- In Alcoholics Anonymous, there is a Step 4 where addicts are required to “make a searching and fearless moral inventory of themselves.” In layman’s terms, this can mean, “get a sponsor and tell them all of your secrets.” Basically, it is a means of reducing the shame that surrounds the unhealthy behaviors that accompany any addiction. With the help of a witness who has experienced similar ordeals, one no longer feels alone in their maladaptive ways of coping.
So where the hell do the anorexics, bulimics, and ED-NOS’s get to do their Step 4?
I realize not all people want to air their dirty laundry on the internet, but brutal honesty may serve as a constructive tool for our shaming, mental-health-stigmatizing society.
When it comes down to it, how different are eating disordered behaviors from your neighbor’s peculiar need to check the lock on their front door five times? Or maybe you’ve noticed that your mother has an unexplainable desire to wash her hands five times in a row. Whatever way you prefer to channel it, we all have some “freakish” behaviors that we exhibit. And the way I see it, they are all a means of exerting some sort of control.
So, in an effort to reduce the shame that surrounds eating disordered behaviors, here I will post five examples of behaviors I have presented with over the years. And if you’re courageous enough, I encourage you to share yours too. However, I want to provide the disclaimer that the following may be triggering for those in the midst of an eating disorder.
1. Checking for bone protrusion.
Yes, you read it right. When I first lost weight at the age of 14, I discovered that I had hipbones. I also discovered that it felt very alluring to have them stick out. So, even after four years of recovery, I still catch myself bouncing my wristbone off my hipbone to see if it is sticking out enough. So weird. This is a hard one to counteract, since it’s as natural to me now as breathing.
2. Body checking.
This should be a familiar one for “recovereds” out there. Mirrors can be deadly things, and unfortunately next-to-impossible to avoid in the morning. And it’s not just mirrors. Mirrored buildings, reflections on the side of the Starbucks window…all a trigger to suck in your stomach and see if your body measures up to your thin quotient today. My friends wonder why I don’t have my full-length mirror hung up in my room; this is why. I’d spend countless disordered vain hours in front of it.
3. Weighing yourself in the morning. And after the gym. And later on around 5.
In case you were wondering, the .4 lbs that you lose after the gym is water weight. It’s a lie. I don’t own a scale, and don’t weigh myself purposely. In fact, when I go to the doctor I step on the scale backwards and let them record the weight without telling me. My roommate put a scale in the bathroom when she moved in; recently, I needed to ask her to move it for fear of this behavior creeping back.
4. Eating pickles and mustard.
Why? Because there’s zero calories. But beware – this behavior also contains massive amounts of delusion.
5. Eating food in small, tiny bites.
Anorexics are really proud of the fact that they can make the tiniest piece of food last forever. In Appetites, Caroline Knapp would talk about her daily dinner: an apple and a piece of cheese. She would slice the cheese so thin that she could see through it. I also think this behavior tends to be symbolic with the idea that “I require very little; I take up very little space and will take teeny tiny bites of this”.
I sincerely hope this blog entry hasn’t triggered anyone, but instead has left some recovereds with the feeling of “Yeah, I did that. I was a part of that insanity. And it’s calming to hear that I wasn’t alone in it – that someone else did it too.”
The truth is, we’re all clients – eating disordered or not. The difference between I and the majority of people I know is that I am willing to be honest and talk about my behaviors and issues in an attempt to normalize them for others. Others perceive this as a weakness on my part, and I have certainly been taken advantage of for it. There have been times I have been tempted to censor myself after hearing negative feedback for others, but then I realize this blabbermouth of mine – it’s my strength.
Please share below if so inclined.