What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
I am terrible at dieting.
My story is not unlike a majority of white middle class American tweens: Dieting was a rite of passage.
As a neurotic ballerina -- wearing next to nothing and obsessing over my form in a mirror for hours on end -- I tried to restrict, but always failed in the end. Giant bowls of grapes and grapes alone, or protein bars ad naseum were disordered for sure, but I never truly pulled myself away from eating in its entirety (only managing to become moody and constipated instead).
Fortunately for me, I never intensely dieted for long. By the time I went to college at 16 and became a mother at 19 (lets pretend I’m an overachiever?), there was little time to even think about abstaining.
Sure, I’ve been sucked into new health trends once in awhile (vegan, high protein, low fat, and so on), but for the most part, I listened to my body and ate when I was hungry. Motherhood sadly didn’t keep me from feeling self-loathing toward my shape now and again, but it also meant I had more important things to do than act on societally ingrained, socially cliché impulses.
If I had listened to my body in the last three years, I would think that food is pain. I would think that eating is an act of punishment, and that no one in his or her right mind could find the energy to both breath amid a respiratory infection and ingest at the same time. When I'm sick, my body is a liar.
Now, doctors and critical care dieticians have told me to eat obscene amounts of calories in order to keep my weight semi-stable, to do nightly feeds through my G-tube, and to pop persistent pancreatic enzymes so I can actually digest things and not just poop them out.
I’m on near constant Zofran so that I can keep food down, and recently, I had a surgery that actually prevents me from throwing up (so there go any potential bulimic tendencies).
Unfortunately, no one seems to care what type of calories I ingest. It’s sort of shocking how much I am applauded for loading up on fast-food (Chik-Fil-A sauce is still the best substance on earth, even if it is laced with hydrogenated homophobia), and my blood sugar lows are treated with pudding, pudding, and more pudding as an inpatient.
So why, after all the encouragement to eat copious amounts of calories, am I no longer eating at all? After a recent Nissen Fundiplocation (it says “fun” in the name, but that’s false advertising), I am unable to swallow more than liquids for a few weeks while we wait for my swollen innards to heal.
This means that I literally am surviving on my feeding tube, and my mouth hasn’t chewed actual food in almost a month. This also means that I have become the worst human on the planet. And holy hell, why do people diet?
A few days ago, my partner and I went to grab a cup of coffee before picking up my daughters from camp, and I ordered a hot, coconut latte. After asking for chocolate to be added and making a horrible “Kokomocha” pun, I anxiously awaited the one tiny pleasure that would ignite my brain with satiation: a warm, sweet drink.
I painstakingly avoided watching him eat his bagel with cream cheese, even though I could smell the aroma that’s synonymous with a childhood in Boca, and my feverish self focused on the soothing concoction ahead.
That is… until the barista brought a freezing cold amalgamation I had mistakenly ordered. And you know what I oh-so-rationally did? I started crying.
“You’ve cried twice in the three years we’ve been together,” the dude said, “Now you cry twice before lunchtime.”
Not being able to eat for a long duration of time is like being forced into the worst diet of your life, and makes you swiftly realize: We are completely unhinged to do this to ourselves voluntarily.
Depriving oneself does more than just create a power play between a person and food… it makes us borderline intolerable (at least it does me). Every time my kids order pizza? I cry.
The commercial where the little babies are trying to graduate chewing school so that they can eat a sandwich? I cry.
“I need to go to chewing school with those babies!” I wail to anyone in ear shot (so mostly my cat), “F those babies and their ability to eat solids.” I fantasize about my first non-liquid meal as if I’m a prisoner in the SHU, or a contestant on Survivor.
“You’re so skinny-fat,” I think, as I look at my diminishing frame and complete inability to work out worth a damn. I look at my newfound stomach scars and imagine when my eldest daughter earnestly stated, “Ew, those are creepy.”
And the worse part about all of this is? I don’t really have it that bad. Because even if I’m skinny-fat and creepy…I’m still considered skinny. In the game of our twisted, fatphobic society, anyone who claims that thin prejudice is just as hard as fat shaming is totally deluded.
As an unintentionally curve-free woman, I definitely get my feelings hurt when people make comments about my weight, or my stature, or my nutritional habits. But I’m sorry, Rancic, it is not worse than the way we treat anyone in this country who is considered “overweight.”
Do I wish we appreciated bodies for every shape and size available, including mine? Oh yes. But is my treatment in the world harder right now because I’m on the longest Yoncé cleanse ever? Of course not. I get more compliments than ever before… even when I’m sobbing and yelling “F babies,” apparently.
Of course I can administer meds and gag-worthy amounts of formula through a hole in my torso, but food is about more than just physical satiation… it is mostly about our minds (and mine is plum crazy).
Why do normal, non-sliced-and-diced citizens do this to themselves volitionally? If listening to our bodies is all we have on this earth to control and enjoy… Stop. Eat. Go eat.
Food isn’t pain… it’s beautiful. I want to eat. I want flavors that burst on my tongue, and textures that fill tiny hollow depths within my soul. I want to laugh over a meal so satisfying that I recall it for days, or for Instagram to no longer be a battle-field of foods I can’t touch.
I want to try weird things at foreign food markets, and munch on vegan-ish items that fuel my ailing intestines (and obviously, never touch pudding again).
Life is short…but flavors, friends and food is always worth it. Don’t deprive yourself of living. Don’t label yourself through someone else’s eyes. Don’t judge someone else when you don’t know their battles. But do eat. Enjoy. Taste. Laugh. Live…
And never look back.