As my presumed readership is likely aware, the DSM-V criteria has recently been released, and it includes a few changes to eating disorder diagnostics, notably EDNOS is gone (although not from the vernacular) and Anorexia Nervosa no longer stipulates amenorrhea in post-pubescent woman/pre-menopausal woman  (AKA loss of period for woman who should get periods developmentally) which is understandable as it seems finicky as a basis for diagnosis of such a serious eating disorder as AN. (Sidenote: I have continued having periods with a BMI as low as 15, and the only time I ever had sex without a condom, I got preggers, so my uterus is obviously a beast — us woman all bloom in developmentally different ways!)

The biggest change in AN criteria, as you probably already know, is that there is no longer a specific point in which a person is considered underweight enough to qualify. You do still have have to be of “significantly low body weight (in context of what is minimally expected for age, sex, developmental trajectory, and physical health)” to qualify as AN, but this point is indeterminate, it is blurred and fuzzy, left to the discretion of relevant parties.

The aforementioned change makes sense from the standpoint of both mental health and practicality considering the insurance value of a DSM V diagnosis and the perils of attaching this diagnosis to a concrete BMI (17.5, 16.5, 75%-85% ideal body weight which varies from 10-15 pounds depending on the formula you use anyway).

However, for a person who actually has AN, it is frustrating, because suddenly, you have no real basis by which to determine if you are of significantly low body weight […] or not. Maybe the whole scheme of that reworking is trying to get us to forget about that strict and comforting numerical basis of our Eating Disorders, but honestly nothing makes the numbers go away. They will still weigh you. They will still know your BMI. And you will still know your own BMI, if you’re still sick…

And suddenly you’re searching “what do people actually consider underweight anyway” – are we naturally aligned with the science (ie anything under a BMI of 18.5) and according to the internet, no, we aren’t. I was reading about how much people on CalorieCount.com think an ideal weight is at a height of 5 foot 1 and apparently for some 110 is entirely too thin “bony” or 100 pounds “like a crackhead” and if anyone there mentioned anything under 100 pounds it was kind of torn up by the community although the more rational of them pointed out that if you’re 5’1, anything between 95-130 pounds is considered “normal” and typically 100-115 is considered “ideal”.

Still, at 90 pounds and 5’1, I used a (TW!!!) nifty internet tool that ranks your individual BMI compared to your own country and also literally every other country – according to this tool my BMI is lower than 96% of girls in the USA in my age range and 87% of girls in the whole world. Shocking!

Even so, what is “significantly low”? No BMI is ever low enough. When your on this train, headed for nowhere, first you need to be under 18.5 so you can call yourself underweight — then you need to be under 17.5 so you can call yourself “skinny enough to be diagnostically anorectic” and then you need to be under 16.5 to “qualify as a ‘real’ anorectic” and then below 15 to be “a ‘really really real anorectic'” and so on, so forth, it never quite feels justified – admitting to your eating disorder. But there are so many sicker people and I’m not sick enough and I’d feel so stupid saying I have a problem when it’s obviously not that bad (but if you were somebody else talking to you, you know they’d say “get help”)

If I was skinnier then 100% of the girls in the world, I would be dead. Going from “skinnier then 96% of girls in the USA” to “skinnier then 98%” takes me from 90 pounds to 87 pounds. To be skinnier then 99% of girls in the USA, I need to be 80 pounds, BMI 15 (my lowest weight). To be skinnier then 100% of girls – just in the USA – I would need to be 69 freaking pounds. In the world? Yeah, you can’t even get that skinny.

What the hell is the point of all this numerical masturbation anyway? somehow I’ve been thinking about it all day? My BMI is currently 17, at what point do I think I’ll be worthy of admitting that I have a problem? Based on the evidence at my disposal, and lack of any solid diagnostic criteria to guide me…I’d say…I dunno, it all seems pretty arbitrary, but for some reason, a BMI of 16 is looking like a good bet.

(extra trigger warning on this kinda just due to a logically consistent justification of not eating based on what’s available in the developed world)

What a ridiculous post. Here it goes.

So I’ve read a lot about nutrition now. It’s infuriating. It’s not like the contradictory part has only just occurred to me, but I had this thought process when I was smelling my roommate’s Domino’s buffalo wings and ruminating about their unhealthiness and how much I wished I could eat them all, just stuff my face in them like some hypermetabolic lion, and not have to worry about (1) of course getting fat (2) getting cancer from all the weird additives they probably inject in those things (as if I don’t do 100,000 other things more likely to give me cancer, but whatever, it creeps me out).

