Thursday, August 29, 2013

What Not to Say


So a weird thing happened. I lost my appetite.


I know, right? When was the last time I didn’t want food? But for the past few days--ever since that pizza, really--I’ve been quite put off by most food. I think yesterday was the absolute worst, I spent most of the day eating despite the fact that it made my stomach angry. It was sort of like a combination of heartburn and bloating, only I’m not sure if either one of them was really the cause. All I know is it is the weirdest thing not to want ALLTHEFOOD and it gives me hope that, well, I won’t be an obsessed eating machine for the rest of my life. Yay!

But I would love to get hungry again, I mean more than just the little nudges that I get which are immediately followed by a distinct aversion to food. Which might not happen anytime soon, because...I’m flying to State College tomorrow night! And that’s great, except flying doesn’t agree with my body and that was before I had all this extra water retention and bloating, so this could get interesting....

Plus reunions are stressful when you’re hyper-sensitive about your body and the people you’re reuniting with remember you 20+ pounds lighter. I mean, logically I know that I’m still the same person and they like me the same no matter what. Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind, right? Still, it’s a bit daunting when you’re afraid of getting “the comments.”

Unfortunately (for us, but perhaps fortunately for them), most of society doesn’t understand how triggering everyday things can be. They don’t have to watch what they say because, while they do think about things like weight, it doesn’t become life-threatening to them. They do not take it to extremes that land them at death’s door. Having an eating disorder gives you a very good understanding of what not to say to someone who is suffering or trying to recover. So. My advice for those fortunate enough not to know?

Don’t judge what they’re eating. Or not eating. This goes both ways. I remember once, at a family Christmas, I got a little paper bowl and filled it with vegetables from the veggie/dip platter and (of course) finished before anyone else. So I was just sitting there with a little empty bowl and somebody looked over and said, “Did your dinner fit in that bowl?” and I said yes, and they were like, “Well maybe that’s what I should be doing.”

And it’s just plain tough, trying to recover and eating so much more than anyone else and being hyper-aware of that fact just because of the nature of the disorder. It doesn’t even have to be a comment. A look is enough to make anyone self-conscious. No raised eyebrows at a heaping plate or saying “Really?” when someone gets up for seconds (or thirds, or fourths). And it doesn’t matter how you say it. “I wish I could eat like that” is essentially the same as “How can you eat so much?!”

No “healthy food” talk. It’s natural to demonize food. Our culture is practically built on it. But no, French fries will not kill you and neither will ice cream, in fact excluding every food known to be “fattening” will probably kill you a lot quicker than taking the time to learn “everything in moderation.” There’s nothing wrong with enjoying “guilt” foods. We have a category for pre-diabetics, and I’ve come to realize that probably the reason we don’t have a category for pre-orthorexia is that the majority of the population would fall into it.

No regrets. I know how common it is, after a huge and indulgent meal, to sit around moaning about how much you ate. Believe me, I do it too--even though I’m about to tell you not to--and I’m working on it. Because it’s really uncomfortable (mentally) to know that you’ve just eaten several platefuls more than anyone else and yet they’re still complaining about how huge they feel and how they’re going to get fat. Yeah, if you’re going to get fat, then what about me?! In that moment it’s hard to remember that you have such a huge energy deficit and that you need those extra calories, because ED latches on to the “becoming fat” before you can even say “Give me more pie.”

No body comments. This is the one that really gets me. I could rail about it for hours (and apologies if I do). It doesn’t only apply to those in recovery, it applies to EVERYONE, no exceptions. I don’t care if these comments are negative or positive, because a lot of them have the potential to go either way depending on how they’re interpreted. “I wish I was that skinny” reinforces the ED behavior. And then there’s the dreaded “better” comment. I know this is a tough one for me because “You look so much better/healthier!” could easily turn into “You’ve gained so much weight!” which then becomes “You’re so much fatter!” It’s a slippery slope, just don’t start down it. Now, maybe words like “lively” or “glowy” are better, but just...be careful.

And the negative? Well, I would THINK this would be fairly obvious, and anyone with any kind of moral compass AT ALL would know better than to make negative comments on another person’s body, but I am continually appalled at how little decency people have. I’m pretty sure they teach us in elementary school not to call each other “fat,” and that doesn’t change just because we’ve grown up and expanded our vocabulary to include several synonyms for “far.” NO ONE has the right to comment on your body, not to someone else and especially not to your face. Not even you have the right to insult your body. It is a marvelous thing. You are beautiful just the way you are and you do not have to make yourself conform to anyone else’s idea of “acceptable.”

Well, I warned you. :) I do have a lot more to say on that last topic, but I’ll stop there. And really, looking back through that list, I think we’d all do well to at least try and follow them all the time. I still struggle with some of them. But society could be so much more optimistic if we turned “Oh God, I ate so much, I feel terrible” into “Yay, that was a lot of food, now I have fuel so I can get on with my day!” I mean, think about it. Do we only fill the gas tank halfway because it makes the car lighter? No! Because then you’ll be stranded on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.

Oops, another digression. There are so many more things I could come up with that people say or do, meaning the best, that only serves as a trigger. I don’t blame them, I blame the sadly misunderstood nature of eating disorders and how little the medical community (community at large, for that matter) actually knows about them. And I try to remember that when I see or hear something hurtful. But I guess it doesn’t hurt to add my voice.
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