Return to Normalcy

It struck me, as I walked around the aisles of the grocery store today, just now "normal" it was to diet. Yes, this has occurred to me before, but there's almost an unwritten assumption that you're trying to lose weight. Marshmallows have these big labels saying "Naturally Fat Free!" As anything that is 100% sugar typically is. All sorts of sweets and snacks are somehow supposed to be good for you (or at least cause less guilt) because they have "whole grains."

Yes, your diet- meaning typical daily intake of food- is intricately related to health. Absolutely. The consumption of omega-3 fatty acids can help with depression. When I don't eat enough fats, I can't absorb Vitamin K, a clotting factor, and I have these disgusting bruises all up and down my shins. And so on. This isn't exactly newsbreaking. What is bizarre is the almost complete lack of emphasis on the dangers of dieting.

The whole model/anorexia debate, as played out, ironically enough, on the cover of People magazine, is good in that it draws attention to the dangers of anorexia and bulimia, but not always so good in that all the chips aren't on the table. Models, modelling, and looking at models do not cause anorexia or bulimia. Eating disorders are not a diet gone a little too far. The link isn't causal.

The dangers of ultra-skinny models go beyond just triggering eating disorders. It makes the tell-tale behaviors (eating low fat, no fat, no cal foods, binge eating, overexercising, purging) seem quite standard and ordinary. If a young teen says that he or she is going on a diet, no one will likely bat an eyelash. It might even be written off as an obsession over Kate Moss. In my office, everyone is dieting. Together. It is more odd that I am not than that I am. A young teenage girl is much more likely to be at a more advanced stage of her eating disorder upon diagnosis because it all seems so freaking normal.

I was lucky. My rapid weight loss was so absurd, so seemingly unprovoked, that my mom picked up on it quickly. By then, of course, I had already dropped 10 pounds and malnutrition had thoroughly set in. Even then, it gave Ed much more ammunition to use to lull me and my loved ones into thinking that everything was normal, everything was fine.

Duh. Doesn't everyone want to lose weight? I'm on a diet, I'm just eating healthy, exercise makes me feel great (in the 100 degree Atlanta heat in the middle of the day for an hour and a half). No one noticed. In fact, I was solicited for advice. Two days before I was found to have a pulse of 44 and a blood pressure that was completely undetectable.

So this whole model thing goes quite beyond just triggering eating disorders. It can then sustain them. Normalize them. Make anorexia (at least on a moderate level) seem somehow enviable.

It's hard not to look for the low fat options. I feel guilty when I don't buy them, when I have to ask for a larger size in the dressing room. Tell me that these standards are unhealthy all you want, but they're still standards. They're ingrained upon me. I have to make a conscious effort, every hour of every day, in order to fight these things.

There's a part of me that would like to run out and change the world, but all I want to do anymore is live in it and be accepted no matter how large and untoned my butt is, or how odd my tastes in clothes, books, and music might be.

Really that's all.

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mary said...

It takes time to feel comfy in a changing body as we grow into them. For me it's age, it's menopause, it's stepping into a new phase of my life gracefully yet bravely enough to make mistakes. With an ED you have an even tougher fight, BUT I absolutely know that you can get to the point where you'll love you again, exactly as you are and it won't be a lie you tell yourself. Begin with one small part of you and fall in love with it, madly! LOL
Who else but you can accept you and have it make the hugest impact on your life? No one.
In fact if you meet someone who says that their ability to accept you matters more than your own then I'll ask you to RUN FOR YOUR LIFE! Don't let them in. Let you be the first to accept you. Others may not always understand you. It's okay. Only those who want to drag you down will attack you. No matter what happens you can get up again.

In your wisdom to put on your climbing shoes and take your butt right out of these woods where the whispers are cruel and demeaning, you will find yourself, a very strong and intelligent young woman ready to take on the goals you've set for yourself. You deserve to live free of these messages. The new found roundness will become your energy, your warmth, and your cushy protection. You won't get too big because it's not your nature to be large. What you will be is at peace with yourself, not war. Instead of seeing lowfat on a label you'll find yourself grateful when you can eat pancakes with syrup because you feel like it. You'll give the ED what it wants by starving it, giving nourishment for yourself and letting it wither away as the malnourished voice you'll no longer listen to. It's predictable, it's boring. You'll no longer feed the ED's whims with attention. In fact you'll slam the damn door.
You'll proudly wear that zany outfit that strangely suits you but says that you dare to be who you are inside, regardless of the trends because you set your own trends.In fact thinking of creative ways to wear your new self will lead you through these last briars threatening to hang on to you. Bring your hedge clippers Carrie and remember to saunter and smile as you clip away at the remaining messages!
You understand so well why you need to nourish your body and why your blog is about this journey right now. The day WILL come when it's about other challenges in life because as sure as you can beat this one Carrie, you'll find others.
Put some ice cream on that hot chocolate! [it's cold here] Mint choco-chip is heavenly.

CARRIE said...


Thanks for the hot cocoa idea. Except here it's too cold for ice cream...I think I'll just use one of those peppermint candies. :)

mary said...

Hi Carrie,I know I say too much at times. I think I got 'Carried'away!
: )
The ice cream works like cream and it must be tried Carrie! YUMMMM

æ said...

I'm so glad to have "found" you! You address many of the things I have been struggling with (in my own recovery from God-knows-what kind of disordered eating). Why IS everyone on a diet? Why IS it so threatening that I would learn to love myself at this size and not wish to be thinner? It's much harder to do these things walking against the river.

Thanks for putting it all out there--I feel so understood right now!! :)

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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