I need to reconcile those ideas. I know there is more benefit in loving all of me. I’ll get there. Despite everything that my brain has thrown at me, I’ve only become stronger. Take that, asshole.

And there are times that I think God made me this way because He thought I could handle it. I can, and I will. I remember this quote: “Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.” I don’t mean to sound haughty, but maybe He knew I would use my voice and (hopefully) help others through my writing. That’s why I can’t stop blogging so much about mental health; there are so many who feel alone and haven’t found their voice yet. I certainly don’t mind lending mine in the meantime.

I guess my brain is just as much a blessing as a curse.

I’ve Gained 26 Pounds

Last Friday I had an ECT treatment. I hadn’t been there in four weeks, so they asked to weight me (to calculate how much anesthesia I get). Usually, I avoid the scale. The number shouldn’t matter to me, but it does. Big time. I looked down after I stepped on the scale, and I was shocked. I’ve gained 26 pounds since the pandemic — 26 POUNDS! I’m almost 200 pounds, which I swore to myself I’d never be again. I mean, who has weight loss surgery and doesn’t lose the weight? Me, apparently.

I have all the reasons in the world to lose weight and be healthy, mainly my kids. I want them to see me be healthy so that they can be healthy. I want to lose the weight because I want to live a long time. It would benefit my mental health greatly if I maintained a healthy lifestyle. But I don’t.

Even after my ECT, while feeling happy and more stable, I had the intense urge to overeat and binge. And I did. The ECT is supposed to reset my brain. Last week, I was so depressed and even had suicidal ideation, so I needed the ECT. But the ECT can only take me so far. I’m responsible for making health decisions for myself. And I need to hold myself accountable. At some point, I have to make the effort to be healthy without expecting something or someone else to help me.

I don’t know what drives me to overeat or binge. It sort of makes sense when there’s conflict in my life, and I feel the need to be comforted by food. But right now, there’s no conflict in my life. There’s no logical reason for me to shove food in my face. It bothers me so much that I don’t know why I binge, and I’m not sure it would even help if I did know. It’s just frustrating. And I know it’s a hard time because of the pandemic, but we’re not getting back to any kind of “normal” I know any time soon. So, it has to be now. I have to make changes now. But honestly, I don’t know if I will. I don’t know what it will take.

I bought a treadmill that will be delivered this week. I bought a food journal to help me track my water and meals. I have a brand new pair of running shoes to use for exercise. Conditions are favorable for change. My brain, my stubborn brain, is the only thing holding me back. Even now, as I’m typing this, I want to eat, to be comforted. To lose myself in the taste and texture of something delicious. I fear my urge to escape the real world will be permanent, as it manifests in other ways, too like abusing my anxiety meds. And again, I don’t know why or what I’m trying to escape. I have a great life — better than most — and I’m so grateful for everyone in my life and everything I have. So, I really can’t tell you why I want to escape.

At one time, I thought it was emotional pain that was holding back — trauma from my past. But I feel like I’ve dealt with that. I’ve talked to my therapist about it extensively. I wrote a blog about it that I will never share. I got if off my chest, but still the pain resides. At least, I think so. Why else would I be trying to fill this unrelenting void?

I so want to be able to wake up in the morning and not immediately think about what I’m going to eat. To plan my next meal, as I’m licking off my current meal’s crumbs from my lips. I live meal to meal, snack to snack, and I hate it.

I hope this week I can make changes to my daily life and incorporate healthy habits. I pray for strength and guidance. I pray for what feels like a miracle.

Next week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. It may not seem like a big deal, but there are 30 million Americans who suffer with an eating disorder. There are so many people suffering right now, who are suffering more because of the pandemic. Only 1/3 of people receive help for their eating disorder. Eating disorders have the second highest mortality rate of any mental illness, with nearly one person dying every hour as a direct result of their eating disorder.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, please know that you are not alone. It’s a challenging time for us, but it’ll be OK.

We will be OK.

The Personality Disorder I Didn’t Know I Had

In 2019 I went to a psychiatric hospital (The Menninger Clinic) after battling suicidal thoughts, abusing my anxiety meds and hitting a low I didn’t know was possible. For six weeks, I was away from my family, which is almost as painful as fighting depression and anxiety.

While I was there, I was assigned a psychiatrist, social worker, therapist and a psychologist. I underwent many psychiatric tests and was taken off all my psychiatric medications. It was rough.

