Standing over the scale, waiting for it to stop thinking about how much weight I gained over the holiday break. I have self shamed myself into thinking I had undone every bit of hard work I put into my still mildly pudgy, but by all accounts healthy body. Three pounds. Ok, not so bad, I can rock that out in a week or two. I go look in the mirror, shirtless. Looks about the same as before break, not bad at all, it didn’t look like that before I stepped on the scale. It didn’t look like that when I was staring at my “fat rolls” in the shower wishing I could rip them off after a chocolate binge.
I’m just a grown man, with an eating disorder.
It’s not such a taboo thing for a man to admit at this point in 2016, the idealized bro bod is certainly out there for all of us to feel self conscious about. We’re all competing with people who’s only job is to look amazing and be in shape, that’s their 9 to 5. It’s certainly no comparison to what women go through constantly, and at least the idealized body of a man is healthy in a certain regard, even if unattainable for most, which is far from the idealized female figure teenage girls grow up aspiring to. My own personal descent into body dysmorphia and binge eating disorder are a long one, tied to a lack of food knowledge growing up, paired with an obsessive/addictive disposition. It’s strange to look in the mirror one day to the next and see something totally different just based on how you feel at that moment.
I don’t look like someone with an eating disorder. I’m a healthy weight, relatively fit and generally take really good care of myself. I’m no longer what most people would consider “overweight” and I haven’t been for over a decade. To be perfectly honest, I don’t really remember that guy very well, I don’t remember what it’s like to eat something and not think about the calories and macro-nutrients. The one thing that never leaves though, is the general mindset of being a fat kid, it almost runs deeper once you’re on the other side because the fear of backsliding. A lot of the time I feel like people don’t truly believe me when I talk about it, being on the “good” side of the struggle means that I look “normal”. I think about attending Over-eaters Anonymous meetings when I’m having a hard time, but ultimately chicken out because I don’t feel like I would be taken seriously. I’m probably wrong, but I don’t seem to have the chutzpah to find out for myself.
I have to ask my family to not gift me candy, chocolate, baked goods, or really any food during the holidays. Not because I don’t love them, but because once I start I will keep eating well past the point of being uncomfortably full, I will keep eating until my head starts to spin and I’m lightheaded from the massive blood sugar spike. Once the fullness starts to fade and the lightheadedness dissipates some I’ll start again, pushing myself even further into dizziness and feeling more full than I thought possible. My only salvation is that in a brief moment of clarity I might throw the rest of it out, sometimes from a moving vehicle, before I can start again. Wasting perfectly good food so I won’t waste myself.
It’s a problem I’ll have for the rest of my life, you can never cure an addiction, only manage it, you can’t go cold turkey on food, well you can, but that comes with a whole different set of problems, like dying. And it’s a problem that only exists because of the unfathomable amount of privilege I have because I live in the first world and can afford to obtain enough food that binging on it is even an option.
I’m not posting this as a pity piece, I’m very happy and have WAY more good days than bad. I’m posting this because you very rarely hear about what happens after you get healthy, nobody really talks about the long term of managing food addiction. The losing weight part is hard, but not nearly as hard as coming to the realization that there’s no off switch to this thing and you’ve got to figure out how to manage and cope with it for the rest of your life.