**** I had the best SPAM dish!!!! Oh man, it’s been so long since I had SPAM. In Singapore we just call it luncheon meat, which doesn’t sound any more appealing than the word “SPAM,” but just as controversial! I loved hearing you guys’ favorite or nostalgic SPAM dishes…keep them coming, and enter my giveaway if you haven’t done so! I don’t know if I’ll submit my SPAM dish recipe to the SPAM contest because it’s not really for a crowd, but I might just make another one! Yummm…
Okay that was a random prelude to a discussion on eating disorders, but just had to throw that one in before we get to the sobering subject of ED. As always, you can check out my other Weekend ED posts on my Weekend ED Series Page.****
I met an interesting lady today while lining up to pay for my groceries at my local supermarket.
She was a slender, tall woman with a long braid and loose-flowing hippie-style clothes. While standing behind me, she saw that I brought my Whole Foods bags so that I didn’t have to use plastic ones.
“Those are beautiful bags,” she said.
I was about to say “thank you” when she added, “But I refuse to buy anything from Whole Foods. I’m boycotting them.”
Being a curious person, I was immediately intrigued. But I didn’t even have to ask; the lady was clearly eager to speak. “They’re anti-union,” she said, twisting her lips in disgust at the mere thought of the big bad capitalist Whole Paycheck. “They even fired employees for trying to organize a union.”
And then she went on a tirade about “those greedy capitalists” who try to “choke” and “rob” society, and encouraged me to research the pro-labor organization she was involved in, the Peace and Freedom Party. But I got a bit distracted when I looked down and saw that she had almond milk, vegan frozen entrees, and half a dozen packets of tofu shiratake noodles in her cart.
Oh man. Shiratake. That brings back memories. I used to be a fan. Not of its slimy eel-like texture and fishy odor, but the obscenely low calories for all the bulk it provided. I looked back at the lady, who was still talking about union rights. I apologized that I don’t know as much about this issue as I probably should.
She wasn’t offended by my ignorance and replied, “Ah, but most people don’t know or care, because they don’t know the history. You need to look deep into the history to get the full picture.” And then she educated me on a brief history of union parties and how both Democratic and Republican parties mistreated them. Meanwhile, I was still darting disturbed glances at the tofu shiratake noodles. But one person preaching was enough.
The lady is a passionate anti-capitalist, pro-socialist feminist. I on the other hand, am a passionate anti-diet, pro-recovery blogger who writes about food and life. I have no doubt we both have personal stories and histories that led us to take such a passionate position in our beliefs. So I hope you understand my ambivalence towards any forms of diets and extreme nutrition.
I first want to make it clear that I am not condemning anyone. I’m not trying to preach my views on you. I’m simply telling my history. My history with diet and nutrition. It might not apply to you. But I think it’s worth knowing and understanding why restrictive diets and too much attention on nutrition can be such a tricky territory for people with disordered eating histories.
I think one of the dangers of intensive recovery (and I’m talking about situations in which you had to drop school/work in order to recover) is that you get too much time in your hands.
Take me, for example. I wasn’t going to school. I wasn’t taking any classes. I didn’t have friends my age nearby because they were all away in college being normal college students. Even when they returned from school, we had nothing much to talk about because I wasn’t doing anything fun and interesting. I was just home all day, eating and mopping about and waiting for the next meal.
But I had my computer. Even though stuck at home, the Internet opened up all kinds of worlds for me. And naturally, I started navigating towards food and nutrition sites. That’s when I somehow discovered raw veganism. I think the thing that interested me the most about raw food is the promise that it’ll abolish food cravings, leave you feeling clean and energetic, and that every nutrient and mineral is preserved as much as possible in raw foods and absorbed by the body.
As someone who is always obsessing over food and dealing with self-disgust and guilty feelings towards food, raw veganism sounded too good to be true. This was early 2007, and I started reading up on anything and everything raw foodism that I could get my hands on. I poured through websites, I downloaded podcasts, I ordered and borrowed books. At first skeptical, I was soon brainwashed by their teachings and philosophies.
It was also around that time that I started persuading my parents to let me feed myself. “I’m sick of eating rice porridges,” I complained. “I want real food, and I need to learn to eat by myself!”
