Eupepsia

It has acutely come to my attention that there is a subdivision of psychology devoted entirely to food and peoples’ relationship with it. They (the governing body of all things psychological, I suppose) have creatively named it “Food Psychology.”

I’ve been desperately searching for tried and true tricks to intervene before I subject myself to a situation like the episode I had last week, and the psychodynamic side of me feels that searching for the origins of my peculiar relationship with food would be helpful in selecting an effective treatment, because, frankly, I’m done being the kind of weirdo whose biggest concern is what she is going to eat today and lives in constant fear of losing control of the abundance of food around her. It’s time to be a different kind of weirdo.

In the beginning, I was a chubby kid. I loved KFC and pasta with parmesan cheese, sue me. It just so happened to deposit itself right on my abdomen. I was a hopelessly picky eater, and refused to eat all things produce and lean protein. Though my parents never said anything, I could sense their concern-even from a young age. I was NOT a happy camper. Ever. Still to this day, you can see the sadness in my eyes in the sparse stack of photographs from my youth. I didn’t like me, and lived in a constant state of self-consciousness, always trying to make myself disappear, though not through starvation means quite yet, which would account for the sparse stack of photographs from my youth.

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In the interest of time, let’s jump forward to adolescence; everyone’s favorite life stage. Moderate body dysmorphia is relatively common among young teenage girls, but what I experienced fell far outside of the bell curve. I can’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t self-conscious, but my early teenage years were certainly the most severe in this regard. It was at this time in my life that I had finally gained the motivation to transform myself into the only thing that I thought could make me happy-skinny.

As soon as I turned 13, I signed myself up for a calorie counter account, and began logging every bite. Anorexia had reduced my calorie intake to a mere 250 calories per day, and my diet consisted mostly of baby carrots and a fourth of a cup of Multigrain Cheerios.I weighed myself seven, eight, nine times per day. The rapid weight loss was energizing-I was above hunger, above the need for food. I was strong and I was beautiful. And people were noticing. I was 5’2, and 72 pounds.

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My eyes had sunken in, my hair had thinned, I had constant goosebumps, and every vertebrae on my back was both visible and palpable. I remember making my own mom cry one day when she accidentally walked in on me changing my shirt.

The folks dragged me to therapy, but my therapist left a bad taste in all of our mouths, so I was only forced to attend the initial session. While all of this was going on, my parents had begun seeing a personal trainer and nutrition coach, so food and exercise dominated a lot of household conversation, which reinforced my preoccupation with “healthy” eating.

I remember spending a lot of time in the kitchen. I’d bake sweets for my family on almost a nightly basis, the aroma of the baked goods forcing me to salivate, but I was strong. I never gave in. I ate the exact same food every single day, at the exact same time, and in the exact same quantity.

Sleep was hard to come by, initially due to the audible pleading of my stomach for sustenance, but later due to hunger pains that only increased in severity as the night wore on.

I wish I knew what exactly made me “snap out of it,” but eventually (and thankfully), my body took over my prefrontal cortex, and forced me to slowly restore my weight to a sustainable range. Strangely, I don’t remember much of the weight restoration process, but I can imagine that it was excruciatingly devastating to watch myself gain the weight that I had worked so hard to starve off.

My level of self-consciousness has remained fairly constant throughout my development into adulthood. Today, I am right smack in the middle of the “healthy weight range” according to the BMI chart. But my relationship with food is nowhere near healthy.

Last semester, I took a 20 credit hour course load. (Full-time is 12.) However, I couldn’t bring myself to focus on anything school-related until I had a Maddie-approved meal plan prepared for the day. I’d spend upwards of an hour per night just packing food for the next day, because my anxiety would be far too severe for me to cope with if I didn’t.

Every time I visit the ladies room, I will spend 2-3 minutes examining myself, pinching various areas of my body in disgust, regardless of who might see. I have to forcibly pull myself away from the mirror before I burst into tears. I visit the scale multiple times per day, and threaten myself with starvation if I don’t like the number I see.

Sometimes, when my anxiety is unleashed, I hide in the pantry and scarf down entire boxes of cereal. After which, I go to the gym and attempt to purge it all with hours of cardiovascular exercise.

