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 is a co-founder of Wellness Minneapolis, Board Certified Holistic Health Coach, and a Certified Massage Therapist. She is also pursuing a MS in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine. Click here to learn more about Jesse.