You are my best friend and my worst enemy. You are as familiar to me as my own backyard, and yet as foreign as the deepest realms of the ocean. I taste you and smell you and manipulate you with my two hands every day. I read about you. I peruse photographs of you on Instagram. I am obsessed with you. And yet, I hate you.
Currently, I work as a baker. I graduated last spring with a BS in nutrition. I’ve learned through my career how to meld delicious flavors and bake a custard to perfection. I’ve learned through my schooling how to teach others about ‘balanced’ eating. However, I don’t know how to eat. I’ve cycled through patterns nearly my whole life. Restriction, bingeing, purging, exercising and always compulsively weighing myself. I’ve probably spent at least $200 on bathroom scales. Once, in Italy, I pretended to tour a gym in interest of their membership, just hoping to find a scale. My weight is the center point of my life. Therefore, you are at the center point of my life.
My childhood was…interesting – as said in a negative, classically Minnesotan matter. I also don’t have the best memory of those days, but I can place pieces together. I ate for comfort, and my high weight quickly became an issue I could not escape. I don’t remember when I was first placed on a diet, but the on-again, off-again dieting cycle started some time in elementary school. My step-mom took me to doctors for weight loss medication. I’d take it, but with limited results. I remember shopping for clothes Old Navy. I remember my embarrassment having to purchase the XYZ T-shirts. I remember my step-mom telling me “if only you could lose some weight, your face is so pretty.” I remember when I was 11, my mother brought me to a plastic surgeon to consider liposuction. Thankfully, he advised us not to take this route because my body was still changing. At school, I was bullied. I remember a child in middle school telling me I was the cause of world hunger. I remember a girl at a birthday party asking me why I was invited. I was ‘too fat’ to sit in the hot tub.
Everything changed when I was 13. As a bit of background, my father had custody of me during the summer. Most children coveted summers, but I dreaded staying with him. He was almost always working and traveling – leaving me alone with only my stepmom. I felt lonely, isolated and, eventually, angry. I decided to take control: I stopped eating. Between the beginning of eighth grade and the beginning of ninth grade I lost over XYZ pounds. I could finally wear clothes designed for people my age. Boys finally noticed me. My mom finally told me I was pretty. I was also very hungry. I carefully watched my food intake. I obsessively counted calories. And I’d weigh myself every day. In high school, I started hiding my scale because my mom had realized it was an issue. At age 14, I was diagnosed with an eating disorder.
Since this diagnosis, I have been in and out of recovery. My eating disorder has shifted all over the board. I identify most closely with bulimia, but I also have restrictive tendencies. I still weigh myself compulsively. I hate myself on the days the needle hasn’t budged – I hate myself even more if the needle budges in the wrong direction. Some days I cry to myself in the mirror because I hate what I see. I pinch my fat rolls and tell myself over and over that I am fat and useless. Throughout the tougher battles, I’ve sought out treatment. But when I initially step out of the grip of my eating disorder, that hideous monster wraps his hands around me and draws me back. He convinces me I don’t need treatment. He convinces me I should have an abusive relationship with him instead of a healthy relationship with you. I am fortunate in that I have gone through periods of more mindful eating. Typically, this lasts only for a few months, but those months have always brought freedom and joy. Unfortunately, you’re so entangle with the eating disorder that he never leaves completely. He always finds his way back to me.
At the same time that I struggle, those around me don’t notice a thing. They praise me for my dedication to working out. They commend my healthy eating. “Oh, what’s for lunch today? A salad? Classic.” My co-workers don’t feel my isolation when they’re enjoying a staff lunch of barbeque while I quietly eat raw vegetables. My family doesn’t understand my pain when I’m the only one to deny dessert. They love my self-control. I tell them I’m a baker and I get sick of sweets. Really, I’m denying myself the current satisfaction only so I can secretly eat to no end later. As a baker, though, I still find enjoyment in you. My friends and I are fanatics of the restaurant industry, and I do admire you as a work of art. The eating disorder likes to deprive me of this adoration and leave me only with desperation.
Food, you make me so confused. I don’t know if I want to work with you full-time. I don’t know if my joys for cooking and nutrition are true, or if they only stem from the grips of my disorder. I am confused with my path in life, and my relationship with you is blocking my view. I want to remedy our relationship so I can navigate my future, but my self-hatred and fear of weight gain keeps me from full recovery. Although treatment has helped, I still feel trapped and terribly alone. Will I ever find my way out of this terrible maze?
The Broken Baker