An open letter to the people who ‘forgot to eat’

By Kate Leddy

This letter is not addressed to the people who claim they “forgot” to eat a meal when really they skipped it on purpose – though maybe these words will resonate with them.

This letter is to the people who have honestly found themselves so caught up in a project, passion or event that the thought of food slipped their minds. It is for the people who are consistently able to stop a meal when they are full and don’t start another until their bodies are in need of fuel again. This is to the intuitive eaters that sometimes find themselves saying, “I forgot to have lunch.”

Those words used to infuriate me. Every time you made that casual observation it was like my mind burst into flames. I couldn’t help but lash out: “How could you possibly forget that?”

When I had anorexia, food was not something that would slip my mind.

Despite popular misconception, my eating disorder didn’t make me apathetic toward food. It didn’t grant any sort of extraordinary willpower that allowed me to push the thought of food entirely out of my head so I’d eat less of it.

On the contrary, when I was in the worst of anorexia’s grip, food was all I thought about.

I had dreams about it – fantasies of letting down all restraint and diving my hand into a bag of chips or cooking a huge bowl of spaghetti. I awoke from them like they were nightmares, measured my breakfast and repeatedly counted the tablespoonfuls in an effort to make small amounts feel like more. Each time I finished a meal, I immediately thought about preparing myself to last as long as I could before I would have another one.

When I had anorexia, I didn’t forget lunch. I remembered to skip it.

You, the non-dieters, were the people who seemed to be the most confused by disordered eating behavior. Some of you listened to the stigmas and when you learned about my problem, viewed it with that “I don’t get it, just eat” kind of attitude.

I envy your ignorance, if you’d even call it that. Diet culture has robbed thousands of their natural ability to eat intuitively. Time and time again it severely complicates the simple act of eating in efforts to convince us that we can actually achieve these impossible beauty standards through some form of restriction.

“If you are a restrained eater, you try to control your body weight and don’t trust your body to do it for you,” Linda Bacon said in her book, “Health at Every Size,” which you, and everyone for that matter, should really read. “Attempts to control your food intake through willpower and control require that you drown out the internal signals, leaving you much more vulnerable to the external signals … but if you’re an unrestrained eater those (external signals) don’t faze you. ”

I shut out my body’s signals for years. Recovery was like learning to walk again –wobbly and extraordinarily frustrating because the entire time I kept telling myself, “I should know how to do this, it’s simple!”

Anorexia is not simple. Thanks to our society, truly eating healthy isn’t either.

I’m writing this letter to you to tell you not to change. Don’t let yourself be fooled by the media hype about miserable diet regimes. Don’t let society harp on insecurities until you feel you need to be a different person.

I know that is easier said than done, but you’ve managed to make your diet one less stressor in your life by listening to what makes your body feel energized and adjusting your eating accordingly. I hope you can keep it that way.

I’m writing this letter to thank you for normalizing eating for me when I was in recovery. You saw food as food, not as “good” or “bad.” I needed that influence.

I’m writing this letter to apologize for having the opposite effect on you. One of you once told me you felt pressured to diet when you were around me on my bad days. I never wanted to suck anyone into that world. I hope now you see how undesirable it really is.

I’m writing this letter to you because it may hold some things you didn’t know: what anorexia can feel like, what restricted eating can do to your mind or why it’s so important to be in-tune with your body. I hope you share it with others. That’s how stigmas get broken.

Above all, I hope you stay healthy. Your intuitive eating is the solidest foundation for learning to give yourself the food and exercise your body needs to perform at it’s best. I hope you continue to listen to it as I continue to strive toward listening to my own.

From,
Kate Leddy

Kate Leddy is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

This column was written in honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness week (Feb 22-28). For more information on eating disorders and how to get involved in NEDAwareness week, please visit www.nedawareness.org.