Sunday, April 1, 2007

French Women Don’t Get Fat, Neither Do Anorectics

I started to read French Women Don't Get Fat last night. The basic principle is that French women savor each bite they take - basking in the flavors, the textures, the aromas, the presentation. They eat with all their senses. They take pleasure in every morsel. By doing this, by concentrating on every delicacy, by describing it to themselves in detail as if they were writing it down, they are able to sense when they are satisfied - usually after a few bites.

I stopped reading about a quarter of the way through.

Edie was loving this book and her “I told you, so’s” were getting to be disruptive.

This is what Edie has been telling me all along. If I just take a few bites, savor them, make love to the food (if you excuse the phrase,) then I will be satisfied with just those few bites. Milk an eight-ounce container of Light, Non-fat yogurt for an hour. Eat Cheerios one by one, pausing between each O to reflect on how its crunchy coating turns mushy in my mouth then washes slowly away in the ocean of saliva.

Something tells me that this isn’t what the author had in mind.

The author does not have an eating disorder. I doubt that she even thought about how triggering her book would be to a person with a restrictive-type eating disorder.

And therein, lies the dilemma of all ED sufferers.

We can’t avoid food.

We are addicted to food (yes, even anorectics are addicted to food, they just don’t allow themselves to eat it,) but we can’t get around the fact that we need to eat to live.

Everyone talks about food and diets and tricks for staying thin and trim. It can be maddening to the sufferer who wants to recover. The lure of restricting or binging or purging is always present. As acquaintances discuss their latest weight woes, a voice in our heads whispers, “you know how to get the weight off. You know what you need to do.” Because, at least for those with restrictive-type eating disorders, we do know how to lose weight. It’s something at which we are exceptionally good. Of course, it’s not healthy, but that is beside the point, isn’t it? The point is to lose weight. The person who loses the most, wins!



And there is our problem.

Because our society has led us to believe that you can never be too rich or too thin. What they fail to tell you about the later is that even skeletons weigh something. The scale can never read zero.

I just had a brainstorm! Everyone should balance their scales so that zero equals a healthy weight (whatever that is and, from what I’m told, it’ll be different for each individual.) Maybe then people wouldn’t get so uptight about a pound or two?

Of course, it is best not to own a scale in the first place. If you have an eating disorder, that is. While Edie may be satisfied with a zero reading on the scale, she would freak at a one, let alone a five or ten on the scale. Don’t forget, Edie isn’t easily fooled. She’d be wanting negative numbers next.

That is the difference between Edie and French women. French women want to live and enjoy life. Like Thoreau, they suck out all the marrow of an experience, be it a spoonful of crème brulee or a stanza in a Mozart opera or the delicate metamorphisis of the sky at dusk. French women want to live long. They believe that the person with the most fulfilling experiences, wins.

Edie, on the other hand, just wants you dead.

The frustrating thing is that, as much as every recovering sufferer desires it, thought patterns do not change overnight.

I think it is hardest for those sufferers who don’t need to gain weight. My Edie constantly jabbers, “but you aren’t underweight. You aren’t even close to being a true anorectic.”


Technically, I am only eating disordered. I do not have anorexia. Does that lessen my struggles? Should that make my recovery easier? Is someone with cancer at Stage 0 or I somehow less important than someone with Stage IV? Cancer is cancer in most people’s minds, but when it comes to eating disorders, ranking somehow matters.

Even my own mother said to my husband after I had disclosed my eating disorder to her and after I returned from the doctor’s who informed me that I had lost a few pounds, “but she doesn’t look anorexic.”

So I struggle with the thoughts that I am not sick enough, that I’m blowing everything out of proportion, that I’m failing. Yes, that’s right, failing. Failing at my eating disorder because I’m not underweight.

And Heaven forbid if I gain weight!

I have gained weight. How much? I couldn’t tell you because I’m adamant about not weighing myself again. (And so far, I’ve successfully avoided the trap.) I do know that my clothes are snug. These are the same clothes that hung loosely around my waist and chest just a few months ago.

What is infuriating to me is that no one is concerned – not my therapist, not my husband, not my friends. In my eyes, I am blowing up like a balloon on a hose. In my mind, I was out of control – eating when I was hungry, stopping when I was full, eating what my body told me (even if it was an ooey-gooey dessert.) When I look in the mirror, I see the same image I always see – short and dumpy, chubby Jeanne.

But see, it is in my mind only.

Once or twice, when I was in the thick of restricting to the tune of 1000 calories a day or so, I actually caught a glimpse of reality. I wasn’t underweight, but I saw the shadows around my ribs, the shady patches under my cheekbones. It thrilled and scared me. At least, until my filter returned. The thin woman replaced with a flabby, awkward girl.

So here I am. I had written my declaration of independence from my eating disorder, supposedly had committed to disobeying Edie.

And Edie is telling me that I signed it under false pretenses. The understanding was that I wouldn’t become fat.

And I have.

So now what?

My friend believes I need to talk. Ultimately, all this focus on food isn’t really the issue. Fat is not an emotion, just a blanket to hide the true feelings under.

Another paradox – when I think I’m fat, the last thing I want to do is talk. I want to take action, fight the fat! Battle of the Bulge! Unless I can walk when I talk, I say, “fugetabotit!”

This is the beginning of the spiral slide.

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