Basically, from my understanding of nutrition, gluten is unhealthy. I’ll just start with that point, because it’s the most recent thing I’ve read about (specifically, a book called Grain Brain). I already knew carbs are bad because you don’t need them (unless you’re Michael Phelps) and they never make you fuller. But now I’ve learned that specifically gluten is especially likely activate those insulin pathways and give you diabetes and actually, Alzheimer’s, too. Even if you don’t have high blood pressure or cholesterol, or display any signs of gluten insensitivity whatsoever, gluten is still probably giving you Future-Alzheimer’s, according to this very well researched book that has concluded itself and left me in even greater perplexity about what exactly I can safely eat in this country.

Now, I was vegan for seven years for reasons pertaining to my superior morality (Just Kidding, seriously) sensitive digestive tract and suspicions about the whole industry in general. Also, because it was a really good way to Not Eat whatever was offered to me basically anywhere without offending anyone. I very recently became peskatarian which is basically vegetarian with fish and then I learned about the freaking Fukushima radiation.

“It’s safe to eat”, says the mainstream media, who lies about everything, as a mass exodus of whales and dolphins are beaching themselves on the shores of California and squids are washing up on the sand to die. I live in California. You can’t pull the wool over my eyes in my homestate, buddy. I see what’s going on. I’m not eating Nuked Fish.

Okay, so No Gluten

No Fish

Moving on. Meat. It seems safer then fish right now, but I don’t really eat meat although I enjoy the taste like any other carnivore. Still, the way we process our meat in the Western World is bizzare in evolutionary terms, isn’t it? Our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate what they killed. Morally, I have literally no problem whatsoever with anybody going out and eating what they kill with their own two hands (uhm, not people). But the meat in slaughterhouses – even if you don’t give a crap about the animals – those animals are packed in stalls so tight that they can’t help but rub arses on each other, knee deep in their own crap all day and night, and people come in and just inject Hormones and Growth Steroids and crazy antibiotics and all this stuff so that the animal grows five times faster then it would in nature so that you can have it on your dinner table that much sooner. Again, even if you don’t care about the animals, you are what you eat, and all that weird stuff they are putting in that cow … you’re ingesting it. It’s being literally chemically derived from the meat and integrated into the core of your body’s basic protein cellular structure.

Mad Cow Disease is something that also arose out of the food industry’s desire to slaughter animals at lesser economic expense. We all know how that turned out, unfortunately the illness known as “Mad Cow” lies dormant in the brain for 10 years before it kills you. Fatally, like no-holds-barred kills you.

So it’s just gross, to me, the slaughter industry. And the Pulitzer Prize winning author, Marion Nestle, wrote about how labels like “Organic” and “Free-Range” basically don’t mean shit, because the government agencies paid to enforce these criteria are at best inconsistent and at worst completely lazy.

No Meat

Also, it’s totally unclear to me – I’m hearing arguments that high blood pressure and cholesterol are actually good things now, that eating a diet of mostly animal fat and protein with a bit of fruits and veggies is ideal – you mean I’m supposed to go out and gorge myself on chicken breasts every night?? Huh?? But apparently that’s now scientifically corroborated.

It’s so confusing I can’t see straight. Plus, at least eighty-percent of what you can buy at the supermarket is literally complete garbage (No Carbs) like empty calories, refined starches, junk nonsense. And stuff that pretends to be healthy COUGH cereal COUGH vitamin water but really isn’t healthy at all and –

Milk, which human beings didn’t even evolve to be biologically capable of tolerating — yes, as some of you probably know, Lactose Tolerance is a genetic mutation and many studies indicate that drinking milk might actually make you more likely to develop osteoporosis later in life

No Dairy

So I’m a peskatarian here who can’t eat gluten or fish or dairy or meat or anything processed/refined because it gives you diabetes cancer and Alzheimer’s and also fat.

That leaves me with fruits and vegetables. Which are also suspicious, because although my biology teacher said genetically modified organisms pose no risk save for the risk of that plant entering the ecosystem and ruining it – people aren’t affected. But then again, there are all sorts of crazy pesticides and the debate on the subject is still substantial, particularly among the conspiratorial, but

fruits and vegetables, I will concede, are basically fine.

Basically.

And that’s why after trying to figure out what I should be eating, Not Eating makes a lot more sense.

Because I have an eating disorder, I tend to trigger myself. There is little point in denying that fact, as I have been doing it since I was thirteen years old (didn’t even know what it meant to ‘trigger oneself’) and I am now twenty-one. Yes, I trigger myself, so I swear to you that I have read everything even remotely relating to eating disorders or nutrition in general that has ever been published at your local Barnes and Noble and/or is carried by your local library. I have read all of that, and more – whatever the internet offers (a lot).