I knew I had major depressive disorder, because I’ve struggled with depression for almost two decades. I knew I had anxiety, because of the crippling panic attacks and intrusive thoughts – thoughts telling me I should kill myself or that my family was going to die.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the diagnosis of Avoidant Personality Disorder. I had never even heard of it. Avoidant Personality Disorder, which affects about 1 percent of the general population, is described as having feelings of extreme social inhibition, inadequacy and sensitivity to negative criticism or rejection. It’s more than being shy or awkward in social situations (which I am). It makes it hard for those suffering with the disorder to interact with others and maintain relationships. It’s also common for “us” to avoid work or school, mostly because of extreme low self-esteem.

It was hard hearing this new diagnosis. For one, I already felt saddled by depression and anxiety. I wasn’t fond of the idea that I had this disorder, another albatross around my neck. And yet, I couldn’t deny it. Reading about the disorder was like reading from my memoir; I knew the symptoms and behavior well. I’ve always been social awkward. I avoided school like the plague, and later when I worked, I avoided that, too. I haven’t worked outside the home since 2013.

There was no denying the diagnosis. And, even though I’d probably been dealing with it since adolescence, I felt more broken because my many flaws were well documented and it was “official.”

But that’s bullshit. I was broken but not because of the diagnosis. I was broken because I had kept my struggles to myself and hadn’t reached out until it was almost too late. I was stifled by the stigma that surrounds depression and other mental disorders. The stigma and keeping my struggles to myself almost killed me.

Having depression, anxiety, a personality disorder and binge eating disorder is nothing to be ashamed of. That’s what I have – not who I am.

Now, I blog about my troubles and speak freely to others about anything and everything mental health related. I’m no longer afraid of being judged. The weight of others’ opinions is far too heavy to bear.

Now, I’m free.

Reject the stigma. Be proud of the fighter that you are. Seek help if you need it. By doing so, we help eradicate the judgement and stigma. Be free with me.

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, go to the nearest emergency room or call a trusted friend. You are not alone.

Radical Acceptance

I had an epiphany today. I was watching an episode of Bones where they were talking about young girls being in beauty pageants. Please note that I am not judging that — I mention it because it got me thinking about all the things girls and women go through to appear beautiful. In that episode, young girls were dyeing their hair, wearing corsets to define their waistlines and watching their weight. It depressed me, honestly. It brought back memories of being called fat when I was in the 5th grade — 5th grade, people! I should have brushed the comments off, but there were already seeds of fatphobia planted in my little head — from society, friends, family, etc. That seed grew and now is a full-blown eating disorder (Binge Eating Disorder).

I’m only 12 here, but this is when I really started to worry about my size.

My worth has been tied to my weight. The way I feel and care for myself is tied to my weight. When I’ve gained some extra pounds, I punish myself…hate myself.

I eat my feelings, which leads to more weight gain. Which fuels more self-destructive behaviors. It’s a vicious cycle. To help break it, I signed up to do one-on-one coaching on intuitive eating with my beautiful and sweet cousin, who’s a registered dietician. On our last call, she told me to get rid of the ideas of “bad foods” or “being bad” or “cheating” on a diet. There are no forbidden foods. There’s fueling your body and doing everything in moderation.

I have a lot more to learn and I’m eager to do it.

But here’s my epiphany — what if I just accept who I am? What if I give myself some grace — some compassion? What if when I gain weight, I just buy bigger clothes and focus on my health and not my caloric intake?

What if I practice radical acceptance? I learned about radical acceptance in therapy. It’s a skill or tool that can help people face painful emotions and experiences by accepting them fully WITHOUT JUDGEMENT.

This may not sound much different than a blog I previously posted about loving myself and body positivity. But the thing is, I’m still struggling and writing helps me come to terms with my feelings. And this is a topic that can’t be fully explored with one blog. Or three. Maybe 10. And that’s OK, too.

My point is that maybe I don’t think I need to focus on losing weight or looking a certain way, so much as I need to reprogram my brain. And those of you who follow me should know — my brain is a stubborn asshole. It’ll take time. So much time.

But I’m done with fatphobia, fat-shaming and all that judgement that goes along with it. I’ve had gastric sleeve surgery and a tummy tuck. Guess what? I’m still not skinny and I don’t think I’ll ever be. Why has that plagued me so much?

Why are people so afraid of being fat?

My Body, Myself

I love the bird tattoo just below my shoulder on my chest.

The tattoo I have on my left arm, a bird on a typewriter, makes me feel so sexy. And strong.

I love the Phoenix on my back that reminds me that I will always rise.

