Ana, Easter & Me
Picture this. 15 years old and terrified of the Easter bunny solid milk chocolate treats.
Growing up, Easter was my favorite holiday for the very fact that it came with spring, chocolate, and fuzzy baby bunnies and chicks. I never got the whole Santa thing, but that's another blog.
At 15, I was working in a grocery store and could afford to buy my own chocolate bunnies. If it sounds like I'm writing about chocolate bunnies as though they're contraband...I am.
See, when you have orthorexia subtype* of anorexia nervosa, and you are in active eating disorder mode as I was at age 15... one chocolate bunny can steal weeks of your life.
It went something like this.
My inner child wanted that bunny! I wanted to enjoy the bunny with the abandon and pleasure of a child who knows not the bounds of their body. In my trailer, too, one bunny and one gift with a few eggie things was the whole jam - and it was everything to me!
Anorexia told me that, sure, you can have what you want but you need to earn it, pay for it, and then feel guilty about it anyway.
So I worked out to burn calories to make imaginary room in my imaginary budget of calories, fat, sugar, and salt. I went on the elliptical, which I hated, and then I worked out in a "boot camp circuit" at 6 am before school. I stayed extra, walked to school, walked home from work, did crunches before bed. I walked on the spot at the till at work. I know that standing burns around 10 calories an hour, but sitting only 5.
I know it adds up over the month because I have done the math and that math is still burned into my mind.
I lost weight to eat a chocolate bunny. I made meal plans to prepare for a chocolate bunny. I thought long and hard about my goals of being healthy and pure and fit and the best version of myself as per the magazines at the time. I asked for a dark chocolate bunny to even the score between me and Ana (anorexia).
All I remember about that chocolate bunny is me laying on the couch at 11 am, sick to my stomach after gorging on something I felt so guilty about eating even after earning that I needed to eat it as fast as possible, less Ana take it away from me before I actually enjoy it.
I didn't enjoy it. I spent that Easter feeling sick, regretful, ashamed, and at a loss of words. I felt cheated by the concept of cheating on my regimented low fat, low sugar diet.
And so, I wanted to write that to show you how bad it was once upon a time. But I also wanted to write you to show you that this is a lifelong journey for many people, and recovery and progress is a daily journey.
Last night I ate that chocolate bunny in the cover photo.
It went something like this:
See Easter chocolate being put out on the shelves the DAY AFTER VALENTINE'S. Look at prices. Realize Easter bunny is actually cheaper than the expensive chocolate I have been buying and realize I can eat a chocolate bunny.
So I bring it home, take this photo, and think, "If nothing else, I needed the chocolate bunny for the photo to write about how bad the ED used to be so people can know it does get better.
AND IT DOES.
I get home, set up my laptop, and put the bunny beside me. It'll be a snack later, I say.
I open it and eat half, immediately, as I'm working on a story about success strategies. It is delicious.
I turn it over. I cannot help myself. This small bunny. Maybe it's not even that may calories. Maybe I can justify eating the whole thing, now.
250 for half.
That's obviously 500 for a full.
And Ana says, you know 500 extra calories a day = 3500 extra calories a week = a pound a week gained.
I bit the chocolate bunny, hard. Chew. Swallow.
Tell myself if I'm going to eat the bunny, I should stop typing and focus and be mindful. Enjoy it.
I think about that photo of 400 calories of oil in a stomach, 400 calories of fruit and veg, and 400 calories of fast food.
My mind shuffles through photos, judging, assessing.
I don't like it.
I put the bunny in a bag and move the rest of it out of my reach.
Some time passes and I reach for the bag, small stretch from where I am and I have it in my hands again. In my mouth.
You're single. It was only 1.29! How is that even possible? 500 calories are being eaten. How many crunches is that, walks, etc. How many steps.
My brain does this kind of math as if it's second nature, because it is. Anorexia changed the way I saw the world. I saw food as numbers and ingredients and health effects. I was obsessed with superfoods, pure foods, clean eating, and the wellness craze that tells you any but fresh is bad.
I was obsessed with the effects of sugar on my risk factors for arthritis, depression, and heart disease. AT FIFTEEN.
Yesterday, at 32 years old, I bought the bunny, ate the bunny, and told myself that negative chatter is just leftover propaganda. One bunny doesn't define my worth, my health, or my value. One bunny doesn't mean I don't deserve to treat myself well the rest of the day. No punishments necessary.
I felt as though body dysmorphia was trying to rear up, I was feeling the effects of PMS and bloating and was fixated on my jeans not really fitting like at all... I combatted this by first getting those horrendous jeans off of my body lol, and second, by looking into the mirror and actually it didn't help, so I put on some comfy and loose clothes and got into bed and read and tried to get out of my body, sleep, try again.
I woke up. I survived. Nothing horrible happened. I didn't turn the bunny into a binge and I didn't let that binge go on for days. I didn't lay awake and obsess and weigh myself or force a gym session.
May sound small to some but this is so pervasive in culture we forget it's even a thing! I went to yoga and the instructor said something like forgive yourself if you had a nanaimo bar yesterday even this morning...
No, thanks, I'm working on eating without shame. It's a longer process but much more rewarding. The size of my body today, tomorrow, and yesterday does not define what's inside.