Friday, August 10, 2012

Unberable Lightness

I know you are maybe wondering how I'm doing, but I don't want to talk about it.

I've been meaning to write a post about an incredible book I read.  I heart Portia De Rossi.  She wrote this autobiography and it interested me even more because she's bulimic.  So am I. (I think most of you know this already.)  I haven't purged in a long time, but it's kinda like being an alcoholic.  It's a daily thing.  Once you're an alchie you're always an alchie. 

This is my review (on Good Reads):  Beautifully written. Brutally honest, which I love in an author. Very easy to relate to and oddly for an autobiography, a page turner. As someone who struggled(s) with an eating disorder it helped me see things in myself that I'd never thought of before. I loved it. I checked it out from the library but for sure want my own copy!

Portia says, "I didn't decide to become anorexic. It snuck up on me disguised as a healthy diet, a professional attitude..."  

It snuck up on me too.  When I was 12 my body started changing.  Not just growing boobies, but things started shifting.  My hips got a little wider, but my biggest concern was that my ribcage started to poke out.  (You couldn't see my ribs, but the skin, and fat around them.) I remember looking at myself every single day and trying to suck them in, but not being able to.  I wanted my ribs removed like Pamela Anderson did.  

One day I weighed myself and hit 100 lbs.  I couldn't believe I weighed three digits.  It was then that I started my first diet.  It was a cabbage soup diet that my mom was doing as well.  I also started exercising at home in addition to my dance classes.  My mom had these ankle weights from her physical therapy when she broke her kneecap and I'd wear them everywhere I went.  I found a Mary Hart (lol!) workout tape at my grandma's and would do it twice every day, then two workouts I'd saved from my YM magazine.  

As you can imagine, the cabbage soup diet didn't last long and when I still was 100 pounds, I decided to limit my food intake too.  I would eat half of a bowl of cereal for breakfast, then refuse to eat anything but a Snapple for lunch.  Also at this time, I was going through a change emotionally and socially as well.  I went from being very popular to an outcast in a matter of days when a rumor started that I was born in a foreign country and born with half of a brain, which caused my speech impediment.  Junior high kids are so smart.  So, I would come home after a hard day at school being made fun of and tortured by my ex-friends, or simply being ignored, and I would eat my feelings.  I binged while watching Days of Our Lives and Oprah.  Cheetos, Pizza Pockets, candy, ice cream, brownies...whatever we had in the house and a lot of it.  Afterward I would cry, running to look at myself in the mirror and jump on the scale, and panic.  My aunt, great grandma and I'm sure many other women in my family were bulimic, so I decided to try it.  I wasn't good at gagging myself, so I decided to take laxatives like my great grandma did.  I started with three everyday.  

My boyfriend got me to quit for a while and I finally accepted that I'd have to weigh three digits to be a grown woman.  But every time I'd put on a little extra weight I'd freak out and start again.  Part of bulimia is what I call "the urge to purge."  Typically, I would binge when I was depressed and then when I felt guilty for binging, I'd purge.  After a break up with a boyfriend in college, I put on 15 pounds and weighed a whopping 130.  I freaked out and purged everything I ate.  My roomates/bff's caught me gagging myself and had a little intervention.  They encouraged me to lose weight the healthy way and went with me to the gym every night.  Then they moved.  I'd lost all my weight that I'd put on and it felt so good that I kept going.  I went to the gym for two hours, then three.  I remember one of my best friends calling me one night telling me that I needed to come home because we'd planned to clean the apartment.  I was on my way to the gym and FREAKED out on her.  I think about that all of the time and it hurts my heart. 

I got down to 110 pounds and kept going.  My mom bought me tons of new clothes and was so proud of how beautiful I was.  And for the first time in my life, I'd stand in front of the mirror before I showered and admired my spine, ribs and hipbones and the gap between my thighs.  I would plan my meals every night before work, using specific containers so that my portions wouldn't be off.  I worked out every single day and was so proud of myself for being so healthy.  After all, I only worked out more if we went out to eat and I needed the laxatives now in order to go to the bathroom at all.

I stopped purging when I got engaged and I gained weight.  When we got married I weighed 120-125 pounds.  My seamstress said to me in a frustrated tone, "Most brides lose weight when they're getting married, not gain it!"  I said, "Well most brides don't stop purging."  My mom was furious.  

In her book, Portia talks about her desire to please her mother, even though her mother never said anything to her about being fat or thin.  The desire was just there; and it overwhelmed her for most of her life.  