My parents, who were just as sick as watching me eat rice porridges as I was of eating them, agreed to give me back autonomy over my meals. Besides, by then I had gained about 15 lbs and plateaued. I had about 30 more than gain, but rice porridges weren’t going to get me there.
I wasn’t ready for full autonomy, however. I couldn’t restrict because I knew I had to go for a check-up with Northwestern, and I was desperate to get back to school by the next Fall semester. But I could still “control” my diet. In truth, I was just reluctant to give up my ED. And because I was terrified of unceasing weight gain, I also thought I should get “used” to raw foodism so that I can just easily transition to weight management if I needed to.
It seemed like a good plan to me. I knew it was a far cry from becoming “normal” with food. I knew I was finding desperate ways to appease my inner anxieties and regain some vestiges of “self-control.” But I chose to ignore that, because deep down, I never really believed I would be recovered. So since I would never be fully recovered, why not find ways to be “okay” with partial recovery? Since I could never be okay with myself, why can’t I at least be okay with the things I put into my body?
Besides, I was curious. I also found that giving myself all these food rules and food ethics lifted a lot of anxieties I had towards food. As I flipped through raw cuisine “un-cookbooks” I found myself wanting to eat all those things, and not be afraid of the calories. Slowly, my mind started to shift into thinking: it’s not about calories. It’s about GOOD calories. As long as every calorie is nutritious and beneficial and worthy, I shouldn’t be afraid.
I really thought at the time that I was making some progress. Hey, look! I’m eating nut butters!! I’m eating full-fat nuts and seeds! Now I know I was being deceived into holding onto the roots of ED; my fundamental disordered thoughts had not changed. It had simply shifted, altered, and then settled into its original highly obsessive, disordered state. After all, I still had many, many fears towards eating and food. I still couldn’t function socially without panicking about what I’m going to eat, how I’m going to eat, what time I’m going to eat. In fact, I would say transitioning to raw foods only made me even more obsessed.
It was also an act of distrust in the healing powers of God, and taking things into my own hands. I was impatient and losing faith. There were times when I felt somewhat convinced that I might be healed (and I mean mentally), but each time I faced the enormity of my mental illness and weaknesses in character, I lost heart. I was also paralyzingly fearful about the future (p.s. “paralyzingly” is not a word, but I think it makes sense here).
What will happen after I gain to my normal weight?
What will become of me when I lose my ED?
How will I be able to deal with all of that?
What if I become so used to eating and gaining that I can’t stop?
I felt like I needed to do something, like prepare myself for “in case” scenarios; I was so doubtful of my ability to deal without my ED. I knew I couldn’t make all my disorders go away. But I told myself that I could find ways to compromise with ED.
The weird thing though, is that following a diet made me gain some kind of identity and pride. Unfortunately, it was the wrong kind of identity and pride.
I never called myself a raw foodist, or gave myself any kind of label, but I saw myself as a person interested and invested in health and nutrition.
And yeah, I would totally preach. People who didn’t know any better came to me for nutritional advice, and I would go on a tirade on the evils of the dairy industry and how cooking kills living enzymes, blah blah blah. Such a bullshit contradiction that I would get all self-righteous high-and-mighty, extolling the virtues of healthy living when I clearly wasn’t able to live one.
That is my very, very short background explanation on why until now, I have the heebie-jeebies when it comes to diets.
My personal experience and belief says that I do not think any kind of restrictive diets can be helpful for someone with eating disordered issues. I’ve debated with some who firmly disagree with me, like the lovely Gena, and although logically, I can understand her point…emotionally, I cannot.
I suppose things are still raw for me, especially because all the information about raw foodism, etc., really put a hamper on my recovery, sucking me further back into disordered mindset and behaviors. Yes, I know it really was my own fault. I know that logically. But again, emotionally, I will admit, I blame those damn diets.
Questions to Ponder:
1) What are your opinions on someone with ED issues following a diet like veganism, or the paleo diet, etc (so many effing diets!)? Do you think it could help recovery?
2) Have you ever made compromises with ED, and how did it affected your recovery?
3) Is knowledge about diet and nutrition important or necessary in recovery? How much knowledge is too much?
P.S. Here’s a relevant article worthy of reading and discussing.