Years ago, when I was in my mid-twenties, living in Los Angeles, I had what is now commonly known as "an eating disorder." At the time, I just thought I had a little weight problem and that I simply enjoyed eating. A lot. I didn't realize that I wasn't really enjoying it that much, although sometimes I did. It seemed normal to me to eat the entire box of the Pepperidge Farm cookie assortment for dinner. Or late at night to eat tablespoons of peanut butter straight out of the jar. Or to eat an entire pint of ice cream in one sitting.
Mostly I used to food calm myself, to change my mood, to take my mind off bigger problems by focusing on the scale and the five, ten, fifteen, twenty - almost thirty pounds I could gain. The most I ever weighed (although I can't swear by this, because at a certain point I was too afraid to get on the scale - and aside from a thirty-two pound weight gain during pregnancy) I weighed at least one hundred and fifty pounds when I was twenty-seven years old and 5'4" tall. And that was too much. (And I stopped getting on the scale, so it could have been an even higher number.)
I'd tried every diet that was out there. The grapefruit diet, the cabbage diet, I fasted for seven days, lost seven pounds and then gained them all back in two. I tried the Atkins diet (steak, bacon and all the butter you can eat.) I gained five pounds and wanted desperately to kill Atkins. I never did Weight Watchers, and I'm not sure why - maybe because my best friend in high school did and she lost weight, so I didn't want to be a follower? I tried hypnosis. I smoked instead of eating and ended up eating and smoking. I could lose the weight as long as I sticked to a program -- and then just as easily gain it all back and add a little more. And I truly hated myself for not having the will power and self-control to stop this insane behavior. I remember thinking, the pleasure of eating a brownie is immediate and the loss of ten pounds could take six months. So I ate...and ate.
I remember clearly the lowest point in my struggle, the night that really showed me I was out of control. I can't remember what precipitated it - what "crisis" - but I do remember vividly standing in my kitchen, eating just about everything I could find in the refrigerator and the cabinets. I remember eating a loaf of bread, cans of soup, crackers, peanut butter, all the cheeses and cereals. I probably cooked some pasta and rice. I remember getting fuller and fuller and more depressed and then finally, when there was nothing left to eat, I looked in the freezer and found a frozen trout.
I thought to myself, "Okay, I can eat this," since that was pretty much all that was left. I opened the package and unfortunately there was a head attached to the body of the trout and this was a problem for me. At the time, I couldn't eat fish with heads attached (I have since grown out of this.) So I called my neighbor Phillip, who was an actor/fisherman, and asked him if he could do me a favor and come downstairs and cut the head off the trout so I could eat it. He probably said something like, "No, Robin, don't be silly. You can do it. Just turn away, pick up the knife and smash it down on the fish." So I did, I clearly remember turning away and slamming the knife down a few times until I did cut the head off. And I also remember thinking, "This is nuts." (Oh, wait, I ate some nuts too.)
I ate the trout and then I got into the bathtub (I often took a bath after binging to calm down.) And I remember crying and thinking this is the worst I've ever been. I cannot do this again.
I knew I needed help because I was really miserable. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone about my insanity with food. But I knew I couldn't go on eating, binging, isolating myself and crying in my bathtub.
To be continued.