Guess what? I’ve achieved my ideal weight! I’m sure if you know what I look like, you’re going to say, “What?” And I’m not going to tell you what it is... not because I’m embarrassed, but because it’s not really a number. It’s a state of mind.
My weight and I have had a rocky relationship since ... well, since I was 9 and noticed that my gut stuck out. At that point, it was probably just the way a girlish tummy is shaped, but I, who had a mom who looked like Jackie O, thought it was a situation that needed fixing.
So ... I spent my teen years dieting, then my twenties as a weird-looking, tortured anorexic, and a great deal of my thirties as a person who just reeeeeally watched what she ate. I ate low fat, no fat, high protein – and I exercised. Like crazy.
Anorexia is sort of a superpower ... and not a good one. It gives you SUPER willpower, so that no matter how illogical your diet, you follow it. It keeps your body running on little to no food, and if you really work the superpower, you can also function – hold a job and maintain relationships (although not necessarily good ones.) You can do your work, interact with people, and count calories and calculate energy burned – all at the same time.
Of course, people know that something is wrong with you because, well, you look, in the words of Bridget Jones, like a stick insect.
Also because you don’t eat and always have to run home and exercise.
I don’t think they know the extent of it, though. They don’t know your mind is constantly counting and calculating ... and when it’s not doing that, it’s beating you up with a giant, spiky guilt and fear club.
And while people can’t read your mind, they can see that you are very possibly dying. And I was.
My road to recovery was arduous and multifaceted – involving professional help from Duke’s outpatient program, pastoral care, the unending love and patience of family and friends, and what I believe to have been miraculous healing.
I gained enough weight to exit the danger zone, but still fretted constantly about food and calories and exercise. Eventually, however, I lost the last drop of my superpower ... and my body won out.
I think it was so tired and so hungry that I just began to eat. And eat. My body had missed a lot of meals! I’m not sure what that disorder is called, but it’s like … the opposite of anorexia … or maybe its evil (good?) twin. I struggled for a while and tried to recommit myself to my diet, with no result. Fortunately for me, that crazy period ended after a short time and I actually let myself eat and rest.
For that time, I am extremely thankful for my friend Grace who taught me how to love food – and that there was nothing to fear. While the women in my family engage in an unspoken competition to prove who can eat the least, Grace, a country girl with a fondness for ham was actually the first woman I had been close to who saw food for what it is: delicious. And then there’s my husband, Tom, who also loves a good meal followed by a hefty dessert. He has known me at all sizes and loved me at each and every one of them. What a gift.
And I don’t remember when it was, but I do remember having this moment of clarity at one point during my struggles: When I was able to just live in freedom – eating what I liked and exercising a reasonable amount, without worrying or thinking about food or exercise beyond what was needed ... whatever I weighed at that time – THAT would be my ideal weight.
And now I’m there!
I grocery shop, plan meals, enjoy eating out and trying new foods, but I really don’t EVER think about it beyond what I need to do my job as the primary meal maker in the home. I’ve not known such freedom since I was 9 years old!
So, celebrate with me! Pot luck at my house! Bring something delicious and fattening!
Julie Moore is a graphic designer in Chapel Hill. Write to her at email@example.com