I've sat down numerous times to write something profound and meaningful in honor of National Eating Disorder Awareness week (Feb. 22-28, 2015). Every time I do, I am reminded by how little of my experience with anorexia I understand. The hashtag #IHadNoIdea is part of this weeks' messaging to raise awareness and promote early intervention of eating disorders. It's bringing up something totally different for me.
I started dieting when I was eight and spent years battling guilt, shame and embarrassment at breakfast, lunch and dinner. And I'm a lucky one. Though being anorexic took a toll on my body, I came to grips with it before any lasting (physical) damage was done. Now in my 30s I enjoy food most days of the year. I consider that to be a great gift. It truly is.
Maybe in response to this looming project, my anorexic self had an encore this past week. It was awful. I found myself eating my aunt's 60th birthday cake surrounded by family and friends who were integral to my healing process. And yet, as I took a second bite I found myself wishing the room was empty and all the lights were off so no one could see me. I felt like everyone in the room saw me eating cake. And even though they were eating cake too, they were judging me. Because I ate cake.
There's a narcism there that can't be denied. The truth: no one cares that I ate cake. No one even gave it a single thought. But disordered eating is wrapping your identity up in what you eat or don't eat. It's a bond that is hard to untangle.
Jules Feiffer, a famous American cartoonist who drew parodies of himself was quoted saying: “I grew up to have my father’s looks, my father’s speech patterns, my father’s posture, my father’s walk, my father’s opinions and my mother’s contempt for my father.”
I had no idea where I got my contempt for myself, but I sure am tired of it. But I could easily write an essay of #IHadNoIdea' s.
#IHadNoIdea how to handle strong emotions. #IHadNoIdea where it was safe to express them. #IHadNoIdea that how I saw/see myself isn't how others saw/see me. #IHadNoIdea that popular images of women are not real. They're not real. I am. I can't be like them. #IHadNoIdea that I didn't want to be like them. #IHadNoIdea what I was doing. #IHadNoIdea how to stop. #IHadNoIdea who would help me. #IHadNoIdea that being me, perfectly imperfect was exactly who I was/am supposed to be. #IHadNoIdea it would take this long to get better. #IHadNoIdea that being loved would teach me how to love myself. #IHadNoIdea how good it felt to feed myself nutritious, delicious food.
And now I know.
I hope you do too.
Tell your food story this week and let someone tell you theirs. Or better yet, prepare yourself a meal. A special meal. Set the table, light some candles. Sit down. Take slow, deliberate bites, enjoying every mouthful. Be present in every delicious morsel. You deserve it.
Jesse Haas, CNS, LN is a licensed functional nutritionist and certified health coach. She was a founding partner of Wellness Minneapolis and was an active practitioner with the clinic from 2014-2022. To connect with her regarding functional nutrition and health coaching services, please follow this link.