Thank You Anorexia (aka every bite is a miracle)
Updated: Jun 12, 2019
I have learned the simple, utter, deep joy that is eating.
Eating is a divine and spiritual act, and one of the most intimate, and literal, ways of connecting with the earth.
I grew up not understanding love. It wasn’t that it was completely withheld from me, but it wasn’t exactly all healthy, and it often came with very blurry boundaries.
Food is love, pure and simple.
It is direct love from our Mother Earth and our mothers. Food gives life, it fuels us, it supports us. It loves us.
They wrap it in shame and hate and pain. That is why they are so incredibly heartbreaking, because they take something so pure—the relationship between body and food—and twist it.
Before recovery, not every meal was a battle, but I could never stop the war.
I liked and felt comfortable with a select few foods—plain spaghetti, plain cheeseburgers, plain pizza, plain rice, plain bread, carrots but only raw, green beans but only canned, frozen halibut only one specific grocery store, Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream, a handful more. I am eternally grateful that I really liked those foods, even if I was too scared to eat anything else, because I did know that it was possible for food to be enjoyable.
I had a few reprieves from my eating disorder. A couple times during volleyball or tennis season in high school—sports gave me a release for bottled emotions and feeligs of community and belonging like I had nowhere else. But I couldn’t go very far with them, because, well, anorexia. I had little stamina, or muscle, or motivation. In college I discovered munchies, and drunchies, and I thought I’d found my cure.
But after a few years anorexia advanced, and weed couldn’t get my food down anymore, and that’s when I knew I was done.
A few years before the end, something really fascinating happened. I took a four month study abroad trip to Kenya, where I and my relationship with food changed forever. That trip was a four month reprieve from anorexia. I cannot explain it, though I have theories. It was a hiatus from my stressors at home—school, family, boyfriend, future, past, identity, technology, western culture, everything.
In Africa, food was magnificent. It was beautiful, it was delicious, I learned how to cook, I ate with my hands. I gained 30 pounds and didn’t have a clue because I never saw a mirror—and I probably have some body dysmorphia, because how do you not notice that, but also I almost exclusively wear extremely stretchy “yogi” and “hippie” clothing that just grew with me.
In the years immediately before and after sobriety, where pretty much every meal was a battle. Every fucking bite was a chore. For years, more often than not I was heaving and choking from nausea but breathing and praying and forcing with every ounce of will I had to get the food down and keep it down. But once in recovery, and completely giving myself to my sobriety, I gained a little bit of ground with every meal. The tide of war turned.
Today, I just eat. And it wasn’t until recently that it really started feeling that way. When it hits me, I feel simply baffled. They say addiction and eating disorders are baffling, but recovery is just as hard to believe.
For my first 29 years of life, my primary story about myself was, “I just can’t eat, there is just something wrong with me, I just have this weird problem with food, I just can’t eat like a normal person, I’m just defective.”
I thought it was fundamental, and I thought it was permanent.
Lately I’ve been finding myself stopping in the middle of meals because it is so different and weird to JUST be eating! I smile, or laugh, or cry.
I did not believe it was possible. I wanted very very badly to believe and I worked my ass off toward the goal of recovery even though I didn’t believe I’d ever have this kind of ease with food.
Not even that long ago I was still worried every day that I wasn’t getting enough food, and I’d eat an extra snack just to be sure, just to be safe. My motto for about the past six years was, “When in doubt, eat.”
Now I’ve actually discovered overeating and compulsive eating, and am learning what those feel like in comparison to the sensation of pleasantly full. That is completely new to me! And though that may sound like a lot of people’s worst nightmare, for me...
The fact that I’d EVER have the thought, “Did I eat more than I needed there?” is a MIRACLE to me! That had never, ever, ever crossed my mind, for 29 years. For 29 years I DREAMED of that.
I dreamed of not battling and failing every day to eat enough, constantly dreading and hating eating, constantly fearing death by starvation.
This is probably a good time to point out that eating is not super easy and gorgeous one hundred percent of the time. I still have hard days and hard meals, my recovery is still my full time job, and I have to do that work every day to have the chance at an easy meal. But at the moment, thank god and thank all the gods, easy is the norm rather than the exception. A 180 from my life before recovery.
So, if I do the work to be present (which is hard) I have the opportunity to experience as many miracles in one day as bites I take. I’m not going to attempt any math there—because any numbers around food generally fuck with my head—but that’s quite a few! Especially since I love food now! How many miracles do people get in a day? In a lifetime? I feel like luckiest person in the world.
So thank you anorexia, because thanks to you…
Every bite is a miracle.
Every bite is an amend to myself.
With every bite I say I’m sorry, and I love you.
With every bite I learn how to live a little more, I practice how to love a little more.
Every bite is a win. A blessing. A second chance. A choice of opportunity over giving up.
With every bite I commit to myself, to recovery, mine and everyone’s, anyone’s.
Like I said, I feel like the luckiest person in the world.