It was not until October 2013 that I realized I had an eating disorder.
I was feeling a lot of anxiety when my pediatrician informed me our son could now eat the same things that we eat. Bottle feeding time was one of the more emotionally satisfying parts of my day…but I guess I saw this coming when we were spoon feeding him all those pureed fruits and vegetables.
The problem was, I usually skipped either breakfast or lunch, preferring to snack on something like peanut M&M’s and then ate whatever I wanted for dinner. I could tell this would not be appropriate for my son to mirror, as he seemed to be eating every two hours and I did not have a solid (food) plan.
So I made an appointment with a Nutritionist to learn how to feed my new toddler.
I LOVE her. She is really nice and her voice sounds exactly like my Aunt Renee’s, which I found fascinating and very comforting. We discussed the purpose of my visit and while I was explaining my ignorance on how to feed my son “real people” food it occurred to me that I was making no sense.
That’s harsh. I was making total sense, but I felt SUPER critical of the point I was trying to impress upon her because I am a lawyer, which means I have the ability to properly conduct my own research and apply my findings to my decision.
Not one time did I try to Google search how to feed my toddler before sitting down to that appointment. I realized in that moment that I knew how to feed my child, I just did not know how to continue blindly not feeding myself anymore. It had become apparent to me and now as a parent, I needed to make a change so that I could MODEL proper eating habits to my son.
When my nutritionist brought up the term eating disorder, the first thing I told her was that I thought I was not thin enough for that concern. The next few thoughts popped up simultaneously: I have never voluntarily thrown up in my life and I eat WHATEVER I want without feeling guilt.
But not whenever.
I could not eat WHENEVER I wanted.
Eating was part of a reward system. My own personal inner reward system I established long ago where I get to eat whatever I want but only when I say so.
When I deserve it.
When I am worthy.
How does that work?
Couldn’t really tell ya, I changed up the rules on myself all the time, really kept myself on my toes. I could eat the M&M’s if I got all my work done, but not if one thing went wrong. It was hard to keep up because I would become confused from dehydration and too fatigued to physically prepare healthy food.
any of a range of psychological disorders characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits.
My nutritionist advised me that ORDERED eating involves regularly feeding and hydrating your body because your body needs it. Ordered eating has nothing to do with deserving or worthiness or rewards.
Apparently, you are supposed to eat when you are hungry.
How did I not know this?
My nutritionist asked me if I would ever tell my son “no” if he asked me for food and I emphatically said that I would NEVER deny my hungry baby. She asked if I would be willing to love myself that much and I started to cry.
Now I try to eat 5 times per day but it is very hard. My best meal times are together with my son, as I have no problem preparing healthy foods for us. My worst meal times are usually when I am alone. For a mom, alone time is pretty valuable and sometimes I feel like eating is a form of squandering that precious time. Then I realize that it is not squandering it because if I don’t eat I will have to lay down because my body literally NEEDS fuel to keep going. I am not a machine.
One thing that has helped me is identifying what it is specifically that can set me off and trying to just work around it. For example, handling raw chicken can be so disgusting to me that I can’t eat the meal when I’m done cooking it. Because my husband loves me and wants me to be healthy and eat, he now handles all the raw chicken in our household.
Also, when I am overwhelmed with other issues, I have a tough time deciding on WHAT to eat, which used to lead to eating NOTHING, but now I phone a friend. I designated certain supportive people in my life who were willing to at any moment make food suggestions to me in a kind and supportive manner (like: I think you should go get a smoothie right now and let me tell you with enthusiasm what foods sound good to me right now off the top of my head kind of friends). It helps.
Mostly, I just tell myself while I am eating: this is an act of loving my body.
Eating disorders have nothing to do with hating food. It’s a form of hating on yourself that needs to stop. I do not want my son to hate himself, therefore, at all costs, I will love myself. I do love myself. I model self love.
Seven months later I am telling this story because my friend Julia has been wanting me to for awhile now.
Today is Julia’s Birthday!
I met Julia in Law School but really got to know her well when we studied abroad together in Amsterdam. This is how I always remember Julia:
We traveled in a pack of 4 and Julia always had the plan, the map and lead the way.
I was SO thrilled to be in Amsterdam that I had no ambition to lead the way or make the plan, and there is no way I will ever pretend to look at a map. That’s not me. I would rather declare that where we ended up was my intent all along than try to navigate a map. I loved to travel behind Julia and take in the sights, no worries.
Museums, shopping, landmarks, bike rides, oh and school.
We walked at least 10 miles per day.
I was in complete awe of Julia. Brilliant legal mind, confident, capable, quick witted, she was so funny.
I would have let her lead me anywhere, map or no map.
But I did find one thing odd.
Eating was NEVER on our agenda.
My friend Sarah and I had to fight for it at least twice a day. Hey, use that map to take us to food now ok?
Soup. It was usually soup. Much of our conversation during the soup eating had to do with how much fatter we noticed we were as Americans compared to the Dutch women we were seeing. We were there for 5 weeks and not one of us got hit on one time by a local. When we were shopping a sales clerk laughed while Julia was trying on a skirt and said “oh no, that skirt is for little tiny French girl.” Julia was so small, I did not understand what was so funny. We literally just agreed with the clerk though and left.
Now I realize how much hating your body can distract you from simply feeding your body in an ordered manner.
When you love your body, you feed it.
Losing Julia was very painful. Gaining Julia as a guardian angel has been very precious to me.
Per the recommendation of my dear friend, Shannon, every night I usually go to sleep listening to this YouTube guided meditation video called Lilian Eden Meet Your Spirit Guide. (Love you, Shannon!)
10 times out of 10 my spirit guide is my step-brother, Jody, but 3-4 nights per week Julia also shows up and reminds me about these eating epiphanies. I wake up and I know that Julia wants me to share my experience. So this is it, my friend.
Today there is a ceremony to dedicate a room in the Ronald MacDonald House in your name.
I miss the sound of your voice.
I love you.