23 July 2013

An Acceptable Number?

I no longer can pretend that I am recovered from my eating disorder, if I ever was. The thoughts, the actions, the pattern of behaviors - all point to the fact that I am still struggling with anorexia.
People look at me and think, "She's at a healthy weight, so she must be better." Scratch that. People probably look at me and think, "She's fat, poor thing; she really has let herself go."
I asked Dr. S the other day if he thought I needed to lose weight. I waited to hear the hesitation in his voice, the pity that I was now at the other end of the spectrum. He answered with an emphatic, "No."
Who am I to believe? What he says or what I see with my own two eyes? The thing is, I don't know if I can trust my own eyes; they have lied to me so much during the past six years.
And what about the number on the scale? The scale does not lie, it is an impersonal  machine that really doesn't care what I or anyone else weighs. The bar slides forward and back, speaking to the fears of hundreds of women who watch, silently, praying that it would stop on an acceptable number.
What is an acceptable number? During the past six years, I've hit a low of 91 and a high of 168. My body has gained and lost the equivalent of a toddler, except the only life that was lost was mine.
I remember sitting in McDonald's a few weeks ago. It was hot, so very hot. A couple in their 60s or early 70s stopped in, ordering cold drinks. He order a chocolate shake, topped with whipped cream and a cherry. She ordered an iced coffee, and I'm sure it was either unflavored or flavored with sugar-free syrup.
The message was this: men can order whatever they like, the world of food and its flavors are completely open to them, they don't have to restrict their lives. 
Women, on the other hand, must rein in their appetites, and instead delicately sip on low-caloried beverages and pretend that they really don't want the milkshakes and other treats that are out there.
Of course, this is changing with a new generation, and men are also increasingly taught that they must deny themselves.
This is just a little vignette, something to highlight the increasing rage I feel toward the eating disorder voice that taunts me.
I also thought this: will I be her when I'm in my 70s, still restricting myself from all that the world offers? That is, of course, if I am still here.


Meliss said...

i am still wondering how YOU are? and how are you feeling in your body?

also, have you ever been to a good OA meeting? i just went back and it felt so good. i love the emphasis on filling ourselves with spiritual healing instead of using food or lack of food to fill the emptiness within. i have a lot to learn!

with food, i strive to be neutral. it's nourishment and i certainly prefer it to be tasty, but i don't get worked up about fattening or non-fattening food. it's not that interesting.

my brother ate everything and anything and had a heart attack (he's doing well, thank God.) but he's had to change every single thing about what and how he eats and it's really hard because he put so much value on filling himself with rich and heavy and fancy food.

sorry to go on and on. clearly, you touched on something with me. thank you for that!

take care, dear Angela. you have so much to offer the world and none of it has to do with whether or not you eat no dessert, some dessert or the whole friggin' hot fudge sundae!

Anonymous said...

Hello Angela! I found you through HealthyPlace and have been reading your journey here. I am so sorry for your recent struggles.

I am also from central Michigan (Mt. Pleasant) and wondering if you've found any good treatment in the area? I was in residential and discharged to a PHP that was awful and am really discouraged that I can't seem to find many treatment options (dietitians, ED specialists...) in the area.

You'd just think there would be more available.


Angela Elain Gambrel said...


Please e-mail me at angelaelackey@gmail.com

We can chat, and perhaps I can help you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much! I sent you an e-mail from schurrl@vet.ksu.edu


Anonymous said...

Hi! My name is Morag. I am a fifteen year old girl trying to recover from anorexia.
I just discovered your blog.
I am scared of dying. I am scared of ruining my relationships. But I'm scared of eating more. I keep saying "this is it, this is the breaking point where I get better" only to go back to panicking about calories the next day. If you have any inspiration for me, please PLEASE share. Thanks...

Angela Elain Gambrel said...

Dear Anonymous,

I'm afraid everything I say will sound trite: you're young, you have your whole life ahead of you, you can defeat this because you most likely have not had anorexia for a long time (meaning it has not become chronic, as it is in my case since I'm entering my six year of treatment.)

All of these things might be true, but I'm betting that the eating disorder voice can trash each one and turn it around to make you feel hopeless.

Do you have a therapist? A dietitian? A eating disorders psychiatrist? It's hard to know what to say when I have so little to go on, and also do not know your living situation, i.e. does it contribute to your eating disorder or is your family supportive? Have you looked into ED recovery groups? I know that these groups are limited and it depends upon where you live.

Just know that you can recover, many people do. It takes hard work and understanding that it won't happen overnight. Realize you will sometimes slide back; this happens in recovery.

Finally, you have to WANT to recover. I know that might sound strange and not very helpful, but it's the truth. You have to want to recover, and you have to be willing to give up the anorexia identity and discover who you are and the things you can do.

Please feel free to e-mail me at angelaelackey@gmail.com if you have any questions, etc. I might be off the grid for about a week or so, so don't worry if I don't answer right away; I will answer.

I will keep you in my prayers.