The house is silent. My son is napping and my husband has gone to work. I quietly open the door to the pantry, and blindly grab for it. I don’t want to turn on the light and risk waking the baby. I pull out the bag, head to my computer, and sit down. I stick my hand in and pull out a handful of the forbidden item, shoving it in my mouth.
It’s 9:45am, and I am gorging myself on chocolate chips.
Something has been happening to me, in the past six months. I’m still trying to figure out what, but it revolves around my relationship with food. I wish it were as simple as comforting myself by eating.
My body feels like a gaping wound, right now. When I eat certain foods, the image that comes to mind is that of a pen, or an ice pick, digging into that wound. It’s painful, it’s ugly, it’s horrific, really. And I kind of enjoy the pain I’m causing myself. I want to dig deeper into that wound and experience more pain. It’s my little secret. My disgusting, inexplicable secret.
When I think about eating sugary, junky treats, most of the time I am well aware of how nasty they will make me feel. I have been a healthy eater for more than a decade, experimenting with avoiding more inflammatory foods, buying organic, filling my plate with mostly vegetables and some meat. I feel fantastic when I eat this way. So why can’t I eat this way right now?
Actually, I can and I do. I prepare delicious salads for lunch, hearty egg-based breakfasts, healthy dinners. But then I sneak into the closet and eat mouthful after mouthful of chocolate chips. Or I sneak out the jar of Nutella that I secretly bought, and eat half the jar in one sitting. And then eat the other half that night.
I feel horrible when I do this. Not only am I disgusted with myself on a personal level, for my lack of self-control, but I feel sick to my stomach. Most of the time, I don’t even want to be eating those treats. I feel compelled, though, on a very base level.
It’s like I’m picking a scab.
Is this how eating disorders begin?
Horrible. Disgusting. Ugly. Fat.
These are the words I find myself using, again and again, as I try to describe my experiences with eating, food, and my body image right now. It’s scary, to find myself in this position. I have always tried my best, as an adult, to be body-positive. I have a teenaged stepdaughter and a four-year-old daughter, and I am SO AWARE of how impressionable they are. I don’t want to ever model shame about my body, in front of them. I desperately want them to accept themselves as they are, love their bodies, never feel beholden to society’s perceived demands on women.
Yet here I stand, ashamed.
Ashamed of my belly beginning to protrude as though I’m pregnant all over again. Ashamed that the only reason I work out right now is to slow my imminent weight gain. Ashamed that I can’t control the compulsion to poke my way further into the wound, by eating until I’m sick to my stomach.
The other day, my daughter stuck her finger into my belly and asked, “Mama, why is your tummy so big and round?” So many answers came to mind, and none of them were suitable for four-year-old ears.
In the end, I told her that sometimes, when people eat more than their bodies need, it makes their tummies stick out and get rounder. It was a shitty answer, but it was the best I could come up with, that didn’t sound too self-deprecating.
Having just emerged from the darkness of postpartum depression, I find that I was only able to take a few gulps of fresh air, before descending into a fresh new circle of hell. How long will I remain here?
I have no fucking clue.