If there is one thing I’ve learned from eating disorder books, it is that Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia is the Antichrist. It is the worst thing a person with an eating disorder could ever read, because it is by far the most triggering, and even individuals with no eating disorder to speak of end up getting ‘triggered’ by the material.

Before I ever learned that Wasted was the Antichrist for the eating-disordered, I’d already read it back to front six times. But here’s the thing, it just so happens that it’s the best memoir about eating disorders ever written. Yes, it is unbearably triggering. Yes, if you are struggling with an eating disorder, you should probably never read it, but I have a feeling that if you aren’t reading Wasted, you’re probably triggering yourself by some other means.

And this is my point, friends. Eating Disordered people, when not actively attempting to recover, are going to find a way to trigger themselves, ultimately. We will. We’re looking for material and we’ll find it. There’s a definite trend in memoirs and books about eating disorders to censor the numerical material: ie, BMI, lowest weight, calories eaten in a day. But that doesn’t stop eating disordered individuals from compulsively seeking out material that feeds our obsession. There’s a biological urge to do so – to seek out these materials. When you’re starving, food becomes an obsession, and eating disorders – the logical extension. Your life revolves around the eating disorder. Of course the obsession needs material. It needs triggers. And come hell or high water it will find them.

Ultimately, I think it’s unfortunate, all the mental crucifixes surrounding Wasted. It’s the most triggering material about eating disorders out there, but it also happens to be brilliantly written. That’s what genuinely depresses me, more then anything else. I’m a writer, you know – a reader, too. Marya Hornbacher is a freaking genius and nobody will ever write a memoir better then Wasted. Some pretty good fiction is out there on the subject of eating disorders – eg Skinny, Wintergirls – but ultimately nothing compares.

And I’m not speaking out of my arsehole – I’ve actually read I think every memoir about an eating disorder ever written. Somehow, I can’t get it out of my head – just comparing it to Wasted. It’s inevitable. And some authors, they do a good job, but even so, you feel…or at least, I do, this creeping sense that they are just imitating Marya Hornbacher.

I’ve read criticisms about her – that she’s become something of an idol among sufferers unwilling to get better (once they get better, true, they won’t be reading her book anymore). And people seem to attach her to that suffering, or imply that she somehow sought the position of Archetype among the eating-disordered collective unconscious.

But, she didn’t. Her brilliance came naturally to her. And yes, my ED-kin, you shouldn’t be triggering yourself with the “Virgil of Eating Disorders”, but I’m willing to bet you’re triggering yourself with something else. And if you’re not, thank goodness, but please don’t hate on Marya Hornbacher, because she’s amazing.

I’m standing in line at Starbucks prepared to order a grande mocha Frappacino light with soy. I once ordered this drink a year ago while standing with my roommate/besty and her douchey boyfriend.

“Do you know how many calories are in that?” He teased.

“One-hundred-and-forty,” I replied instantly, without blinking.

He blanched. “Wow.”

Anyway here I am in line, waiting to order this drink, unintentionally eves dropping on two chicks behind me in line.

“Wow, mocha cookie crumble, that sounds good!”
“Yeah”, the other agrees.
“It’s not that bad either,” says the first girl, “only 340 calories! I usually get worse.”

I have the sudden impulse to blurt out, yes that’s bad. That’s one drink with more calories than a soda or most chocolate bars, you dunce.

At this point I haven’t seen either of them – but the girl who just said that – I know she is fat. I haven’t seen her, but I know.

” I usually get the cinnamon dolce latte, I know that must totally be so bad for you!”

No, I am internally saying, it’s probably exactly as bad, and as a matter of fact I believe it has closer to 260 calories.

Anyway, I order, and I go pee in the bathroom like always when I’m waiting for my drink and when my drink is called I grab it and turn around – the two girls are standing right there. As I thought, the one girl is extremely heavy, and I think a preteen, and I feel bad, wishing I could at least advise her to order the drink light next time –

But here’s the funny thing. Remember when I said that girls who are “sizing you up” will do that thing with their eyes – from your feet to your head, checking you out? They did that to me. It was only an instant and I breezed out the store in my work uniform, feeling all confident manager-on-duty style.

But sometimes I think I’m a horrible person. I guess it sounds worse when you write down what you think.

I bought a footlong from Subway on my lunch break a few days ago. The dude making my sandwich asked, “you gonna eat this whole footlong?” which of course offended me, but I also thought it silly because he seemed to be flirting with me, and it’s funny how clueless guys can be.