The Hebrew on my side tells the story of Ruth, the first convert, and reminds me why I’m Jewish.

I love the color of my eyes, green with a bit of brown circling my pupils. Green eyes are rare, and I enjoy being rare.

I love my curly, wild hair, because it never looks the same from one day to another.

I love my boobs, which I had surgically reduced and that’s OK. I acknowledge and appreciate that they fed and nourished both my babies.

I love my legs, which are shapely and sexy.

Sadly, I don’t love all of me. I look at my stomach in the mirror and frown. It’s swollen and puffy from weight gain and eating poorly since the pandemic started. I tell myself that I’ve carried two babies and try to appreciate my womb as much as I appreciate other parts of my body.

I ignore the guilty feeling that’s spurred when my thighs uncomfortably touch when I walk.

I also try to ignore my chins when I take a selfie and the fact that I probably “need” Botox.

I avoid jeans and opt for leggings or sweats. I pick sweatshirts and baggy shirts to hide my insecurities, but I’m pretty sure my uncertain gait gives me away.

I try to give myself some grace. Be kind and do my best but I’ve been in autopilot for months, attempting to fill whatever void I feel at the moment. It never works. It’s always there and unless I do some real, hard work it will continue to be there.

My progress is not linear; some days are better than others. But I want to love all of me.

I think I’m pretty amazing (most of the time). I fight depression, anxiety, an eating disorder and a personality disorder every single day. I’ve suffered a mental break, having to go to a psychiatric hospital for six weeks. I do ECT treatments, shock therapy, every six to eight weeks just so I can feel OK and get by. And I do it all for my family. And me, of course. I am a fighter, a survivor and advocate.

My heart, my strong yet tender heart, swells with pride when I think about it all. And how I’m setting an example to my kids by taking care of my mental health and making myself a priority. They’ll see my perseverance and resilience. They’ll also see my flaws and I’m OK with that. They need to see them, see me.

I want them to see how much I love and appreciate my body and self and I’ll continue to work on that. Even though I’m almost 40. It’s never too late to try. To love yourself.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

New Year, Same Me, Old (Bad) Habits Dead

The new year is approaching, and in the past I’ve always attempted to make new year’s resolutions, usually related to weight loss. And while that’s all fine and good for some, I will not be making any resolutions, weight-related or otherwise.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to bidding this year adieu (because of COVID-19), but this year was transforming for me. I no longer feel the need to place restrictions or punish myself because I don’t look certain way. It’s good to have goals and I will always strive to improve and challenge myself, but I just can’t continue my obsession with my weight.

This year was so shitty in so many ways, and I’m surprised I haven’t suffered a mental break, to be honest. Instead I have risen to the occasion and been strong mentally, because damn, I had to. The added stress and uncertainty pushed me to my limits, and I started writing more as a release. I’ve had this blog for two years, and I’ve always tried to be candid, but the pandemic made me show my ass, about everything.

And I have loved every minute, even when I’ve been embarrassed or shamed. Writing about my eating disorder, depression, anxiety and a hospital stay has liberated me.

I’m free now.

I’ve pushed past the shame and have started to love myself. And I’ve also discovered that I’m kind of a bad ass. I’m proud of myself, which includes my mental disorders. I’ve even written articles for the local paper admitting my depression and my stay at a psychiatric hospital. The whole city knows, and that’s OK with me.

I’m free from the bondage of other people’s opinions I’m starting to free myself from obsessing about my weight and my appearance. It’s so damn hard, but I’m trying.

The goals I will make for myself in the coming days will focused on self-care. To be healthy, physically and mentally, you must practice self-care and make yourself a priority. Like everyone says, you can’t fill from an empty cup. And it’s not selfish to put yourself first. It’s actually really hard work to do so, but it’s rewarding — not just for you but those around you.

I wear a bracelet at all times that says, “GRIT,” as a reminder to do the necessary hard work, that I have what it takes and not to give up.

2020 was a terrible year for so many, but I’m so grateful that this different self of mine emerged and helped liberate me from all the bullshit.

I’ve called myself a black sheep all my life because of my differences among family, and even friends, but the black wool suits me now instead of reminds me that I’m an outcast.

Edit: I don’t mean this post to sound like a brag about how much I’ve achieved this year. Surviving this pandemic (no matter what coping mechanisms you used) is achievement alone.

Happy New Year. I wish y’all well

Stay in the light.

My Eating Disorder in a Pandemic

I’m struggling.

