I hesitated for a second, trying to decide what to tell her about it and she rolled her eyes and said, "It's o.k. Sue. Not everyone is meant to be an athlete. You don't have to pretend you're training for a marathon just because everyone else in the neighborhood is. Nobody's going to think any less of you."
I didn't really respond, just sort of hemmed and hawed and changed the subject, but I've been thinking about it for days now, and here is what I wish I would've told her:
When I was a young teen, I was chubby. Not tremendously fat, but chubby, as you can see in my picture on the last post.
When I was 14, I discovered the magic of vomiting up my over-indulgence.
I'd never really heard about "bulimia" other than in movies-of-the-week, and I didn't self-identify as a bulimic, mostly because in my mind what I had wasn't a disorder but rather a Magical Cure. (Besides, everyone else was doing it - why should I be the only girl not benefiting from the beauty of the binge-and-purge?) (Seriously, interview ten mormon women and I bet you'll find that half of them have had an eating disorder at some point in their lives. We don't drink, smoke or have sex before marriage, but MAN do we ever love a brownie. Mine is not a unique story.)
Once I got the hang of the whole vomiting-on-demand deal, I chucked my tiny bottle of ipecac syrup (I cannot eat anything butterscotch flavored to this day) and enthusiastically embraced my new weight loss solution - only instead of getting skinnier, I got FATTER, because I would just eat MORE, thinking I would toss it up later.
Unfortunately (or fortunately?) I didn't really LIKE doing that, so I would procrastinate, and procrastinate and procrastinate until I'd digested most of it anyway and was basically throwing up remnants and bile. (I KNOW - GROSS. ALSO TMI. Sorry.) I was a lazy bulimic, in other words. An underachiever in the eating disorder world.
It would go in waves and cycles - I would get serious about bulimia, throw up several times a day, lose 20 pounds, start to get attention from boys (who were, after all, the only valid reason to feel good about yourself) and then as soon as I felt happy and secure and accepted, I would stop throwing up and promptly gain it all back. Lather, rinse, repeat.
I worked in a yogurt shop and I would eat and eat and eat all of the frozen yogurt I wanted, periodically running to the employee bathroom to throw it all up. I would drag home after a long shift, exhausted and sick, feeling like I was out of control but not sure how to stop it or if I even wanted to stop it.
When I met my husband I stopped, not because I got therapy or got over it, but because I didn't want him to know about my disgusting little problem. I promptly gained about seven billion pounds - but he did too - so yes, we were letting ourselves go - but we were doing it TOGETHER.
Like bonding, but grosser.
I eventually told him about it, about how at my worst I was throwing up four or five times per day. About how I was scared I would end up like Terri Schiavo. He was supportive and understanding and from then on I could tell he was sort of monitoring my time in the bathroom to make sure all was well, and in some weird way this was comforting to me.
I haven't been an active bulimic in almost fifteen years. I've managed to stay mostly away from those behaviors, although whenever I start dieting I start getting a little crazy-town in my attitude toward food and the temptation rears it's ugly head again. I'll go through phases where I'll lose thirty or forty pounds and feel myself sliding back into eating disorder insanity. "Sure, I only ate 1200 calories today, but if I throw up it'll be like I only ate 600." After a while I get completely freaked out about it and start feeling so out of control that I just give up the dieting efforts and resume eating whatever I want. (And resume gaining weight, usually at an even faster pace than before.)
I'm lucky that my husband has never pressured me about my weight, even during the times (like now) when he is physically fit and healthy, running miles every day and shrinking down to this skinny man I hardly recognize. He's always understood how hard it is for me, how strict dieting and the inevitable cheating spells that come with it trigger urges to become one with the toilet.
Even now, whenever I find myself alone in the house, my first instinct is to run for the cupboard to see what I can snarf down before everyone gets back home - as though I'm doing something naughty - as though I'm GETTING AWAY with something, just because nobody can see me eating. I realize this makes no logical sense - I'm sure people who have normal relationships with food will never in a million years understand it. I used to dream about figuring out how to permanently damage my taste buds so that nothing would taste good - that sounded like freedom to me. (Still does.)
What I need to do is stop worrying so much about food and dedicate myself to lots and lots of physical activity. I used to ski and rollerblade and walk all over the place. I was running until I started the migraine inducing HCG diet, and now I'm trying to ease back into it, but running a mile-and-a-half every other day doesn't exactly peel off the weight - or make my issues disappear.
I know a lot of people who are dieting in prep for CBC and BlogHer, who want to look like Themselves But Better, and I will probably do it too. But I also know that I probably won't be all that successful, that I will probably always struggle with this issue, that the odds of me showing up to BlogHer in a size ten are something approaching nil.
The fat acceptance people (and maybe even some of my friends) would have me stop trying, so that I would stop making what surely seem like fruitless efforts. They would have me try to be at peace with my current size and appearance - but I just can't do that. I can't give up. I'm NOT o.k. with how I look and feel physically. I'm NOT o.k. with setting this example for my kids. I DO like myself, I think I'm pretty nifty in a lot of ways, but - not this part. What else can I do but continue to try?
So if you see me out somewhere, and I mention that I'm (STILL) working on running a 5K, please try not to roll your eyes. You may not see the results written on my frame yet, but that doesn't mean I'm not trying.
I am trying. And I'll keep trying.