“But, you’re doing it the healthy way, right?” my friend asked me over identical salads and a side of picked-over fries.
“Yes,” I stared down into my bowl. This wasn’t the encouraging response I wanted after mentioning I’ve lost 7 pounds. “I eat. I work out. I’m good.”
I couldn’t fault her for her concern. In what seems like an entire lifetime ago (around five years, to be exact), I was anorexic.
Despite wanting to stick to a somewhat healthy diet, I felt like I had to overcompensate. I gorged on the bread basket. I made it a point to eat more french fries than her. I brought home dessert.
All these over-exaggerated actions just so I could convince her not to worry about me, regardless if she was conscious of it or not.
But, that’s what it is like trying to lose weight as a former anorexic. Everyone is worried you’re slipping back into former habits, and you’re worried you might never get a clean slate.
To some extent, both sides are right.
Food, diet and bodies are already sensitive topics, but for us, they're especially touchy. Even the words on the page -- “diet,” “body” -- catch our eye, like some dirty porn magazine splayed open.
The truth is, though, I needed to lose weight, but it wasn’t for the same reasons as five years ago. I was teetering on high cholesterol and triglycerides. My clothes were too tight.
And, I was beating myself up because I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. It had nothing to do with being anorexic.
And, yet, despite being a solid 15 to 20 pounds overweight, I still felt like I was receiving the same judgmental stares as when I was 15 to 20 pounds underweight. It’s confusing and extraordinarily discouraging.
It’s hard to fathom someone who had that much resolve over what she consumed could then let herself go so far in the other direction.
Maybe losing weight after recovery seems hypocritical, and those judgmental glances and warning tones are an appropriate response to such diametric behaviors. It all begins with extremes, right?
Losing weight as a former anorexic, in a word, sucks. You’re constantly scrutinizing yourself -- not just in regard to physical appearance, but also your mental state.
It’s a constant checks and balances of, “Are you being too hard on yourself?” “Have you eaten enough today?” “Have you been over-thinking, thinking about food?” It's all those considerations you must take to prove to yourself it’s different this time.
Which is why it’s so frustrating and exhausting when others ask you the same things -- you’ve already got it covered. But, most of all, you don’t want other people worrying about you again.
Despite everything out there about “our kind,” we don’t all want attention, or even worse, the label. The first time I wrote about my experiences, I did it anonymously.
I wasn’t ready to have the world put me in another category and always subconsciously look at me through that lens. It’s no longer a defining part of who I am, which is exactly what I want to say when those close to me warn me of going back.
I didn’t want it to affect my future endeavors, like this first-person article on corset training.
After my friends and family read it, I felt the need to justify myself in order to ease their visible concerns -- “I wasn’t, like, eating nothing;" “I’m not having an unhealthy obsession” -- whereas, strangers who didn’t know me read it and liked it, with no additional mindf*ck or feelings of betrayal.
Because that’s what losing weight as a former anorexic feels like: betrayal.
Betrayal by your loved ones because once upon a time, long ago, you promised you wouldn’t lose any more weight.
Betrayal by you: How could you let yourself go like this? Never in a million years…
You feel the need to defend yourself following any body praise. You can’t just say thank you after someone says, “You look great.” You have to include the fact you’re still eating junk food, just more sparingly, or you really haven’t changed anything, just started working out.
It’s always about emphasizing how healthy you are, just like a sugary cereal that boasts zero trans fats: It might not be better for you, but it’s not outwardly bad for you.
Maybe, this is merely a more acceptable form of the disease.
Losing weight is difficult for anyone, but it’s especially tough on those who have been through a battle with an eating disorder. We are hyperaware of the watchful eyes of our loved ones, in addition to our own self-perception.
There is a solution, though, one I’ve struggled with longer than my weight.
I’m going to do what I should have done a long time ago: focus on a happy and healthy me.