Sunday, April 1, 2007

Fat is a Feeling

To this day, my stomach ties in knots when I see my parents. I want to impress them, I want to please them, I want them to love me. Well, show me their love, anyway, because I have to believe that they love me. As hard as that is for my skeptic soul to do, I have to believe that they love me in their own way. It’s a definite struggle to do so, though. Like Doubting Thomas, I want proof. Show me and then I can believe. However, one can’t pry open another’s heart or head and peer inside. Love isn’t something that can be seen. And when people don’t show love in “normal,” society sanctioned ways, it makes it all the more difficult.

Prior to each visit with my parents, I am overcome with feelings – hope that they will have changed, dread that they haven’t, angst that they will bring up my eating disorder, anger that they probably won’t. Since I’m never entirely sure what to do with these feelings, I restrict – my favorite coping mechanism.

During the visit, I worry about what they are thinking, namely, about me. Am I eating too much, not enough? Do they believe that I have an eating disorder? Do they think it is a serious illness? Do they even give a damn? Again not sure what to do with these thoughts, I cope with my tried and true mechanism. I restrict, but make it look like I’m not so that I don’t worry anyone.

Doesn’t make sense, does it? Restricting while making it look like you are eating normally. No one said eating disorders were logical.

So then, the visit ends. Relief floods my soul. I’ve survived! But then, what kind of daughter am I to think thoughts like that? Surviving a parental visit – makes it sound like torture.
But relief isn’t the only emotion I feel. I feel disappointment that the visit went like all the others – where my parents and I chatted, but never once did either of them ask how I was. I feel hurt that my parents ask me about Jack and Todd, but never about me. I feel hopeless.
All of this feeling translates into one thought for me – I feel FAT.

I feel fat.

One hears that phrase daily from one woman or another.

I feel fat.

This phrase transcends weight. Women who are sticks are as likely to say it as those who are “pleasantly plump.”

What it really means is that we are overwhelmed by something – feelings, stress, people, life. But women are trained from an early age that no one wants to hear about our issues. “Don’t be such a whiner!” “Nobody likes a whiner.”

The unfortunate thing for most women, but especially those with eating disorders, is that we really believe that we are physically fat. We look in the mirror and we see bulges and cottage cheese, flab and fat. Proof that we are as ugly as we feel.

“Fat is not a feeling.” How many times have I read that, been told that? Countless. While it may be true that fat is not an emotion, it certainly is a valid descriptor. No better word is available to express how completely stuffed with emotion I feel.

The only feeling worse than fat, is the feeling that I’m getting fat. Translation – my emotions are growing and I can’t figure out how to stop them. My reaction is to restrict more – eat less, exercise as often as I can. This works for a while, sometimes longer than others. At least until my survival instinct kicks my ass and overrides my Edie-controlled brain and I splurge on all the foods that I haven’t allowed myself for whatever reason.

A friend of mine wrote that my feelings are just that, mine and that I can’t change them, get rid of them, or squash them. If that is true, then how do I live with them? If I’m stuck with all these feelings that seem to be expanding, how do I cope, since I’m told at every turn that my current coping mechanism is a one-way ticket to death?

I can hear my friends shouting already. “You can let the emotions out by talking. Share your feelings, your thoughts with those of us who care.”

As I’ve mentioned before, this is easier said than done. On occasion though, I’ve tried it. When I was in total recovery mode, I bookended my visits to my parents. In other words, I called a friend as I drove home to replay the event and analyze it a bit. When in recovery mode, this did work. I didn’t binge on the road. I sensibly made up the calories that I had restricted while there.

But then, I’m not always in recovery mode. My contactable friends aren’t always available. Emailing without receiving replies within a few hours sometimes isn’t enough to convince me that I don’t need to restrict, that I need to eat a certain bare minimum amount, an amount that I have restricted beneath.

At times like those, after I’ve sent a reach-out email, I find myself checking my email every ten minutes in the hope that one of my friends is online, when I know that they probably aren’t – they do have families of their own.

I sit and debate. Should I? Shouldn’t I? The healthy voice argues that eating after restriction, even if it is filling an emotional void, is acceptable (perhaps desirable even.) Edie argues for perseverence and strength to not succumb to emotional eating, to continue restricting. Of course, Edie also may side with the healthy voice and advocate for eating, but only with the understanding that a purge will be necessary.

And while the debate rages, I’m paralyzed from further thought about anything. The benefit is that I am also frozen from further feelings.

And if I sustain the argument long enough, I’ll be asleep.

Tie game. Jeanne loses.

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