Weight gain is by far my greatest fear, and I structure my entire life around avoiding it. I have isolated myself in order to ensure that I don’t slip up. I am prisoner to my obsession with food.

I am ready for a life without this, but unfortunately, I won’t let me let it go.

M.

 

Recidivism

Having completed 92% of my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology has significantly and falsely inflated my confidence in my ability to control my own mental health. However, it has come to my recent attention that memorizing theories makes me no better at remedying my own cognitive malfunctioning than any other average Joesphina.

I don’t want to say that I’m relapsing, because to say so would indicate that I had, at some point, completely recovered, which would be a false claim.

Diagnosing mental disorders is complex, due to the complex nature of the human mind. In physiological pathology, there is typically physical evidence of that particular disease. If you’ve been diagnosed with a renal cell carcinoma, the doc has detected cancerous tumors on your kidneys. However, mental disorders manifest themselves behaviorally, and behavior is dynamic, idiosyncratic, and highly unpredictable.

I have struggled with an eating disorder since I was fourteen years old. (You can read more about it here) and it has displayed itself behaviorally via various mechanisms over the years. We initially thought that my Anorexia was a co-diagnosis with depression. However, after years of self-reflection, I’m convinced that I’m not depressed at all, really. I am anxious.

Today was Mother’s Day, and the first thought on my mind was “Today is going to be a disaster.” Why did I start a perfectly beautiful Sunday off with such a damning thought? Because I knew that today was going to be a “bad eating” day. And boy, was I right.

I eat according to a premeditated, perfected, measured, perfectly balanced and repetitive menu. Every. Damn. Day. And if it get thrown off, everything goes to Hell. There is simply no in between.

With Mother’s Day being a special occasion, my family hit our favorite authentic Italian pizzeria for dinner. As soon as we were seated at our table, the anxiety set in, and my brain started racing. My eyes danced up and down the menu in vain, because I already knew that I was going to be ordering the salad (After all, I’d already eaten a roll with breakfast, and I NEVER eat bread) but the aroma of fresh-baked crust was making my mouth water.

That’s when I knew I’d already surrendered my control. The waiter took our orders, everyone ordering a pie but myself, and my thoughts began to race. What if I’m still hungry after I eat my salad? Will I be able to decline offers to eat somebody’s crust or eat more than my share of the appetizer? What if I can’t stop? My breathing rate sharply increased.

Our plates arrived, and I eagerly eyed everyone’s plates but my own. I scarfed down my salad as quickly as I could; my brain demanding that we take in as much as we can, because we could go into self-induced starvation mode at any moment.

Mere minutes had passed since receiving our food, and I had already cleared my plate. My attention immediately shifted to what everyone else had on theirs, and I began snatching crusts, half-eaten slices, and toppings off of others’ platters, and shoving them down my throat, breathing minimally.

I had completely ceased control, and something automatic and instinctual had taken over my executive functioning. “More, more, more!” my brain screamed, as if we were preparing for a famine, and I continued to consume other peoples’ calories.

My family were all critically commenting on my vulture-like behavior, and giving me strange looks, but honestly, I was hardly listening. I continued to eat off of everyone else’s plates until they were completely clean.

And then the guilt came pouring down. I wiped my face with a napkin and excused myself to the restroom so I could lift up my shirt, poke and pinch at my stomach, and tear myself apart until my sister was knocking on the bathroom door, yelling at me to hurry up so we could leave.

Situations such as these are a frequent catalyst for anxiety and a complete surrender of self-control for me. I had convinced myself previously that I was capable of managing my impulses and anxiety attacks, but this is simply not the case. In fact, I probably won’t sleep tonight, because I’ll be replaying this episode in my head until morning, at which time I will be exerting myself at an extensive cardio session at my local gym.

So it appears that I require another round of cognitive therapy so I can get a grip on this persistent problem of mine, because frankly, my disordered eating habits are annoying and exhausting, and I have so many more important things to invest my energy in, like becoming a badass master of academia.

I hate to admit it, but I require assistance. People get over these kinds of things, right?

M.

