Because I have dropped below my agreed upon compromise weight, I have been charged with the onerous and absolutely distasteful mission of having to once again gain weight. My nutritionist said, “It’s not permissible for you to remain at this weight.” Which rubbed IT in exactly the wrong way. Really. I don’t need anyone’s permission to be any weight. But of course, I have agreed to act in line with the consensus of my team and my team has royally decreed, “Weight must be gained.”
This goes against everything the Eating Disorder has me believe: that less is more; that my body is already corpulent, fleshy, too, too much; that emptiness and hollowness are the ideal states of being. I find myself longing for my lost anorexic body—the knobbed backbone, the visible ladder of ribs, the concavities of the breastbone, jutting hipbones, the indentations around muscles, the flattened breasts, the deep wells of the collarbone.
Never mind that that was twenty-five pounds less then where I stand now. Never mind that I was eating only a few bites a day and throwing up even that. Never mind that I was pretty much forbidden to do any sort of exercise. Never mind that I was weepy and irritable and forgetful and my moods shifted on the hour. Never mind. Never mind. I had achieved perfection—a body without needs or desires, a body that could slip through the cracks and disappear.
As I write this, I can hear how this might sound to anyone without an Eating Disorder: emaciated, sick, a body on the edge of starvation, an unattractive assemblage of bones. Wasn’t that my nickname long ago? Bones Neville! Bones Neville! Recently, I thumbed through my sixth-grade diary, a blue notebook covered in gloppy silver glitter hearts. Most of the pages were scrawled with I Love Tony! I Love Terry! I Love Tony Again! I love Rob Lowe! Kerry and Rob 4-Ever! But in the middle of this dreamy exuberance are more secretive revelations: I wish I had boobs. I hate my body. All I am is one giant pimple. I’m ugly. Nobody will ever love me because I’M SO FAT AND UGLY. Everyone hates me. I wish I could die.
Sad, isn’t it? That girls learn to pick at (and pick apart) their bodies when they’re so young? Yesterday, while my daughter was getting dressed for camp, she yelled, “I hate this shirt!” This shirt, yellow, tie-dyed, was given to her by the camp to wear on field trips. They were going strawberry picking that morning. “I hate this shirt,” she yelled again.
I stood in the doorway and watched her pull at the shirt. “Why do you hate it?” I asked.
“It’s ugly,” she said. “I look like a yellow blob.”
“You look like a sunburst,” I said. “How can that be ugly?”
She looked down, wringing the shirt in her hands. “It makes me look fat,” she said. “It makes me look wide and fat. That’s what everyone will say. Fat fat fat.”
“Sweetheart,” I said, “the shirt is just big. And you’re not in any way fat. You’re a skinny Minnie. No one would say that about you.”
“I’m taking it off the minute I get home,” she said. “That’s that.”
Had I said the right thing? Had I only heightened the distinction between fat and not fat by pointing out that she was not, in fact, fat? And since I didn’t have any integrity in this matter, how could I tell her anything? Hadn’t I just been going through my own closet in search of something that would make me look not-fat? Hadn’t I been secretly happy by the fact that I had lost enough weight to fall below the compromise? Doesn’t weight loss make me feel successful and in-control, and weight gain, even if needed, make me feel like a failure and out-of-control? But the end all be all cannot be a few pounds or clothing sizes in either direction. I don’t want to be a mom compromised by an Eating Disorder, a mom who can’t speak from the heart, in truth, and with integrity. So the challenge, over this next week, is not only gaining weight but gaining perspective.