Your Body

My Life Avoiding The “Fat Gene”

By September 22, 2015 1

I have always had a terrible relationship with food. I was an overweight child with an overweight parent, and a skinny parent who was obsessed with making sure that the “fat gene” wasn’t passed along to me. The first time I became aware of my weight was when I was 6, and a girl two years older than me asked me how much I weighed. “I weigh 38 pounds,” she told me. “Me too,” I lied. I had a good 25 pounds (and a whole extra chin) on her.

In high school and college, I had bouts with just about every eating disorder under the sun– the worst of which landed me in the hospital when I was 16 and at 5’5″ weighed under 100 pounds. I was anorexic, bulimic, exercise addicted,  diet pill addicted– you name it, I’ve had it. It’s not something I’m proud of or ashamed of or anything, really– it’s more just something that just is.

Every doctor, therapist and nutritionist I’ve ever seen has said the same thing: an eating disorder never truly goes away; you just learn to live with it. This, to an extent, is true. I should have prefaced this post by saying that at this point in my life, I am totally, totally healthy. I eat pretty much whatever  I want, and exercise regularly.  That being said, I still have days when, like any normal human, I feel fat and disgusting. I always feel guilty for ordering pasta instead of a salad or for going back for another piece of cake, but  I don’t lay awake at night torturing myself about it like I used to.  I remember being 17 tossing and turning in bed every night, unable to sleep not only because of the fact that my body was starving, but because it was impossible to find a comfortable position in which my thighs didn’t touch.

At my worst and most obsessive, I was a calorie counting anorexic. At any point during the day, there was a big, bold number in my head, and that number was always, ALWAYS under 1,000. Not only was I starving myself, I was terribly unhealthy about it. I would go for weeks at a time only eating two Ben and Jerry’s Half Baked milkshakes a day– one for lunch and one for dinner– made with skim milk and frozen yogurt (and topping out at 465 calories each). My parents were thrilled that I was eating what they thought would help me gain weight, but little did they know that I was well under the INSANE daily calorie limit I had set for myself. I was consuming no nutrients– only sugar and fat– and I felt. like. shit.

It wasn’t until college that I started to understand food for what it really was: energy. I know, it sounds dumb (it’s basic middle school science), but I had spent so many years thinking of calories as my enemy, I never really realized that they were something I needed to survive. As my body recovered from all the damage I’d done to it in my teenage years, I started to notice things that I had been ignoring while I was busy trying to look like 1992 Kate Moss (actually, my eating disorder surfaced around the same time as this picture, so Nicole Richie was really my 16-year-old self’s ultimate thinspo).

For one thing, I started to crave healthy food. I would wake up after a night of going out dying for a salad, understanding for the first time that putting good food in my body would make me feel good. I learned to read signs of what I needed: protein after a workout, raw vegetables after a night of drinking, complex carbs pretty much 99% of the other times.

My trainer back in college recommended living by the 40/30/30 rule– eating 40% of your diet in carbs, 30% in protein and 30% in fat– which back then I completely ignored in favor of pizza and beer. BUT I’ve tried this in the last few weeks (keeping track with the Daily Plate app on my phone) and was excited to find that it’s pretty much in line with my normal eating habits (with the exception of a Saturday night slice of pizza, or three). Hear that Dr. Riggs? I’m pretty much normal!

I won’t pretend that my eating problems are all about food– anyone who’s ever seen an episode of Dr. Phil knows that there is much, much more to it than that. But understanding my body and what it needs was the best way for me to start to recover. Yes, there were also countless hours of therapy and a lot of difficult conversations with my parents, but ultimately in order for me to start to get better I needed to comprehend why food was so important.  I read something recently about how  it’s important to remember that nutrition is “actually about nurturing yourself,” which as cheesy (Food Pun!!!!) as it is, it’s something that I’m going to continue to try to keep in mind this year.

I do not, however, plan to stop eating cereal in bed in the middle of the night, or Ben and Jerry’s in front of Season 1 of the OC on Sunday night. After all, I said  I was normal– not perfect.