If there’s anything that I’ve gotten out of the past ten years of starving myself, yo-yo dieting, and exercising until I’ve dropped from exhaustion–anything at all–it’s that I hate being hungry.
I’m not necessarily talking about that acute, stomach-rumbling, natural reaction to the fact that I haven’t eaten in X hours sort of feeling, although that’s no picnic (pun intended) either.
I’m talking about the kind of hunger that happens when you’re purposefully navigating the treacherous waters between caloric deficit and emotional eating, the kind of hunger that settles on you like a fog, slowly rolling in and obscuring your vision so stealthily that you don’t realize you’re being engulfed until the moment it hits you that you can no longer see.
I’m talking about the kind of hunger that happens when you’re depriving you body and, perhaps more importantly, your brain of the nutrients it needs to survive, whether that be by starvation or by restriction or by just consuming nothing but man-made, processed foods.
I’m talking about the kind of hunger that you can’t ever feed–not fully, not completely–until you learn to speed your emotional and spiritual hunger, and even then you have to consciously work to nourish yourself or else you’ll go right back to starving again.
When I was in the worst throes of my last bout with anorexia–living in New York but barely living in any sense of the term–I spent every day in tears, running almost exclusively on cortisol and egg whites, with some protein powder thrown in for good measure. All I wanted was to go home.
But I remember one conversation exploring that possibility with my mother very distinctly:
She told me that it might not be a good idea, because my little brother was afraid of me.
My brother, who is 13 years younger than me, who has a terribly gentle soul, was afraid of me. I was too mean, too angry at the world, and his youthful naiveté and general good cheer upset me enough to lash out at him verbally whenever he bounded into the room singing Hannah Montana. And so he was afraid of me.
That killed me.
Even after I moved home, even after I worked hard to become the kind of person who my brother could trust, I still struggled with the anger, the depression, the anxiety that all led me to say hurtful things and storm out of the room. And it was because I was hungry.
Even after I started eating again, I was still hungry. I moved in with my fruit stand roommates, and, while they had their part in destroying our relationship, I can’t help but wish I could take back the things I said and did because I was hungry. I was a vegan, eating nothing but fruit and soy and whole grains and nuts, beans, and seeds, and kale-and-broccoli smoothies (so much kale), and doing Bikram yoga twice a day or going to spin classes and I was hungry. I had panic attacks when I had to be away from food, panic attacks when I had to be around other peoples’ food, panic attacks when I couldn’t have everything my way so that I could just eat my food when I wanted to (even though that was always) according to the schedule that the government and the health and fitness industry and the Huffington Post and Oxygen Magazine said I should be keeping.
And this past Friday (two weeks ago now), having had to give up some of the fats I normally eat (a new n=1 acne experiment I’ll write about soon, I’m sure), having had to give up all control over my schedule with the new job and the musical, having relied on extra fruit and caffeine and chocolate and sugar-free gum to keep me awake and functioning, I came home and saw my brother for the first time in nearly a week, and I was hungry. And as soon as I realized that I was lashing out at him the way I had when I was 112 lbs and starving, I realized that I was falling back into the mindset of the person I didn’t want to be.
I am all about full disclosure, so here it goes:
These past several weeks, I have been struggling so hard with my body image and my food issues. I haven’t worked out or been near a gym in so long that I’m starting to beat myself up every time I look in a mirror. I have been lashing out at the people I care about because interacting with them means less time for sleeping or eating food at a normal (for me) hour. I have been agitated by having to explain my eating habits over and over again to my new coworkers and have been apologizing for the way that I eat (as well as avoiding invites to lunches and dinners because I just want to eat alone).
But I don’t want to be the girl who needs the gym to validate her existence. I don’t want to be the coworker who eats alone at her desk every day. I don’t want to be the girl whose younger brother is afraid of her.
I don’t ever want to go back to being hungry again.
I don’t have any answers today, or even tips or tricks or scientific studies…just honesty. That’s all.