I recently lost 19 kilograms in the space of 7 months for probably an unlucky combination of genetic and historical reasons I still don’t quite understand.
As much as dropping pounds seems to be our default, it’s not always all that healthy, and as it so happens I am clinically a crazy lollipop-shaped lady. It’s an issue that for some reason is deemed awkward, so I hope to shed a bit of light from the perspective of someone who just over a year ago would never have thought she would have any light to shed.
Having returned from a year abroad I cannot stress enough the importance of company in the process of recovery. The frustration of feeling unable to express myself linguistically, despite several kind ears and open minds, is ultimately detrimental, developing into an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy. It’s ridiculous that this should manifest itself through eating habits, which is why I often have a go at myself for what to me is like religious fundamentalism; an absurd irrationality that denies me basic comfort and pisses off the people around me.
I suppose what I’m trying to gain from this is your understanding that an eating disorder isn’t always flat-out denial or an “I’m-fat-can’t-eat” starvation mentality propagated by The Media (a more and more slippery term these days), but usually a permanent inner conflict that can only begin to be quelled by companionship and platonic love. Yes, really.
So my immediate summer trip to China was a bit of a gamble decision-wise. I had started recovery (put on 5 kilos since my lowest point last November, though despite common assumptions the physical difference is not the be-all and end-all), hadn’t consulted my parents and hoped that being away from home again wouldn’t induce a relapse. This obviously sounds moronic. How can you hope for something you should have full control over? Even I don’t get it.
Coming back, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect in terms of corporal growth. I hadn’t weighed myself for six weeks and the closest I had had to a mirror had been passing glass, and as for eating itself, my sacred routine had been altered so much by my teaching timetable it had left me in nutritional bewilderment. Rice every single day, for every single meal, surely cannot be anyone’s idea of paradise. In the end the dinner men and ladies saw my daily “bu yao mifan” as a canteen joke: “no want rice” is like the equivalent of refusing a cup of tea in England, or saying you don’t like gravy on your mash. Despicable.
Luckily I hadn’t lost more than a few pounds, had it not been for my eloping to distant lands in search of dumplings and dragon fruit, but at least I wasn’t in dire straits; I like to think that my rationality was still hanging about somewhere. Nevertheless I thought it was probably a good idea to follow up an initial appointment back home and see the dietitian. As I couldn’t get through to the service by phone, I went to the clinic myself, sat in the waiting room which was aptly playing Coldplay’s Fix You until the secretary lady came along to tell me that “no one from THAT department is back until next week”. I didn’t really mind, just thought it a bit odd since as lovely as it would be, anorexia doesn’t take a holiday.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this rather self-indulged spiel, I’d always advise bundling yourself or the person concerned with Home: friends, books, childhood, nature, small comforts. And not to leave it until sanity is fully restored, regardless of how long it takes. Perhaps I should’ve followed my own advice, but I’ve never been good at that, and besides, seeing the world takes precedence over a pitiful psycho-miscorrection. Even though physically I feel (and pretty much look) fine, I know that my brain still has a bit to go – can you imagine mentally auditing every little thing you consume? It’s sad to say it often becomes habit rather than body image that keeps some in this adverse cycle. Writing it down helps break out of that loop a little, but there is no more futile a struggle than one with yourself.