When it seems there isn’t enough food in the world.

Felix-Gonzalez-Torres-Untitled-Portrait-of-Ross-in-L.A.-1991

a beautiful pile of candy by the prolific Felix Gonzalez Torres

If you’ve had an eating disorder in the past, its voice can always be waiting there, right there in the wings.

“You’re body is terribly flawed” it might say.

“You’ll never be good enough”

“I can’t believe you ate that”

“It’s time to count calories” it might suggest. “Or eat more. Or maybe starve.”

“Throw up” the voice might say. “Eat everything in the world and then throw it up.”

There are so many ways an eating disordered voice can manifest that it kind of blows my mind. Historically, my history with disordered eating has been very specifically restriction paired with compulsive exercise. But when that got better it morphed into bulimia and from there it morphed into general food freakiness. It became eating food really, really fast, like someone would catch me or like I hadn’t eaten in a long time. It became a general nasty voice in my head that told me I was unattractive and worthless.

My anorexia and bulimia mellowed into something quieter, but still painful. It became mean thoughts, and sadness when I ate anything at all. My eating disorder had made me feel very bad, but when it went away, I didn’t exactly feel better. Instead I felt quietly trapped in my body without my coping mechanism. There was enough food in my life to keep me at a stable weight, but there wasn’t enough food in the world to keep my brain feeling good.

I knew I had to find a different way.

When it turned out there wasn’t enough food in the world to make me feel happy or whole I started focusing instead on how I could be a better friend. My sickness had taken me entirely into my head, focused on my routine, my calories, my measuring cups, my exercise. I didn’t show up for my friends for years. I started showing up. The friends that forgave me for my selfishness showed up for me too. It felt perfect.

When it seemed there wasn’t enough food in the world to fill me, I asked myself a very logistical question: had I eaten enough that day? Had I gotten enough protein? Eventually I learned that I have sensitive blood sugar, and I need to eat every 2-3 hours. I made my eating schedule a habit, and then the only hungers I had to worry about were emotional.

I wrote. I wrote my fucking ass off, and I found people who liked my writing. Writing filled me up more than trying to control my body and when I finished a piece I had worked hard on, I felt like a champion.

When it seemed there wasn’t enough food in the world for me, I made a plan. My plan went like this:

“If I feel like puking, I will talk to Monica. If Monica is busy, I’ll take a shower. When the shower is over, I will think of things that make me feel good.” It was a really simple, three step plan, and once I put it in place, I stopped puking.Because I have consistently used this plan for any behavior I don’t accept (I don’t feel like puking anymore, but sometimes I do feel like mentally talking shit on my body) I am able to stay well. It’s simple, but not easy.

For the record, the things I thought of mostly when I needed a reason not to throw up were my students, young girls and how important I think they are, lifting weights, and my grandmother, mother, and sister. I stopped puking for the love of all women. I started to like myself as a result. These are specific to me, and you will probably have other excellent things to think about that will be specific to you.

What will you do when the voice of self-dissatisfaction comes up? How will you change your own mind?