Topic Tuesday: Dieting
Throughout my years with an eating disorder, ED used special occasions as a Trojan Horse to get inside in my head.
Feigning good intentions, ED insisted he only wanted me to look my best at prom, to fit into my homecoming dress, to make my senior photos perfect. Each time, ED triggered a cycle of starving and bingeing, self-loathing and anxiety. Each Monday, I’d say to myself, “This week will be different!”…but it never was.
Now that I’m 28, my Facebook newsfeed revolves around a particular type of special occasion: weddings. As a result, I’ve been exposed to an entire subculture of bridal diets.
If you Google “bridal diet,” you’ll find countless optimistic articles about “wedding workouts,” “wedding detox diets,” and “clean eating for brides-to-be.” Some brides take extreme measures to lose weight, which has given rise to the term “bridorexia”…a term often used tongue-in-cheek, as if to say, “Isn’t it quaint that my disordered eating is socially acceptable while I’m engaged?”
Although I’m not engaged yet, I recently had a realization about bridal diets. Whenever I get engaged, and start picking out flowers and tablecloths and (!!!) the dress…I will not have the luxury of considering a bridal diet. Because for me, a diet of any kind would be a major risk – an invitation for ED to creep back in the door.
But here’s why I’m ok with relinquishing my right to the bridal diet.
When I was at my lowest point with ED, I was underweight. I also attended several formal events that year, which means there are about 200 beautifully-lit photos of me looking….like Skeletor.
As I flip through photos from that year, I see myself smiling and dancing, my collar bones protruding grotesquely.
Now, you might see one of these photos and say, “Sure, she looks too thin – but she looks like she’s having fun!” Meanwhile, when I see the photo, I remember how I berated myself for eating dessert that night, which triggered so much guilt that I ended up compulsively eating other guests’ uneaten dinner rolls.
I look at these photos, and I see how sick I was.
On a good day, I might see them and say, “Yuck, I can’t believe I got that thin.” On a bad day, I might look at them sadly: “I’ll never be that thin again.” Either way, I feel negative when I look at them. Is that the way I want to look at my wedding photos? No freakin’ way.
Being in recovery means saying goodbye to my old dream of looking like Skeletor. When I walk down the aisle, I will not look like a Fashion Week model – I’ll look like myself. I will eat wedding cake, and I will not have a carb-starved binge on my guests’ dinner rolls!
When I started to write this article, a friend cautioned me: women who haven’t had an eating disorder might read this, and they might take offense. After all, who am I to say they shouldn’t go on bridal diets? It’s their special day, and they want to look their skinniest, dammit!
Are there some people who can diet without causing themselves distress, either in the short-term or long-term? Maybe, maybe not. All I know is – for me – a diet would be like Russian Roulette: maybe it would send me down a familiar path of self-destruction…maybe it wouldn’t. All I know is, I’ve worked too dang hard to risk it.