Let’s have a talk about food, bodies, eating and the amazing book What Goes Down. In this blog, I’ve talked a lot about weight. I’ve talked about how losing 70lb made me feel about my body (not good), I’ve talked about how I’m an emotional eater (also not good) and I’ve also said how important it is that we find a way to love (or at least coexist with) our bodies.
When I lost weight, I did it the healthy way. I went low-fat and healthy foods, I tracked calories, I started jogging. I joined SparkPeople, and some lovely supportive groups. It was the first time in my life I’d really felt healthy. I was determined to be healthy. And in all that healthy stuff I was doing I was also becoming obsessed. I was obsessed with getting down to a healthy weight that would make my BMI not obese, or overweight, but normal.
That’s all I wanted to get to, a weight that would put me at normal.
So I worked hard, really hard. And every day was about fat content and calories and I lived, lived, for those cheat days when I could eat anything I wanted. I had a paper with my goal weight taped to my wall so it would motivate me. That weight loss journey started because I’d just discovered self-love and I wanted to treat myself better.
I never starved myself, I never binged or purged, I didn’t exercise an insane amount but I see how easy it would have been to go down that path. For that need to get to that goal weight to lead to an eating disorder. I remember that cheat day of Taco Bell, and how I got sick afterward and that secret thought of “Yes, free bonus calories that didn’t count!”.
I’ve never had an eating disorder, although I’ve flirted with one. Who hasn’t been a teenager and tried to starve themselves only to not have the willpower to keep it going? Who hasn’t regretted eating themselves past the point of fullness only to hope it comes back up and ‘doesn’t count’? And most of us have obsessively dieted – where calories and measurements and numbers become an obsession and we weigh ourselves every single day (or multiple times a day).
Disordered eating – it’s a thing.
While you might not have an eating disorder, so many of us have disordered eating. We think of food as the enemy, we have unhealthy ways of dealing with or relating to food. Food = bad. We go just this side of overboard on weighing ourselves, exercising, and how we eat. There’s a thin line between an eating disorder and disordered eating and usually, the difference is a handful of choices.
I was given the opportunity to read What Goes Down by Callie Bowld and OMG you guys. Read it. I’m still digesting it, pouring over it in my head, still riding that rush of suchafreakinggoodbook high that I get. What Goes Down is such a raw and honest look at what an eating disorder looks like from the first seed (usually planted in childhood or around puberty), through the different stages of the disorder, and out to the point of healing and recovery.
By raw and honest – I mean it. She doesn’t hold back from any of it, the bad, the ugly, the very ugly. It’s all there, wrapped in humor and snark that makes you immediately love her. The way she can make you laugh through her story allows you to connect with her in a way that makes you feel like you know her.
Her personality shines through in every single page of this book.
Humor. It is the most difficult way to approach a sensitive subject because it seems to make light of it, it flirts on the verge of offensive. But, if done expertly, it can be the most effective tool because it sneaks up quietly and slips into your conscience while your guard is down. “It’s just comedy. Nothing serious about it.” Then all of a sudden you’ve seen something big and important in a very different light, and it is now all too serious. But it is also now true and undeniable, because you laughed at it.
This is what humor can do. It can allow me to help you see the blunt reality of your life with an eating disorder and finally decide to stop damaging yourself. By the time you’ve laughed, you can’t take it back or un-see the honest truth exposed and I hope it will give you the strength you’ve been looking for to change it. Walls into windows. – What Goes Down by Callie Bowld
I see myself in her, I think we all can.
That need and want to be skinny and beautiful. The inability to look in the mirror and see something good, something worthy. Always trying to find that thing to make us feel good inside – whether it’s that delicious greasy fast food meal that makes us feel full in ways that aren’t just about food, or that high of being in control and watching our bodies shrink away.
If I could share one part of this book to draw you in, this part at the beginning would be it.
I distinctly recall the first time I tried to make myself throw up. Poised tentatively in front of the bowl, staring into the water, not sure if I was really about to do what I was thinking about doing. “Really Callie?” Then I did it. I jammed an awkward hand in, not knowing why or what I was doing but shoving it back there anyway—like a horny teenage boy trying to lose his virginity to a belly button—because something had to work. What I just did, all that naughty food I just ate, had to be undone. And you may imagine me as a sad teen, a hurt high school student. I was not. I was nearing thirty. – What Goes Down
From that point in, I was smitten with the writing style and with this story of a witty, flawed, complicated woman trying to figure it all out.
Callie is a professional. She’s a lawyer, someone who went through college, law school, passed the Bar Exam, became a trial lawyer, became someone’s wife – all while struggling with an eating disorder. Eating disorders are not just for teens. You can function in life – you can hold down a job, go to school, even have a relationship – and no one will know.
It’s amazing how highly-functional people with full-blown eating disorders can be; because on top of all our legitimate, real-life worries, we pile on top the far more important, constant worry about what to eat, how much to eat, whether to eat with people or in seclusion, how to hide what we’re eating, and, even more importantly, how to extract what we’ve eaten. It takes a lot of inner strength to deprive yourself of food. – What Goes Down
I’m all about allowing our stories to heal people – if only to show them that they aren’t alone.
It’s a powerful thing – knowing that someone gets it, gets you. That you’re not this strange creature all alone with those feelings and emotions that no one else could ever understand. Someone out there understands. Whether it’s depression, eating disorders, bipolar disorder – we push people away because we feel that isolation is better.
Many anorexics become isolated and mean (a) because they look too unhealthy to hang out with normal people without everyone trying to feed them all the time, so nix the friends. Then (b) they snap immediately at the mere mention of food, particularly at the people closest to them (family and friends) but it is the only topic that can reasonably come up when you are a hanging sack of skin. Does that sound strange to you? That, for me, food could have more of an impact on my life than people did? Do you feel that way? That you care about food more than some of the people in your life? Perhaps all of the people in your life? If you have not come to terms with that fact, please do now. Eating disorders are that powerful. – What Goes Down
If you have an eating disorder – you should read this book. If you’ve ever danced with an eating disorder – you’ve taken a double dose of diet pills, you’ve used exercise to punish yourself for eating, you’ve binged on food, hid your eating habits from the people you love, skipped breakfast and lunch to lose weight, lived your life with the mantra of I’m so hungry going through your head on a daily basis – read this book.
You don’t want to dance that dance. You’ll see in startling detail what that dance leads to and why it’s not worth it.
Sometimes we need the reminder that skinny is not worth any cost.