This morning, Judah and I made gingerbread pancakes and sausage, and he also fried up an egg for himself. I put a few pancakes on my plate and drizzled on some maple syrup, and he grinned and said "I'm glad you don't diet."
Which led to a brief conversation about me and dieting and food and how food and I have a complicated relationship.
(1985-1994) As is common for kids with some of my childhood experiences, I went through a bout of anorexia as a teenager. Very textbook: the only thing I could control in my life was my food intake, so I did. I was ~90 pounds through my adolescence (I'm 4'11", so that isn't *quite* as gaunt as you may be visualizing - but still, very very skinny). And when I discovered drugs, I went down to 78.
(1994-2001) And then I had Elayna! My hips spread! I gained 51 pounds! I lost a lot of it soon after giving birth, and my new average weight was 95 pounds. Still a size 0, but healthier than before. I'd stopped restricting my food intake during my pregnancy, and stuck to that, but I still didn't really have a relationship with food; it was a thing I had to put in my body a few times a day. My weight was kept down mostly by the stress migraines I had several times a month - the nausea kept me from eating very much.
(2001-2003) Then I divorced my asshole ex, moved to Atlanta to be with Adam, and everything changed.
Adam is a foodie. A serious foodie. And he slowly seduced me to the idea of food being a good thing and not just a necessary thing. Growing up, my diet was mostly bland takeout; his was a massive variety of everything NYC had to offer. I was inducted
. I tried everything. I found that I do not like sweetbreads, but I love risotto. I could go on. But food started to be a thing to enjoy. And at the same time, I was now living with a wonderful supportive awesome person and not with an emotionally and physically abusive asshole, so my stress migraines went away, and for the first time in years, I was actually eating three meals a day every day of the month.
So I gained 30 pounds. And fell into a hideous depression over it. (Remember, I'm 4'11"; 30 pounds may not be much on your frame, but it's a lot on mine.)
(2003-2006) Then I was diagnosed with epilepsy, and they put me on medications that made me constantly nauseated and unable to eat more than a few bites of anything at a time. I actually got scurvy. I'm not kidding. Because I was eating so little that I wasn't getting enough Vitamin C. I hd to do research on how I could get the maximum amount of nutrition in a few bites of food, because I literally couldn't handle more than that. That was some bad medication. That was years of bad medication.
I don't know if I've ever admitted this, but: when I started losing weight that time, I deliberately accelerated it. I slipped back into self-starvation mode. Partly because I was so unhappy with my weight, partly because I was having seizures, which brought the control issues ROARING back. But the nausea started to fade after a few months, and I kept eating the bare minimum on purpose.
Until my weight started to crash horribly. I didn't have dysphoria telling me that I was fat; I was aware that I was skinny. I was aware that I was too skinny. I went back to full-portions, full-fat, eating everything I could, and nothing worked - my weight was in freefall.
I got down to 85 pounds. We thought I had an ulcer, we didn't know, I was getting weekly weigh-ins, it was terrifying. NOW we know what it was - it was my celiac disease, my intestines atrophying. But we didn't know then.
(2006-2009) We switched my anti-seizure medication to Lyrica. And I gained weight (a common side effect)! Which was great!
...until I gained too much weight. Eventually up to 155 pounds. Which, again, is a lot on a 4'11" body. And I became hideously depressed again.
And then we figured out that part of why I was hideously depressed is that Lyrica can cause suicidal depression.
WELL OKAY THEN.
(2009) So I switched anti-seizure medications again, and my weight.... crashed. In the span of two months, I lost 30 pounds and half my hair again. I noticed when I started losing weight this time, and threw myself not into dieting, but exercise - I didn't want to lose weight so quickly, or lose my hair again, so I figured maybe I could keep my weight up by adding muscle mass. Maybe it helped? But the weight loss was so rapid that my kidneys were crashing out. It was really scary. The thing to note, though, is that I did not resort to disordered eating this time; I fought it.
(2010-present) So I ended up around 120. I'd said that my ideal was probably around 110, but as it turns out, I'm fine with 120.
But over the past year, I've gained weight again, and am now a little over 130, which I'm not okay with. A number is just a number, but my clothes don't fit, and my body doesn't feel right. I do need more exercise - I've been very sedentary. But it does haunt me at the dinner table, my belly, my thighs.
And every time I sit down to eat, I am thinking about my food in a way that people who have never had an eating disorder don't.
Some little machine in the back of my mind is always evaluating, just like it's evaluating my parenting decisions (I had no examples of positive parenting). Is this an appropriate amount of food? Is it too much? Is it too little? Am I restricting myself because I'm angry at myself? Am I even thinking about this because I'm angry about myself? Is this a completely normal serving of dinner that I am massively overthinking? (Usually.)
I'm not happy with the way my body is right now, and I am not in very much control of that; medications have a strong effect, as you can see. Disability has a strong effect - if I'm having a bad pain week, I can't get as much exercise. It's hard for a control freak to deal with that without taking it out on her dinner.
But I love gingerbread pancakes. I love maple apple sausage. I love smoked sweet paprika and really good peppercorns, pomegranate molasses, lasagna, pumpkin bread. Every day I have to decide, and every day I decide that I will enjoy the food I enjoy; that I'm not okay with my body, but that I will not deprive myself, and I will not backslide into the horrified tyranny over my body that dominated my adolescence.
No, I don't diet, because for me, dieting is unhealthy. I just do my best.