 

 

 

For Maximum Efficiency

My friend and I were reminiscing on acquaintances from high school yesterday, and naturally, our conversation morphed into a bash-fest of people we loathed. My friend brought up a girl that we’d been mutual friends with, but my friend’s relationship with this girl turned sour due to the girl’s blunt honesty and disregard for others’ reception of her verbalized opinions. I am still on good terms with this girl, despite my friend’s animosity toward her. 

My friend began listing out the qualities about this girl that caused the termination of their friendship. Her list started out with the girl’s character traits, but, as any gossiping female would, her list ended with insults on the girl’s physique. (Her “weird-shaped” head, of all things, which is completely unalterable, and quite frankly one of the most comedically pathetic insults I could possibly think of.) 

I told my friend that regardless of her opinion, I still liked the girl, and told her to be nice. (BLEH, she says.) Before I continue any further, I just want to acknowledge that I know that I am more than guilty of saying bitchy things behind girls’ backs, and I, too, have made fun of girls for their physical appearances, even though, hypocritically, I believe that the way a person looks has absolutely nothing to do with their value and like-ability. 

I’m a hypocrite, yes. 

Again, i’m only human, and I am only using this story to make a point. 

As with most things, I gave this conversation way more thought than normal humans do, and I noticed that this similar situation happens frequently among the ladyverse. 

When we’re blabbing away to our girlfriends about other girls that we can’t stand, why is it that we feel a need to not only insult their “hamartia”, but, while we’re at it, attack their physique, weight, hair, boobs, etc.? 

“Ugh she is such a fat, ugly b*tch.” 

“That slut’s nose is as big as jupiter.” 

Why does calling a girl a brat or a jerk or stupid not satisfy our tongues? Why do we feel the need to include the fact that she’s an UGLY brat or a FAT jerk? 

I’d be willing to bet that the majority of us females, myself included, would rather be called a brat than be called ugly or fat. Because hey, I may be a sucky person with a drag of a personality, but at least I’m pretty and that’s all that matters. 

I’m right, aren’t I? 

Most of us would never admit this out loud, but the sting of being called “ugly” lasts way longer and affects us way worse than being called “stupid” or bratty. 

Beauty takes the cake in the way we want others to think of us.

I know that people will continue to bad-mouth other people to their friends, but it’s possible to hate someone without ridiculing their physical appearances. 

That’s your food for thought on this fine Thursday. 

M. 

Conflicting Conscience

Let me tell you a little story about a not-so-little girl. Legend has it she got not-so-little due to her picky palate and refusal to eat anything but starchy vegetables and Easy Mac. As the years passed, her excess intake of carbohydrates stuck to her in the least-flattering way that fat could stick to a person. You could see nothing but disgust and self-loathing in her eyes-merely a nine-year-old child! You would never catch this girl with more than a half-hearted grin in any photograph.

And the fat jokes, they came. As early as the fourth grade. They stung, oh they stung. But not nearly as badly as her own thoughts in her head. But she fought to suppress them, that is, until she was involuntarily thrust into the firey, unforgiving, pubescent realms of junior high school.  By that time, the voices had won. 

Just like that, from the end of seventh grade to the beginning of the eighth, the girl had dropped from her hearty, 110 pound chubbiness to a gaunt, skeleton-like 72 pounds. She thought that in doing this, she would satisfy the voices in her head, but they had only grown stronger with time. She was ugly, she was worthless, she was disgusting. And she believed it, too. 

Since then, she has crawled out of the hole she’d dug herself into, but her thoughts remain the same. Subconsciously, she still sees the portly fourth grader she’d shed a number of years ago. With every bite of cookie or cake or french fry comes an overwhelming and exhausting feeling of guilt, which results in her self-consciously pinching at herself in the mirror for the next half-hour. 

You guessed it, that girl is me. Living with a distorted body image is a living hell, I assure you. You take every fat joke, every weight-loss “secret” to heart, and you never feel good enough. It sucks. 

But Maddie, you’re a feminist! 

Feminists don’t believe in vanity or in giving in to societal pressures! 

Shut up you guys, i’m only human. 

And yes, I do believe that women are worth way more than their dress size or number on the scale and that “what matters is how you feel on the inside” and all that gushy, feel-good crap. On a conscious level, I really do agree to all of that. And I can counsel other girls till i’m blue in the face on how their size doesn’t matter and that they don’t have to be “beautiful” to be of worth, but I can’t apply a lick of my own words and “beliefs” to my own life. There, I said it. 

