My anonymity is the only thing giving me the strength to write this right now.
It’s something I have been struggling to admit and fight but at the same time, it’s something I knew was happening, as it was happening. I’m a smart girl, I’m type A, I’m independent, I’m strong-willed (my euphemism for stubborn as hell), I’m very competitive, and I know the path I’m on is destructive. Something though, some force, some indescribable thing (wow I’m such a Shakespeare with words), is stronger than me and it is taking all of me- emotionally, physically- to fight the controlling affect it has over me. I weighed 133 lbs when I lived back home in Philadelphia and I was more than content with myself. I LOVED food! ALL food! Still do.
I moved to Dubai a year ago and it is certainly a haven for any foodie. However, saying this move has been difficult is probably the biggest understatement of the year. Moving back home is easier said than done; as I paid for my rent for the entire year (that’s just how it works in Dubai) and realized the job market was crap. I hated Dubai, still do mind you, and that was the beginning of my whirlwind spiral out of control. Ok, so I don’t like the big city I moved to, what’s new? I researched healthy options to avoid falling into a depression. Work out, check. Eat healthy, check. Sleep well, check to the best of my ability. Create a routine, check. Push yourself to do things you normally wouldn’t, like go out and explore, check, check, check.
These virtues turned into vices quickly. I’ve never had alcohol or taken any drugs, so I turned to other extremes. I’m not a night owl or the social butterfly type, so the active night life in Dubai is not my scene. Plus, Dubai is super expensive, like Ferraris are the norm expensive, and I have law school loans to pay back. So living a “Dubai lifestyle” isn’t even truly an option. So, I filled my time with the gym and making home cooked meals. Good for me, right?
Everywhere I look here, women are tall, unrealistically thin and stylish as hell. How? How is every single one of them that gorgeous? Even my sister and sister-in-law are tall, beautiful, thin, stylish women (God bless them!), and I started to feel like I needed to compete with them too. Suddenly, my 133 lbs felt like they were weighing me down a bit. And I say that on purpose, they were weighing me down a bit. I only wanted to lose 4 lbs. It all started with some excuses like “now that law school is over, I have more time to focus on my fitness;” or “I miss soccer, I want to get back to playing;” or “my brother’s wedding is soon, I have to fit into a slim dress!” That resulted in working out every day, skipping meals, weighing myself constantly, taking diuretics, counting calories, and the occasional binge eating because my body was not used to such extreme restrictions.
I’ve never looked in the mirror and thought “I’m fat” or “I’m ugly;” I hope that doesn’t make me sound full of myself. Those excuses – fitness, the wedding, etc. – seemed legitimate to me, so dropping a few pounds would be fine. That’s how I felt at first. And really, as I reflect on myself while writing this, I think it is more of a matter of control, because so many other things in my life are out of my control, than a self-esteem issue, and as I said, I’m very type-A, I need control.
My family noticed my weight loss, but I think they saw it as a restrictive diet just for the wedding. They thought, at some point, I’d stop. We were all watching what we were eating because you know, it’s natural to want to look good at such a joyous family occasion filled with judgemental aunts and uncles from around the world. However, Middle Eastern parents aren’t too familiar with eating disorders, plus they know how strong my personality is and an eating disorder just doesn’t seem like something that could happen to me. Honestly, I don’t think they can fathom the extent of my problem. Really though, my tagline on this blog is “1% Lawyer, 99% Cookies.” Ladies, you don’t understand how much I really like cookies.
I’ve never been a healthy eater, and I would actually pride myself on the fact that I was the type of girl you could take on a first date and who wouldn’t order the salad but instead finish her entire burger. Suddenly though, I found myself swirling in the midst of the health craze happening. Everywhere I looked things were organic, meal prepping became essential, and dinner needed to be made up of kale and quinoa!
Slowly but surely, I basically cut out every food group except fruit, and unfortunately, this is still the case. From the hours of 7am to 9pm, when I finish work and the gym, I have an orange, an apple, and a banana. At 1 o’clock, 3:30 p.m., and 5 o’clock respectively. That’s it, nothing else until dinner, which is a salad and some type of protein, usually chicken, because like I said, I gym every day. I can’t even begin to count how many snacks I used to consume, and how many children’s snacks were in my office drawer. Now, you can’t find a single sweet or savory delight in my house, and I even yell at my mom if she dares to bring a single Kit-Kat bar into my place.