Recently, I blogged about gaining 15 pounds (thanks, COVID) and how discouraged I was. I know it’s not the end of the world, but I ruminate about each pound every day. It makes me feel ugly and unworthy. I try to make healthier choices, but I get dismayed any time I veer off my healthy course.

And then another part of me takes over, and I’m empowered. I tell myself that I’m beautiful no matter what. That I need to learn to love myself despite what the scale says.

I’m battling low self-esteem and an eating disorder (Binge Eating Disorder). A year ago I had the gastric sleeve surgery, hoping it would physically limit the amount of food I could eat, but I didn’t resolve my issues with my eating disorder, and I pushed the limits of my smaller stomach, eating so much that it was hard to breathe, not to mention painful.

Now, I can’t stop bingeing. I feel like I always need a treat, something to escape into, but I can’t figure out why I feel the need to escape so frequently. Maybe from stress of the pandemic? And my “treats” often turn into a punishment because I eat so much, too much for my stomach to hold. Too much shame to derive any pleasure in the binge. So, maybe it’s all punishment — for what, I don’t know.

It definitely doesn’t feel good, aside from the initial pleasure of the food hitting my palate, but it never lasts. It’s temporary, but the shame and pain from doing it is often permanent.

And then, in between binges, I stare into the mirror and try to love and appreciate my body, which has birthed two amazing kids. I breastfed them, sustained them with this body. I live here, in this 180-pound body that holds all my essence and what makes me me. I reject the idea that I’m ugly, fat and less than. I’m a child of God and wonderfully made. I’m just as beautiful outside as I am inside, and my light shines regardless of my weight. My worth is not tied to my weight.

But I get lost navigating the conflicting messages these two polar-opposite sides of me are sending. And for some reason, it’s easier to believe the negative ones: I’m ugly, I’m a fat ass, people are judging me, nobody loves me because I’m fat, etc. But I do feel like the other side of me’s voice is growing louder. It’s not a distant whispering anymore — she’s getting stronger, and I pray that she continues to do so, because I’m weary from fighting this division inside me. I wonder why everything has to be so hard. Isn’t having Major Depressive Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder and Avoidant Personality Disorder enough? Why are there so many things wrong with me? Maybe I don’t need to pull at that thread, but I’d really like not to collect any more diagnoses.

I want to find a balance where I can eat healthy, occasionally indulge and truly appreciate my body. I don’t want to tiptoe around the house anymore, thinking my footsteps are too heavy sounding.

I want normalcy. I don’t mean to complain and whine — I know that I’m the only one in charge of what food goes in my mouth. But it’s still so hard, and not just for me — about 30 million people have an eating disorder in the U.S., according to U.S. News and World Report. That roughly 20 million women and 10 million men. That’s a huge number, and eating disorders, like mental disorders, are often unreported so you can expect those numbers to be a little higher.

A lot of those people also suffer from a mental disorder. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reports that 33 to 50 percent of people with anorexia also have a mood disorder. I don’t have numbers of what percentage of people with Binge Eating Disorder have a mood disorder, but I’m confident I’m not the only one.

Another alarming statistic is that 26 percent of people with an eating disorder attempt suicide. It’s beyond hard to have an eating disorder — you can’t give up food like an alcoholic can give up alcohol (Do not get me wrong. Battling any addiction is very difficult. I do not mean to imply otherwise). You have to fight your brain while learning new methods on how to nourish your body in a healthy way (such as intuitive eating or mindfully eating). It’s hard as hell for me to break old habits when it comes to food, but I know I need to do it if I want to be around for my family and friends later in life. Having an eating disorder is so hard on the body and mind. With everything else I’m battling, my body could use a respite.

I know a lot of us are in the same boat when it comes to weight gain during the pandemic. I don’t have any pointers because I’m still learning, but I do want to say be patient with your body. Give yourself some grace. Try to love the body you’re in, because you’re not getting another one. Weight can come off, and maybe it’s OK if it doesn’t.

You are not your eating disorder.

I hope y’all stay well and in the light.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, please reach out to your doctor or visit the National Eating Disorders Association website. They also have a crisis text line — just text NEDA to 741741.

The Heavy Burden of Others’ Opinions

You’ll never lose more weight than the weight of others’ opinions of you. Let it go.