It’s a freaking drag. 

So here I am, conflicted as ever. Having the strongest belief in feminism and not owing beauty to anyone, when I am consciously indebted to myself with my vain bodily short-comings. 

Naturally, the blame falls both on the shoulders of the fat, carb-inhaling youngster I used to be, and also our disgusting, skinny-worshiping patriarchal society. 

A sincere thank-you to the both of y’all. 

I’m not sure what the point was for this post, but in the words of Nick Carraway from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, “Writing brings me solace.”

M. 

Ingress

I absolutely DESPISE when people say, “don’t let it get to ya, champ!” after someone else tells you something hurtful or offensive. Trust me, sir, if I had a choice in the matter, I would not “let it get to me.” But there’s this cute little thing called emotions, and when people are insensitive, it makes me hypersensitive. 

I have noticed recently that it is mostly when a select few males give their oh-so-entitled and completely unwarranted opinions that I get the most upset.  

“I liked your hair better blonde.” 

“Are you gonna eat that whole thing? You’ll get fat!” 

“You should start running, or go to the gym!” 

“You’re skin is pasty.” 

Not to generalize, but I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I verbalized my verdict on a man’s appearance without him asking for my opinion.  

But for some odd reason, many men I’ve encountered in my life seem to feel that their opinion is always welcome because I am always in pursuit of their approval. 

As a girl in this world, I have plenty of societal pressure for acceptance without added remarks on a personal level, thank you. I already know that I’ll never be beautiful until I look like Kate Hudson or J-Lo (which is literally impossible unless you ironed and stretched me out like Play-Doh, removed each of my zillion upon zillions of freckles, gave me a spray tan and cheek bones, breast implants, hair extensions, and lipo.) 

But aside from being a girl, I am also a human. A flawed one. I’m short. I have zero muscle definition. My skin is comparable to an albino’s. Seven times out of ten, my hair is a frizzy mess. I don’t have an airbrushed complexion, or eyes as big as the moon. 

Y’know what I do have, though? A brain. And a personality. 

So how about instead of pointing out and re-pointing out all of my visual shortcomings why don’t you try commenting on my personality? 

Instead of, “you look good in that blouse,” why don’t you try, “you are so funny, you crack me up!”

I, for one, would MUCH rather be complimented on my personality, thoughts, accomplishments, and creative humor than my hair, legs, or outfit choice.  

To be frank, I don’t care if you like what you see. Because I like it. 

In the words of my idol, Tina Fey, “do your thing, and don’t care if they like it.” 

This is my new motto, folks. 

M. 

Flaxen

It was time for a drastic change. I was feeling spontaneous, impulsive. The appointment had been set-no turning back now. My mind had been made. 

It was the concluding day of my employment at big girl job #1. Yes, the one in which I was the only female member. 

The boss man asked me to have a seat in his office while I turned in my keys, etc. back to the company. In effort to break the awkward air that my voluntary resignation had brought, he asked me timidly, “Well, what are you going to do with the rest of your day?”

“I think i’m going to dye my hair,” I shared, a little less bashfully. 

“…. But, men love blondes. It’s scientifically proven!” 

A direct quote from my former boss, I kid thee not. 

A zillion and a half feministic and attitude-slathered, raging responses raced through my mind. 

Silly me, though, I had forgotten that I wear my hair for the sole purpose of gaining male approval. I hadn’t considered the fact that i’d lose my allure in the eyes of most men. That my body is here only to be objectified and either accepted or deemed “undesirable” by the men I encounter.

After all, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. 

Not to be frank, but I DON’T CARE WHAT COLOR OF HAIR YOU’D PREFER TO SPROUT OUT OF MY HEAD, MISTER. *slams office door dramatically and stomps out, heels clanking harshly against the floor*

No, I didn’t yell. But the feminist in me was screaming, punching, and kicking- throwing a tantrum that would put all four-year-olds to shame.

It is sickening that men assume that women alter their appearance for the sole purpose of gaining approval and acceptance from them. And perhaps they are right, in some cases. However, they could not be more wrong in mine.