I can tell you how many calories are in an apple, in a cup of my favorite cereal, in a tablespoon of olive oil, in a box of raisins…and so on and so on. The comedic relief here is that I’m starting to get really good at math again!
Like I said, my family is starting to worry, but they’re tip toeing around me because I’m having such a hard time here that they don’t really know how to say anything without me snapping. Aside from them, no one has noticed. At work, they don’t realize that eating just fruit is a problem, again it’s because the Middle East is not very well educated about eating disorders. Hopefully, that will be the next battle I take on, once I’m on my own path to recovery. People around me think, “The American girl is really into sports and being healthy. Americans are like that.” My friends are back home in Philly (I haven’t made any friends in Dubai) so obviously they can’t pick up on anything. Plus I’m REALLY good at hiding my feelings and issues. I’m a lawyer, I’m paid to manipulate and lie; so obviously, I’m good at it.
My cousin though, he lives in Philly, he knows there’s something wrong. He’s my rock. He knows me better than I know myself. He visited actually, and he flat out told me I have a problem. God bless him, he’s who I think of when this thing, this inanimate object, this sort of black smoke from Lost, starts to control me.
I was told to be careful when I hit 120lbs. I’m now 110.
Dubai has obviously taken an emotional toll on me, and I think starting to control my diet was a way for me to take back control against the whirlwind of sentiments I’ve been feeling. I’m not the kind of girl who’s in touch with her feelings, so crying is a foreign concept to me, and well I’ve done A LOT of that in Dubai. But, food makes people happy. Food makes me happy. I love Reese’s Cups, I love chocolate crepes, I love burgers, I love tacos, I love carbs, I love barbeque chips, I LOVE FRENCH FRIES; I love food. So being unhappy and cutting out the joy of food, and the joy of cooking or baking food, probably isn’t the best plan for me. Without it, I’ve become more negative, pessimistic, and on-edge.
My behavior and thoughts have become obsessive. How much I think about food, how many recipes I pin on pinterest because I miss food and how much I won’t allow myself to have any. How much I count calories, how much I exercise, and how guilty I feel if I go over or skip a workout. How I will consciously plan a week’s worth of meals if I intend to indulge in something like movie popcorn or ice cream at some point during the week. This is what’s killing me! I can recognize this! I can recognize the warning signs, the symptoms, the problems, but still, I’m not strong enough to stop this struggle.
I hate that I have this constant struggle, this constant demon tormenting me, when I should know better. There are so many things I want to eat and so many things I don’t let myself eat… it’s tiring. Constant gymming and minimal eating started to yield results. I lost weight, my pants felt bigger, people noticed, and I toned up. GREAT! No. I started to see the results but at the same time, I started to hear my own Jiminy Cricket telling me “this is dangerous; this is textbook anorexic behavior. Be careful, be smart.” I still haven’t figured out how to answer to that voice, how to stop this behavior.
Anorexia will not eat me alive.
Part of me still thinks this won’t last. My pants are falling down, but I won’t buy a size smaller. I’ve never lost weight and kept it off. I’ve never kept a New Year’s resolution to work out and eat right, so why waste money on new clothes?
That part of me is delusional. I’m writing this piece to admit to the struggle. I’m writing this piece to find the strength. I’m writing this piece because I know other women and men are fighting this battle. I’m writing this piece because the women I work with are inspirational. I’m writing this piece to empower myself and empower others who have not yet recovered, but should know that it’s not a battle they need to fight alone. I am writing this piece to acknowledge I have a problem and to admit I am scared.
I was told to watch it when I hit 120 lbs. I’m now 110 lbs, which is not healthy, I know, especially for my height and build. I am always freezing, always hungry, always conscious of every popcorn kernel that enters my body, and most importantly, I’m now scared. I shouldn’t be this thin, and I’m going to use this knowledge to fight back. I am strong willed. I am stubborn as hell. I am a force to be reckoned with in an argument. I put it in my mind that I needed to lose weight, that I needed this control, well now I’m putting it in my mind that I need help. I need to admit that to my friends, my family, and myself.
I need control. This started as a way to gain control, but I’ve now lost it. I will regain that control, over this tormenting feeling over me, and reshape it into a healthy lifestyle. I have so many inspirations in my life to guide me and help me.
Anorexia will not eat me alive.