“Maybe, we’ll see how it goes,” I muse.
I guess what’s funny is a more honest answer would have been, “yes, I will wolf down the whole thing like a wild animal”. Not girly enough. And I hate people watching me eat anyway. So I found the comment embarrassing. I know I’m small. I don’t know why my appetite is so wolfish sometimes.

I felt like I couldn’t eat the sandwich in the store after that. I shut myself in the back room at work and – yes – ate it all. This was the second time I was sitting in that same spot, eating a subway footlong. There is this photo right in front of me, this rectangular one with this tiny ballerina child in a pink dress. It’s a series of four photos. Other than that one little girl in pink, the rest of the photo is black and white.

I’m trying to understand why this picture is supposed to be artsy at all. It’s starting to bug me, but I keep looking at it. I wonder who put this up in the back room of a Blockbuster. When. Why.

I eat and every bite makes me feel progressively more feral. Nobody is watching. If they were watching me eat I’m sure they’d be terrified to see such a small girl attacking this sandwich with gnashing teeth and fierce hunger. I hate myself.

Today I didn’t have adderall, and I didn’t have a wolf inside, begging to devour everything in sight.

I’m sick of the wolf. Sometimes I am
so good.

Sometimes I am
So bad.

I have this habit of automatically noticing whether someone is skinnier than me or not. I don’t do it consciously – I don’t even notice that I’m doing it most of the time, unless I happen to get the feeling that a girl really is skinnier than me, or she seems a lot skinnier. That’s when it becomes conscious, and I notice it.

On one hand, I hate myself for doing this, as it feels petty and superficial, even catty – but on the other hand, I can’t exactly help myself for noticing. It almost operates below the threshold of consciousness. And to be honest, this comparison game is one I usually ‘win’ – I’m not abnormally thin, but I am thin. I “win” this stupid game so often that I take it for granted and don’t think about it. After all, 2/3rds of adults are overweight. Even more adults are on the heavier side of healthy. With a BMI of less then 20, you’re bound to be skinnier then most people you meet.

The only time i really notice how often i compare my body to other bodies is when a girl is like – skinny skinny. When I see a girl like that my envy can’t help bubbling up.

I know I’m not the only woman who does this, but I often wonder how many other girls are comparing their bodies to mine when they see me. I’m sure some girls get jealous of chicks with bigger boobs or a nicer ass, but me – I’m only jealous when they’re unreasonably thin. Most girls are jealous of women with the “perfect body”. Not me. I don’t care about that sexy hourglass figure or how many guys are attracted to me.

But I’ve never failed to envy super thin girls.

If you are perceptive, you may learn to pick up on when people are “sizing you up”. It’s very brief, so you have to be observant. When you first meet a girl, see if her eyes dart to your legs and work their way up to your face. Not everyone does it, and not everyone does it while you can see. But other times it’s obvious. I always find it amusing when it is.

Both girls and guys will do this to each other, but obviously the difference is that guys have a sexual motivation and girls have a competitive one. Guys do it to other guys for the same reason girls do it to other girls. Evaluating each other is a deeply ingrained primate behavior. It’s evolutionary – we can’t help ourselves.

I remember reading that when guys see girls, they’ll often glance at her chest – this happens so quickly that it’s usually hard to notice (otherwise a lot of guys would have slap marks on their faces). It’s the same when girls see guys, except we’ll often glance down – towards the, uhmm, penis.

Now that you know this information, I am willing to bet that you will find yourself inadvertently glancing at a guy’s crotch or, if you’re (a heterosexual) male, a girl’s boobs, and you’ll be like – whoa, I didn’t even know that I do that.

If you’re anything like me, though, you’re already aware that you compare your weight to every other girl you see.

I’m sitting outside work and my thoughts are f l y i n g right now. I can’t grab ahold of one and catch it. They are like dazzling pixies floating everywhere but not located anywhere specific. It will be a relief to start my shift and have something solid to f o c u s on.

You want to know my ultimate ED trigger? It is me. This is honestly less narcissistic than it sounds. While reading about other people’s eating disorders and seeing super thin people is very triggering, nothing quite compares to seeing pictures of yourself and reading your own journal entries from a time when you had full-blown anorexia. That is the most triggering thing, because it is you! You did it – you got to that weight. And now all that’s left is the memory that such a thing was once possible and the knowledge that things are different now. You aren’t thin anymore, not like that. It invalidates your suffering too, because you no longer display clear physical evidence of that suffering.

I’m grateful that my friends and family don’t say obnoxious things to me like, “wow I’m so glad to see you eating again” or the worst “gosh you look so healthy!”