You see, I don’t care if you like blondes more than brunettes. Or redheads more than both combined. Bleach your own freaking head for all I care. Your opinion is of no significance to me. Admittedly, I hunger for approval and visual appeal from my peers. We all do. But I will do with my hair whatever I please, regardless of what any man thinks. IT IS MY HAIR, thank you. And you can stick your preferences where the sun don’t shine.

Before: 

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After: 

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In my opinion, and the only one that matters in this scenario, darker hair makes me look more lively. I like it. 

I am now a half-blonde. And for the record, half-blondes have more fun.(; 

M. 

The Harm In Formality

First dates are so formal. If you think about it, you spend three or four hours engaging in some sort of structured activity with another person, nervously and anxiously trying to impress the dude and try to get to know him at the same time.

My question is, how are you supposed to get to know someone when they are putting on a front just like you are in order to impress you? I know i’m guilty of spending an extra half hour making sure my hair has more bounce and shine than usual and that my eye makeup is just slightly darker in attempt to make my eyes that much more alluring, and sucking on breath mints until he arrives.

Then he comes to the door, wearing a just-more-than-casual button-up shirt that he may or may not have ironed beforehand, and wouldn’t be caught dead in on a typical day. You exchange a stiff “hello” and follow him to his car, where, if he is a “gentleman”, he will open the passenger door and wait for you to self-consciously climb inside before jogging around the automobile to climb in through the driver’s side.

I don’t care how much of a “gentleman” your date is, there is no way that he regularly opens the car door for his passengers. It’s just not natural.

As the time passes, slowly at first, but progressively faster, you anxiously and cautiously engage in a conversation in which all you can think about is the kind of person you’re coming across as and anticipating possible conversation-starters just in case, heaven forbid, the current topic of conversation dies out and you both end up sitting across the table in an awkward stupor of speechlessness, and how you only get one first impression and oh gosh now it’s raining and he’s going to see your hair transform into an untamed, frizzy mess and nobody is into an untamed frizzy mess.

Again, I thought the point of dating was to get to know someone and see if they make the cut for a second date, and eventually, a relationship. But it’s really hard to do that when you’re putting on a faker-than-fake persona that you THINK he will like. Let’s be honest, people. You can only hide your crazy for so long.

So there you are, sitting across the table with someone that you can now call an acquaintance, and the conversation is beginning to flow a little more freely. The tension is gradually being lifted and you feel yourself relax. That is, until it’s time to order, but luckily you’ve premeditated appropriate food options in order to avoid getting food on your attire, face, or worse, in between your teeth. And also, it can’t be a hamburger or else he’ll think you’re a total fatty.

Then there’s the matter of how much you should eat. You can’t possibly finish the entire dish in front of a GUY, even though you skipped out on lunch today and can feel your tummy eating itself it’s that hungry. And you better not eat more than he does. And you better not eat too fast, but you can’t take too long and make him wait for you, either.

What’s the big deal? If a guy is gonna treat me to a 12-dollar dinner at my favorite restaurant, you better believe I’m gonna enjoy it. ALL of it.

The date comes to a close, and let’s say hypothetically he does like this fake-o person you improvised, based on your assumptions of what he likes, and you get a second date with this suitor. How long are you going to play the part of the well-mannered, exceedingly polite, normal girl that you were on your first date? And by the way, he’s doing the same thing. Where does the formality stop, and a couple decides to be themselves instead?

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good, well-planned, structured date. But I HATE the pressure that comes with it. All it is is two people putting on a show for one another while out for a night of public entertainment. Maybe I’m the only one with this problem. I just find it immensely difficult to be myself on a date when there is a mutual expectation to behave as a proper, formal person who is just talkative enough to make herself interesting, but doesn’t give too much away, and is instantly intrigued with everything that comes out of her date’s mouth.

I guess everyone’s different, and some people just need some time to break out of their little shells when they’re around new people. But I just wish there weren’t so much pressure to impress people. On dates. In everyday life. Like I said, you can only hide your crazy for so long, and after spending X amount of time with the same person, they’re bound to meet the REAL you. And the faster you can be the REAL you around someone, the faster you can weed out the ones who aren’t going to stick around when they meet you in your entirety.

Can I get an amen?

M.