It’s impossible for me to talk about the junk food rabbit hole I went down during Hurricane Sandy without telling you about my history of struggling with disordered eating my entire life.
When I was first born, I was sick and stuck in an incubator for a month. My mother always said in her very Jewish voice, “That’s when your food addiction started.” They didn’t let me eat, so when I finally got home I ate everything I could. My mother had to give me a spoon in the highchair so I’d know that the food was coming; otherwise I would throw a fit.
My family was very unhealthy. I grew up eating McDonald’s and pizza everyday. In fifth grade, I was considered “fat.” I had a pool party at my house and my older sister and I got in a stupid fight. She said, “Shut up, John Candy” in front of 30 of my peers and everyone laughed. Oh, and her nickname for me was “Chunky.”
My mother realized I hadn’t grown in a long time and took me to the doctor. I had human growth hormone deficiency. I then went through rigorous testing and had to take two shots everyday for three years to grow. The shots made my metabolism so fast, I could eat a whole entire large pizza, 12 garlic knots, and an order of rigatoni a la vodka in one sitting just for a snack and still lose weight!
The shots stopped when I hit the height of 5’2”, but my appetite didn’t. I gained 20 pounds and was then again considered “fat.” I didn’t care. I loved food!
My weight never bothered me until I got a huge crush. He was in a boy band and used a bottle of hairspray a day, so obviously I was “in love.” A couple of us went to a Dave Matthews Band concert and one of my friends pushed me on him, and he made a face and said, “Gross.” I was crushed, and in that moment, my eating disorder was born.
The next day, instead of eating a half a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and a bacon egg and cheese croissant, I bought a personalized Cheerios pack at the deli, and that was it. For the whole month, all I ate was a tiny pack of Cheerios a day. I also worked out from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. in my room, and by the end of the month I was a size 0. Everyone around me was complimenting me. At first I loved it, but in truth I was terrified of gaining it back.
I started eating semi-normally again, but if I ate something bad I would feel guilty, almost suicidal. Sometimes I would take Ex-Lax or a Stacker 2 pill. As I got older, I started using drugs. When I smoked weed, I’d binge eat and then use cocaine the next day to balance it out. This went on for years.
At 17, I moved to LA for a record contract and my issues only got worse because now I had to fit into Hollywood standards. I was never happy.
When I stopped pursuing music and got into improv comedy, I slowly developed a better body image. A “comedian” didn’t have to be as skinny as an actress or pop star, I figured. But I was living a nutritional double life. Half the time I was a health nut drinking green juice and counting carbs and the other, I was drinking alcohol and eating chicken and waffles at 3 a.m. -- wasted.
Struggling with weight, alcohol and drugs, I decided last year on my 26th birthday to get sober and turn my life around. I enrolled myself in nutrition school and became a certified holistic health coach. Turns out I LOVE health. Feeling healthy and not destructive is the most powerful amazing feeling I have ever felt -- more so than any drug I’ve ever taken.
I became a health elitist. I spent the year looking down on white bread and anyone who ate it. My family hated eating with me.
Eventually, I moved back to New York for a change and to help my father with his health. I took on clients and began changing people’s lives and taught them what to eat and why. I thought I was healed and that I would only fuel my body with food that I believed was good. Nothing could change that -- until Hurricane Sandy.
I was very lucky and blessed to only have my power go out during Hurricane Sandy, and my heart goes out to those who were truly affected by the devastation. I woke up, walked outside my home in Chelsea and observed the damage. A diner with no power was open, so my friend and I decided to sit down and order. I got an order of pancakes, a bacon egg and cheese croissant and home fries.
I never thought I would eat meat with hormones again, but this was only the beginning. From that moment on for exactly one week, I binge-ate every forbidden food with gusto. Racks of ribs, king-size pretzel M&M’s, packs of Hagan Daaz bars, pasta, pizza, Chinese takeout, fries, everything you can ever imagine -- I ate.
Ten pounds later, I couldn’t help but reflect. I haven’t “healed” or “changed” at my core. In sticky situations, I still emotionally eat. I don’t know if it was boredom, stress, or guilt -- but I ate!
Once I started to eat, I thought, “Well, I’m just going to eat all I can, and everything I would never eat. Why not?” If it was the end of the world, everything I thought about health wouldn’t matter because the point of being healthy is to live longer and feel good.
When you eat "bad" food, it sparks an addiction. Your body may not feel good, but your brain tells you that you want it. It’s all about that initial choice.
While I did beat myself up when I realized my pants didn’t fit, it thankfully was not to the extent I once would have. Yes, it would have been better to try to make healthier choices, but it’s also good to feel comforted. We can’t be perfect all the time.
At the end of the week, I woke up and did a 3-day raw food detox, drinking tons of green juice, eating salads and having raw oatmeal.
I’ve been eating healthy and working out; however, all 10 pounds aren’t gone yet. At the end of the day, I got into the health field to value myself and know how to take care of my body. So I will do all I can to love and nourish myself -- including not being too hard on myself. The worst thing you can do for your body is be negative, which releases the hormone “cortisol” (the stress hormone), which makes you sicker than a couple of doughnuts could.
And that's my best advice for other emotional eaters out there -- don’t beat yourself up. Just make that first step to a healthier lifestyle. That’s the absolute best thing you can do -- and I’m working on it, too, every day.