She talks about using specific bowls and utensils and the need to workout even on Christmas Day.  She talks about "the voice" inside of her that controlled her entire life by disparaging her in every single possible way.  

My voice isn't as mean.  My eating disorder wasn't/isn't as intense.  It didn't rule my life like it did Portia's; not always.  But it did scathe me and my self image.  I still have issues with my body.  I still look in the mirror and hate what I see most of the time, but I try really, really hard not to.  I have a short waist and huge boobs and hips that don't lie.  And I hate that.  I have an hourglass figure while I'd much rather have a straight one.  But, a realization occurred to me when Portia said, "No matter how much weight you lose, you can't reshape your body."  I'll never have a six-pack, low-rise jeans will never fit right and I have adult acne.  But, I have long legs (albeit bruised ones), a long neck, and long graceful fingers.  I have pretty eyes and pretty hair.  This is my mantra when I look in the mirror.  I still binge sometimes.  Not as drastically, but sometimes after a horrible day, fast food and half of a carton of B&J Phish Food are what I eat.  I still have the urge to purge, but I don't.  I never, ever have laxatives in the house and Spencer can hear me when I throw up. I never diet.  I don't think about calories or fat content and when I exercise, I have to be very, very careful and conscious of my state of mind so I don't become addicted.  I don't own a scale.  I lost 30 pounds that I'd put on three years ago.  I did it by belly dancing, yoga, and portion control.  I didn't binge, but I ate what I wanted to.  I also stopped eating after nine at night.  I am at 125 pounds right now and I have been for three years; I don't plan on going up or down because that is the weight my body likes.  Sometimes I go up to 130, but I don't freak out like when Ian dumped me.  It's not worth it anymore.

Portia's whole book healed and inspired my soul.  I felt such a kinship with her as it made me realize that what I felt and did was something someone else did too.  My favorite part is her epilogue, because I thought I was the only one who thought this way after recovery.  I'm not!

"I have recovered from bulimia and anorexia.  I am immensely grateful for the disorders, although robbing me of living freely and happily for almost twenty years, [they] aren't continuing to rob me of health.  Not everyone who suffers from eating disorders has the same fortune...  However, having anorexia has left me with an intense resistance to exercise.  As well as being resistant to exercise, I have an intense resistance to counting calories, and reading labels on the back of jars and cans.  And weighing myself...   

"I am allergic to gyms.  But I don't think "formal" exercise in a gym is the only way to achieve a healthy, toned body.  I have discovered that enjoyable daily activities that are easy, like walking, can be equally beneficial.

"To say that you can stay at your natural body weight and be healthy by eating what you want and not working out seems extremely controversial, and yet people have lived this way for hundreds of years.  It seems to me that it's only [been] since around 1970 that the concept of diet and exercise has existed in the way it does now, which is based on exertion and restriction being the key to weight loss, and yet since then, we have seen an increase in obesity in countries that have adopted it.  (These are also countries where the fast-food industry boomed at that time.)  The diet industry is making a lot of money by selling us fad diets, nonfat foods full of chemicals, gym memberships, and pills, while we lose a little of our self esteem when we fail yet another diet or neglect to use the gym membership we could barely afford.  Restriction generates yearning.  You want what you can't have.   There are many ways to explain why the pendulum swing occurs and why restriction almost always leads to binging.  I was forced to understand this in order to recover from a life-threatening disorder.  And in a way, I wrote this memoir to help myself understand how I came to have an eating disorder and how I recovered from it.  I really hope that my self-explanation can help people who are not only suffering from anorexia or bulimia, but also the perpetual dieters.  You don't have to be emaciated or vomiting to be suffering.  All people who live their lives on a diet are suffering.

"If you can accept your natural body-weight, the weight that is easy to maintain, or your "set-point" --and not force it to beneath your body's natural, healthy weight, then you can live your life free of dieting, free of restriction, of feeling guilty every time you eat a slice of your kid's birthday cake.  But the key is to accept your body just as it is.  Just as I have learned to accept that I have thighs that are a little bigger than I'd like, you may have to accept that your arms are naturally a little thicker or your hips are a little wider.  In other words, accept yourself.  Love your body the way it is and be grateful toward it.  Most important, in order to find real happiness, you must learn to love yourself for the totality of who you are and not just what you look like."  


e said...

Chels! I've always thought you were beautiful on the inside and out. Even more than that you are amazing. Just flat out amazing. Love you girly.

And someday we are going to belly dance together. I need you to show me your amazing moves.

Dana said...


Ditto to everything your friend "e" said. I just think you are amazing. Beautiful inside & out. I love you to death :)