I’ve decided to lose some more weight. This time instead of worrying about what the scale says, I’m going to drop the weight of people’s opinions. It’s a heavy burden. Too heavy, if you ask me. And while I’ve begun the process of letting go, I have A LOT more work to do. I’ve come to terms with my depression and I’ve been fighting the stigma, which has been so freeing. So, why did I not let go sooner? And why do I aspire to other unrealistic or antiquated beliefs? 

I unabashedly talk about depression and it’s (usually) pretty hard to shame me these days. Why would anyone shame me about an illness that I can’t control? Because there are people who think that if you have depression you’re lazy, or that depression is solved by simply thinking positively. Newsflash — it’s not. Just yesterday one of my loved ones told me, “Don’t be depressed! Why are you depressed?” I answered, nicely, the only way I could: because I have a chemical imbalance. That my brain works differently than others’. She meant well but when you talk to someone with depression like that it only makes the one suffering feel even worse. Trust me. That’s why, up until a few years ago, I didn’t discuss my depression or anxiety. I didn’t want the judgement. But when I went to a psychiatric hospital in 2019, I simply didn’t give a fuck about hiding it. There’s nothing wrong with admitting you need help. With bettering yourself for your husband and kids. With teaching your kids to value their health — physical and mental. I regret nothing and I’ve written pieces in the local paper discussing my decision as well as other aspects of mental health. Was it easy? No, but what makes it worthwhile is that others have reached out to thanked me and told me that my words have helped them seek help. 

All of this has made me realize that there are other areas where I have subscribed to unhealthy, hurtful or judgmental beliefs, and I need to be free of that. If I had given in completely to the thought that having depression is because you’re lazy, I surely would be dead by now. Let me be clear — I’d be dead because I would’ve killed myself. The stigma surrounding mental illness is literally deadly. Normalizing it is the antidote, so I will never stop talking about it. 

But it’s not enough for me to disregard societal norms in dealing with depression. There are other things that also have contributed to my lack of self worth, mainly my weight. If I don’t get these toxic standards and behaviors out of my life, I might as well have never gone to the psychiatric hospital. For 36 years, I’ve been told — by society, family, friends, peers — that being fat means you’re ugly, slovenly, lazy, unworthy, unsuccessful. Before I even reached middle school I was called fat and I believed it. I developed an unhealthy relationship with food and declared war on my body again and again. Even when I was “skinny” I didn’t think so. I’ve 36 years old and I’ve never been the same weight for more than a few months. In fact, I got the gastric sleeve surgery last year because I was tired of my weight yo-yoing, but I’ve never hit my goal weight because I’ve never changed my behaviors and thoughts. I don’t know why I continue doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results. At first, I was ashamed that even though I got surgery I’m still not “skinny.” That I have an eating disorder.

I’m hardly the first woman to struggle but I am hoping that I’ll be the last in my family to do so. I certainly don’t want my daughter hating herself, because hating myself has only led to me learning unhealthy behaviors and those behaviors have only bred more unhealthy — and painful — habits.

Just like with the stigma of depression, I have to let go. Why do I need to be skinny for others to approve of me or like me? For ME to like me? Truly, the only thing holding my back is me. I might actually have different opinions about myself if they were unfettered by others’ judgement. I might even — gasp! — love myself. 

And while I’m at it, here are some things I’m no longer accepting opinions on: 

  • How much money I spend. I like nice things and I deserve to treat myself 
  • Just because my 4-year-old son wears nail polish doesn’t mean he’s a “sissy” or gay (But make no mistake, we’d support him if he were)
  • My family is going to hell because we’re Jewish 
  • My husband/son are less than a man because they don’t love sports
  • My nine tattoos. I love them and they make my happy
  • My use of curse words. I love those, too
  • My “bleeding heart” liberalism 
  • My passion for inclusivity….and pizza
  • My curly hair and how “it looks better straight” 
It’s ok if you sit and you have rolls. Embrace them.

I truly believe if I can let go of putting more weight on others’ opinions of me, I will become stronger and healthier, and that’s more important than being skinny or well liked. I mean, hey, I’m not everyone, and that’s fine by me.

I am a beautiful, smart, talented woman. I really want to love myself, so for fuck’s sake, let me.

I don’t want to leave this world thinking I’m not good enough. I’ve wasted enough time on that already. I’ve seen glimpses of the bright light inside me and nothing would mean more to share that light and encourage others to share theirs. So let’s normalize mental illness. And normalize normal bodies and normalize loving ourselves, no matter what type of packaging it comes in.

I’m done judging myself and everybody else should be, too. But if they aren’t done judging me, I have zero fucks to give.

