The Ugly Side of Eating
My name is Jandy and I have an eating disorder.
How did my disorder start? I blame my heritage, in which overeating and thinness are equally glorified. I blame my biological wiring, which has an addictive tendency. I blame depression, the media, societal enablers, and everything else leading to my masochistic relationship with food.
Food is instinct, food is survival. Food is inseparably built into culture and intertwined with memories. So it’s okay to indulge on what is gustatorially pleasurable with varying degrees of self-control. But there’s a breaking point where eating is not normal. Picture this: my knees slipping on cold bathroom tiles, my face hovering over the toilet, spewing partially-digested ramen. Four servings of cheap bodega noodles, covered in bile, splatter against the toilet bowl. I retch and heave and heave again. Tears stream down and my upper torso convulses, as my stomach contents are forced into expulsion.
My purging began in the high school locker room. I overheard popular girls talking about sticking a finger up their throat to become a pretty size 0. There I was, a stumpy size 12, looking at my rolling hills of baby fat, and looking at the lean and perfectly boobied girls who could easily be America’s Next Top Model. I was apparently doing everything wrong if our paths diverged so much – me, ugly, dorky, fat and unpopular, and they, pretty, cool, skinny, and popular.
So I started purging. It began with jogs around my block after school. It grew from 5 laps around the block, to 10, to 20, to 50. I curbed my meals after 8pm. I threw up right after guilty meals. It is very hard to force yourself to vomit. Your entire biological system resists because vomiting is meant to be an emergency action. So sticking your finger down your throat is damn unpleasant. You gag and the forced backward stomach pumping feels like deep punches to your chest. The nasty smelling, bitter tasting, bile-coated globs exit through your mouth, which only a few moments before, enjoyed pleasure.
It’s a masochistic fetish. Not sexual, but an emotional fetish. I reward myself with generous eating, which triggers body-image anxiety, which then elicits self-punishment: “Yeah, fucking eat that cake fat bitch, keep pigging out because that’s all a pig deserves.” Then the “rewind” button – the purging – resets everything and I can resume being a normal, visibly high-functioning person. After years of practice, I am a pro at this game. I can vomit on command – step up to the toilet, look down, and expel. No more mess; I can wipe my mouth, slosh around some Listerine, and get back to my job. I can undo bad days and start fresh.
But really, I am not starting anew. In fact, I’m falling back harder – not only am I gaining weight through the binge and purge process; I am destroying my teeth, stomach, esophagus, brain, and my life.
I know I am destroying myself. I have the right to destroy myself.
I also know that I can break the pattern by starting right tomorrow.
Tomorrow, I can start having fruit and Greek yogurt for breakfast, lemon water all day, and a kale salad for lunch. All I need is that – one beacon of a day to set the pace for the rest of my days. But damn it is so hard to start. Because I feel like shit, I can’t summon the enthusiasm to start this new life. It almost feels like I don’t deserve to have the life I want – the slim, perfectly muscled, and confident fitness model posing on magazine covers with a bowl of salad. I don’t deserve to be healthy. I don’t deserve to be at peace. So the greek yogurt I promised to have for breakfast turns into two greasy sandwiches, the lemon water is replaced with soda, and after multiple shitty meals, I end the day with the guiltiest indulgence – cheap ramen noodles. I go to bed with my belly bloated and my teeth eroded, seeping in regret. The next day isn’t any better.
Each day concludes with the promise of a new life tomorrow, always tomorrow. But that never comes.
I envision myself leading that fitness model life with a healthy relationship with food, my body, and myself. But the goal is so far from reality that I’m overwhelmed and feeling utterly helpless. So I binge, binge, binge, and purge.
This story was submitted by an anonymous writer. If this story resonates with you or anyone you know, help is just a call or click away.
Please contact the National Eating Disorder Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 and visit their support page here.