This may be an unfair assumption, but I believe that all women struggle with unhealthy eating habits at some point in their lives.
When I was 16, I started dating a boy. It wasn’t really a “relationship,” but it lasted 3 months, and during the brief space of time in which I called this boy my “boyfriend,” there existed a constant tension between us, an incessant push and pull. It was simple, really. I wanted his attention and affection, and he didn’t want to give it. It ended because he was never really emotionally present.
Also during this brief space of time, I genuinely thought I was anorexic. I was in such a depression over this boy, I would go days consuming only the bare minimum required to merely sustain consciousness. I would go so long without eating, I wouldn’t even notice the sound of my stomach grinding against itself with every inhale and exhale, the sound of it caving as it essentially ate itself.
It’s surprisingly not difficult to withhold food from yourself. The hunger hits like a wall after the first 12 hours or so, but after that - if you climb over that wall, if you ignore it, your appetite suddenly wanes. It hides as your mental determination beats it into submission. A vague weakness passes through you, but for the most part, you can carry on about your day without too much distraction.
I climbed over this wall a lot while I was busy moping about my “boyfriend,” the physical and emotional pain paralleling each other. Because I was consuming such a minimal amount of food during this time, even the small bits of food I was eating were hard to keep down. I wasn’t exactly binging and purging - just purging the little that was even there. I weighed 79 lbs when I was 17.
Anyways, the reason I don’t think I had an actual eating disorder was because it only lasted for a brief period of time. I believe my eating habits were strongly tied to the way I felt about my boyfriend rather than a misguided body image, and as I got over him, I also got over the desire to suppress my appetite.
However, this is not to say that I don’t still encounter and struggle with the occasional starvation binge. Being skinny can be an addiction. When clothes that once hung loosely off your body suddenly start to hug it, it can be terrifying. In 2011, I weighed the most I’ve ever weighed, and it was only 105-fucking-pounds. It took me 20-something years to break 100 lbs, and when it finally happened, I freaked out. That December I got sick with a fever that confined me to my bed, and even though initially I couldn’t eat because I was sick, I eventually didn’t eat because I wanted to see how much further I could push myself to shave off just a few more pounds. And indeed, there was a period of time when withholding food for a couple of days at a time was my go-to activity to get skinny fast.
I talk about this frequently, but I fucking love yoga, and a big reason for this is that since I’ve started practicing and going to the gym on a regular basis, I’ve stopped feeling the impetus to step on a scale every time I leave my apartment. I haven’t weighed myself in months, but it’s empowering to know that even though I probably weigh more than 100 lbs now, some of that weight is muscle - muscle that allows me to do more push-ups, that gives my core the strength to hold an inversion, that lets me balance my entire body in all sorts of standing and arm balance positions. I’ve learned to prioritize strength over how skinny my arm looks on my hip in photos, and I don’t have to force myself to eat on a regular basis, because I can’t go to the gym if my limbs are shaky, I can’t go if there’s a chance my legs will buckle beneath me.
There are still rare nights when I have to force myself to eat dinner, which is strange to admit considering my infamous reputation to eat out for every meal. But though the drive to stay petite is still something that sits faintly in the back of my mind, and will probably forever sit, I feel confident in the fact that it’s no longer something with which I “struggle,” because I’ve learned that strength feels much more gratifying than the literal emptiness of starving to be skinny.