Maybe you’ve heard already that this week – through March 1 – is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.
This is not a story about an eating disorder. It’s a story about traveling very much out of my comfort zone and talking about my own disordered eating and the body image demons that are all too commonplace, especially with women and girls.
Last Wednesday, I had the privilege of attending About Face’s Embody Awards in San Francisco. Full disclosure here: I do contract work for About Face, so I’m not just a fan of their mission, I’m helping to roll that boulder with the rest of them. About Face works to combat the negative images of women and girls in the media, by providing teens with powerful tools to look critically at what the media throws at them. (CAN I GET A HELL YES?)
The night was about honoring four female fashion designers who are designing clothing for all shapes, sizes, and gender expressions. I mean COME ON, BEAUTIFUL.
Only I started that Wednesday morning the way I start many mornings, or at least several mornings a week: by weighing myself. That morning, the wind went out of my sails a little because I’d gained a half a pound. Half a pound. Since the day before. What’s more, the number was a full four pounds higher than my Happy Weight. Four pounds.
Let me pause right here and say I never had any tragic experience as a youngster where some evil being shook their finger at me to lose weight, or called me names. Between my mom, grandmother, sisters, aunts, and female cousins, I have more independent and positive female role models than you can shake a stick at (and that’s a lot), and while there were a few clunkers in my 20s, I’ve pretty much only dated men who adore the curve of my hips and the roundness of my booty.
But four goddamned pounds had the power to gray an otherwise bright morning, and had me doing what I frequently do to feel a little more in control of my body: logging every morsel into a food app. My CSU Summer Arts family, from the solo performance workshop that I took in July of last year, was literally the first group of humans I ever told about that obsessive behavior, along with another fact I generally keep under wraps: that I’ve been doing the analog version of that food app – or as I put it in my performance piece, “plus food, minus exercise” – since I was 11 years old.
It’s easy to write off the behavior. I mean, I’m being healthy, right?
But when does healthy cross over into obsessive?
When does the day’s log from a food app override what your body’s actually telling you?
Am I enabling a destructive behavior or just using technology to make being healthy more convenient?
I don’t know the answers to these questions. (If only I did, this post would be a lot shorter…) All I know is that this ritual of adding and subtracting calms me, and at the end of the day, I figure, hey, it’s not heroin or excessive gambling or whole bottles of whiskey. In the land of vices, maybe it’s not so bad.
But then again: The power of those four pounds.
This post doesn’t end with me saying I’M MORE THAN THE NUMBER ON THE SCALE. (I am, and you are too, by the way. Of course.) It doesn’t end with me being in love with my thighs. (My booty? Yes. That was a triumph I embraced when I found that it helps me samba like nobody’s business. But thighs? That love affair is still a work-in-progress.)
But here’s what it does end with: a night full of joy and laughter and power.
I watched as Thuy Nguyen from THÚY Custom Clothier, Mary Going of Saint Harridan, Taylor Jay of the Taylor Jay Collection, and Susan Gregg Koger of ModCloth were honored. (And omg, someone was convinced I was with ModCloth. “Your dress, you’re so cute – we thought you must be with ModCloth.”) I watched as high schooler Marisa Kim – one of the most well-spoken teens I’ve ever met – received a Young Activist Award and talked about how she dreams of changing the landscape of the acting world for women and people of color.
While I’m not sure what makes the demons get chased away completely, I do know that the evening was a reminder of the things that actually matter (i.e. not four pounds), of things put into perspective, and of the real work that still needs to be done.
So this is not a post where I hope people will tell me those pounds don’t matter, or “you’re pretty just as you are,” or that #YouAreEnough. Again, all of those are true for me and you and everyone we know. I know all of this already. And so do you.
This is post just to tell you – yeah, you – hey there. You get those demons too? It’s alright. You’re not alone. And we’re gonna be alright.