Disorderly Eating, Disorderly Depression

I’m probably the worst person to write a blog on body positivity, but perhaps that makes me qualified to.

I’ve never liked my body. Well, maybe a couple of times I have but I’ve never been consistent in liking my body or taking proper care of it.

On top of depression, I also have an eating disorder — Binge Eating Disorder — that has made it impossible to stay at a healthy weight. And to be honest, I still struggle even though I’ve had weight-loss surgery (Gastric Sleeve). Turns out if you don’t fix your disorderly eating problems before surgery, you’ll still have them after. Go figure.

I can still remember when someone first called me fat. I was in 5th grade and a boy who I liked said to me, “I know what your phone number is: 1-800-95-JENNY,” which was a number for JENNY CRAIG back then. The following year I was at my parents’ house with friends when two of my girlfriends pulled up their shirt and tied it into a knot, making a halter top. I then went to the bathroom and tried the same but a boy said, “Hey, we don’t need to see that!” Even though he was fine with seeing my skinny friends do it. I was not fat, just shaped differently than my friends but that didn’t matter to me — only what those boys told me did.

It wasn’t their fault I struggled with my weight afterward but damage had been done. Add that to this country’s obsession with being thin and you get an eating disorder and body dysmorphia.

I’m not alone. At least 30 million people of all ages and gender suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S. That’s huge. Every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder. And eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, according to the ANAD (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders).

Twenty-eight percent of American adults suffer from my eating disorder. Approximately, half of the risk for Binge Eating Disorder is genetic and nearly half of BED patients have a comorbid mood disorder. More than half also have comorbid anxiety disorders.

I’m no expert, so I can’t tell you why people binge and overeat. For me, it happens when I’m bored or emotional. Or when I just have a void to fill. Sometimes I think I do it to punish myself, like I’m not good enough to be thin or healthy. Somewhere along the way I related being thin to being happy and successful, and I’ve never been able to convince myself that’s not the case. So when my depression got very bad, so did my eating and my weight went up. I was tired of all the ups and downs with my weight so I saw a weight-loss surgeon, the same doctor that my husband had seen. I had the surgery November 2019. Let me say that is has NOT been any easier to control cravings or eat healthy foods. That void I can’t ever seem to fill is mental and my surgeon can’t fix that. It’s not his job to, it’s mine. I just happen to be a terrible “employee.”

The weight loss surgery wasn’t my first attempt to “fix” my weight. After my two babies were born, I decided to undergo a “mommy makeover,” wherein I had a tummy tuck, breast reduction and some liposuction. I was obviously thinner but I just couldn’t maintain that flat stomach, or number on the scale.

What bothers and frustrates me the most is that I try really hard to be body positive for Isla’s sake but how can I tell her to love herself and that she’s beautiful when I couldn’t subscribe to those beliefs about me? She knows that I don’t like the word “fat” when referring to others and to embrace intelligence over looks but how much is she really going to learn with such a flawed teacher?

I’m a firm believer that when you face challenges, you cultivate growth and maybe having an eating disorder along with depression and anxiety, this is just another opportunity to grow. I’ve had a lot of “growing opportunities” in the past few years and I’m actually a little sick of it. But I guess I’d be even sicker if I let another generation struggle with this mentality. I can’t just stand helplessly by. I honestly don’t know if this is a trivial matter to be concerned with or if my neurotic mom brain just doesn’t want Isla to make the same mistakes. Regardless, I’m committed to ensuring that Isla remembers a few things:

  • She is beautiful, no matter her size or who tells her she’s not
  • But…beauty isn’t everything. Kindness and intelligence are more important
  • Ideally, you shouldn’t care about others think
  • To find friends who support her and celebrate you successes. And who will call you on your bullshit
  • That no matter who she becomes or what she does, I will always love and support her
  • Being different isn’t a bad thing
  • When you hurt someone, always apologize
  • Be healthy, not thin

That’s obviously not a comprehensive list but it’ll do for now; after all, she’s not even 6 years old but it’s never too early to teach kindness and self love.

As I wrap this up I can’t help but think about all the times I was embarrassed or felt shame about my body. What a waste of all those years. But I too deserve love, even self love. Real change sometimes comes in baby steps. It’s not too late to eat healthy, to feel good in my clothes, to reconcile the thought that I’m amazing with what I see in the mirror. I’m no stranger to conflict, so there’s no reason to shy away from it now.

Maybe while Isla’s growing up, I will too.

To learn more about eating disorders and how to support a loved one who has one, go here.