But still, I struggle perpetually to look at myself in the mirror without hating myself for having a healthy, non-anorexic BMI, and I wonder if that innate repulsion will ever go away. I suppose the real issue is that I’m not ready to be over my eating disorder yet. I don’t know exactly what quality binds me, but there is certainly something which does. I’m not ready to begin getting over it. There must be some function it serves which hadn’t exhausted itself. There must be something I’m looking for that I haven’t found.

It’s like with cigarettes- I always hear from people who have quit smoking that they were completely ready to begin the process of quitting. Something inside clicked. Something quips “alright I’m fucking done here, I’m over this. Quitting will be hard but I have to”. And I’m not there yet, not with cigarettes and certainly not with this eating disorder.

I think it’s something stupid – discerning my limit, proving to myself that I can take my body to the precipice, that I’m strong enough, I have the will, to sustain the unsustainable, to exist as less than a full human being and yet operate beyond the capacity of one.

By complete chance, I got an opportunity to attend an Indian Sweat Lodge tonight with a Native American Lakota chieftain…I couldn’t pass it up, as the chief would only be in town the next two days, and I’ve never done a sweat lodge before.

The experience was incredibly intense. I’m not fond of heat, generally, I hate sweating, but this was something else entirely. The sweat lodge is conducted in total darkness. You can’t see anything or anybody around you. The only thing visible are the glowing red embers at the center of the lodge. The heat doesn’t come from the coals by themselves, but the steam that wafts from the coals after water is poured on them. The chief speaks periodically throughout the ceremony, or beats on a drum, and everyone in the lodge who knows the language participates in this chanting, the only thing you can hear is the chanting and the singing and the beat of this drum. The air gets so hot it almost has a taste. The air gets thick…it’s difficult to explain, but when you breathe in that steaming hot air, it almost seems to expand within you and reach through your body…it feels really incredible to breathe it in.

They do the sweats in “rounds”. So they did five rounds tonight. After the fourth round, nearly everybody got out of the lodge. The unspoken rule is that if you get out at any time during the ceremony, you can’t exactly come back in. And typically nobody gets out. I guess this fifth round tonight was unplanned, or at least atypical. I was there with my mom and my friend Geo that I dragged along with me tonight. While almost everybody left the lodge after the fourth round, the three of us couldn’t bring ourselves to go. We’d managed the first four just fine – could the fifth really be so different?

In a word – yes. Even the seasoned lodge veterans asked us afterwards how we bore that sweat. It was beyond hot. I melted into a puddle of my own juices. I was sopping soaked all over. And that last sweat must have reached…130 degrees, at least. My mom and Geo used towels to cover their heads, supposedly this makes the heat less intense. I didn’t cover my head with anything. I guess I’m kind of just an intense person. Although by the end of the fifth lodge, my head had pretty much reached the ground and I was just at the cusp of yelling, “STOP, there is no damned way I can take this heat for another SECOND!!!!”. But no, I lived through it, and it was completely unreal to crawl out of the lodge afterwards, dizzy and naturally high, somehow…I really did feel like I’d sweat some sort of evil out, something hard to describe…but I’ve never smoked any weed that made me feel as calm, as serene, as that sweat lodge did.

I’ve been a vegan for seven years until up about a month ago when I ate fish again (the only meat I’ve ever missed in the history of veganhood – specifically sushi). Tonight seared Ahi tuni was prepared after the sweat lodge, with nori rolls and veggies. My mom and her roommate/friend Debbie cooked the fish. I guess Debbie’s sons work with the Chief, they apprentice with him, and have been doing sweat lodges for a long time. That’s how I got the opportunity to go to a sweat with such a revered chieftain for free – an opportunity that I believe normally would cost a pretty penny…

Anyway, the point of this whole post. I ate and I felt full. This, to me, was totally unexpected. I’ve been starving or binging and purging for many, many years. I have not eaten and felt full since I was eleven. I have forgotten what that feels like, to “Eat and Feel Full” afterwards. I’m either not allowing myself to eat at all and feeling hungry, hating myself for eating anything and feeling hungry when I do, eating and feeling starved like I could eat an extra horse afterwards, or taking drugs so that I don’t have to feel hungry at all (until the drugs wear off and I’m fucking hungry as hell…)

But it’s been years…years since I’ve done anything as simple as “Eating and Feeling Full Afterwards”.

I don’t think I feel like my disordered eating is less bad now, but I am grateful for the reminder of what normal eating can be. How much less...stressful. I ate some Ahi tuna and then I was full and done with it. Not spending my time wondering when I’d eat again or spending my time obsessing over how many calories I’d just consumed or when I could purge or how fat I am gonna soon be.

I don’t feel good about myself or my weight or my food intake. But at least for a little while tonight, I didn’t care….and that is something of a marvel, for me.