My nemesis is small. Gray. With a tiny display. I could smash it into the ground and break it into smithereens. I could beat it easily. And yet it beats me, time and time again.
Slowly the numbers creep up. Higher. Higher. I don’t like where they are going.
I told E that I wouldn’t do this. I wouldn’t come home and get on the scale. But even as I said it, I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop myself. I knew I would do it. Nobody wants to hear they’re fat. I needed to know.
“Have you gained weight?” he asks me. “You’re looking fatter.”
I open and close my mouth. I don’t know how to respond. I know full well how dangerous this statement is for me. I know that I need to have an answer. But there isn’t one. I haven’t seen this man in two months, but I’m fairly certain I haven’t gained weight—I’ve lost it. I think.
“You should weigh yourself. Start keeping track.”
The numbers stop. I blink once. Twice. I get off the scale and then back on. The numbers tick up quickly this time, because I know where they will land. They are higher than I would like. This is why I do not often allow myself to look. This is why I have not looked in almost a year.
The first time I took my measurements and weighed myself after being pregnant was for a dress fitting shortly after Carter died. When I was “eating disorder recovered.”
I tried dress after dress, trying to force my body to be the body it had been before. But I couldn’t go back. I couldn’t erase what had happened to me. They whispered about me—the salespeople and my friends. That I had lost a baby. That I didn’t know how to adjust to the weight. They acknowledged that I was grieving.
I only heard how fat I was. Baby fat goes away when you nurse. I wouldn’t nurse. I didn’t have a baby. Just fat. Their words echoed, banged around inside my brain.
Fat. You. Are. Fat.
I cried. I was afraid to come out of the dressing room.
Words are that powerful.
I have often tried to psychologize my eating disorder, with little success. In her book Wasted, which I read and reread and highlighted incessantly, Marya Hornbacher writes, “We turn skeletons into goddesses and look to them as if they might teach us how not to need.” This is a perfect summation of society and the way that people are viewed. Our self-worth as woman is based upon the size of our ass, not the size of our brain. It’s based on the way we look on the outside, not on what we legitimately contribute to society, our real worth. I think of the eating disorder, in a way, as a denial of my own self worth. A refusal to see that I am as good as people say I am. Food is a basic need. In order for the body to function, it must be fed. Denying the body that basic need is like saying that the body, and therefore the person, is not worth enough to warrant even something as minor as food. So when I don’t eat, I am telling myself I am not worth enough; that I don’t have needs. That I will be worth something when I am, as Hornbacher puts it, a skeleton. I hate that. I hate that part of myself. I prefer “eating disorder recovered.”
“Have you gained weight?”
The phrase echoes in my head. I step on and off the damn scale again.
“You’re looker fatter.”
I think of a ton of responses.
“Fatter isn’t even a real word.”
“You’re an asshat.”
“Just who exactly do you think you are?”
But it’s too late to say anything to him. The moment when we are sitting together, conversing, has passed. I let him say these things and didn’t stick up for myself. What does that say about me? It is easier to let the world tell me I am worth nothing than it is to accept the things that have happened to me; it is easier to say that these things are my fault over admitting that things happen. It is easier to dismiss myself rather than dismiss others.
“You should weigh yourself. Start keeping track.”
It is easier for me to listen to the word of a man who knows nothing and wants to control me than to my own self who knows so much better.
When life was overwhelming last semester, I heard those words in everything again. That it was my fault. That I deserved what happened to me. That I was a horrible person. That I was not good enough.
The answer was simple to the old me; not good enough, don’t eat.
But unlike in my marriage, I had more important things in my life. More worth. “Eating disorder recovered.”
I was more. Worth fighting for.
People shouldn’t say things like this. They shouldn’t make ignorant comments. They don’t know who they’re talking to. They don’t know people’s past, or the battles they have fought. They don’t know where they are in life. There is a sensitivity that some people severely lack.
I have fought through many things and won. But this is something I can’t triumph over, not fully. This is something that will not go away. It is hard. I know that I will run on the elliptical tonight while I watch the next episode of Orphan Black. I know this like I know that two and two make four. I want to eat and be okay with myself, so I will take care of myself in the only way I know how. I will run him away. I will run his obnoxious comments away.
I told E I wouldn’t do this, that I wouldn’t get on the scale, but I did it anyway. And though I’m precisely where I thought I was in terms of weight, I am afraid of the number that I saw there. I know that it’s okay. But I don’t want to know it. I also know I will not keep track. I will not weigh myself again, because it will break me. If I keep track, I will do whatever I can to make sure the number is lower each time I write it down. I can’t do that. I won’t do that. I will not allow myself to do that.
It won’t be like when I said I wouldn’t get on the scale.
I want to be rational about this. I want to know that he is full of shit, that I don’t need to freak out. I want to not cry at the number I saw, at his words. I want to know that they mean nothing.
I want them to not hurt.
Because I am “eating disorder recovered.”
As I sit here and eat a donut, I tell myself that I am okay. That I am worth it.
That I am enough.
This fight, this weakness to certain words, to certain actions, is what it means to be “eating disorder recovered.”