A #NoDietDay Post

[Content or Trigger Warning: Discussion of eating disorders; weight: weight prejudice]

I freeze when people discuss what the best meal of their life was, or the best thing they’ve ever eaten? Lotta pressure. Sometimes I want to sound cultured and well-travelled. So I’m guilty of discussing, “the best escargot I’ve ever had, second to that cozy spot in Montmartre” or “the caviar pie at the place only real New Yorkers know about.” Perhaps I’ll mention that unexpectedly superb prime rib dinner in Florence. Don’t forget the obscure pub in County Connemara with a potato leek soup that I dream of. Should I say that I prefer The Old Homestead to Peter Luger’s- for the NYC steakhouse crowd?

Yeah, I used to be as obnoxious and insecure as anyone else when it came to food and restaurant talk. The sad thing is, I usually did it because I was used to being treated as though my life experience and culinary exposure were presumably limited due to my size. Far from the truth. But I’ve gotten better at not trying to prove anything. Not perfect, but at least I don’t talk about sushi every time I eat it. Seriously. Some sushi eaters REALLY need you to know they’re eating sushi. 

In my better moments, when I’m being real, I don’t care about impressing anyone with my Best Food choices. I reach into my memories of how food made me feel. I find simple things. Pop-Pop’s French toast. Grandma’s tuna sandwiches, made with Miracle Whip. Dad’s Day-After-Thanksgiving Turkey soup. Mom’s sauerbraten. My husband’s chili. 

What is a life without food, and the freedom to enjoy it? It’s a life without connections or stories. I know, because I lived that life.

My best meal happened in February 2000. I had been struggling for two and a half years with severe calorie restriction, overexercising, and bulimia, as well as mild depression and panic attacks. I was a junior in college at Fordham University in the Bronx. I had moved into my own apartment, and recently begun therapy and Prozac. And it was working. 

That night, I sat in a cafe on Arthur Avenue, where every store or restaurant holds a “Best Of” title. There’s nowhere better to eat in the world, in my opinion. THAT I don’t feel bad saying! I was with my friend, Sarah. I had a big cappuccino and a slice of chocolate peanut butter cake. As I ate, I didn’t rush in the way that I used to- so that I could get home in time to throw up. I also didn’t touch my stomach to see if it had expanded, or stare at the mirrors on the walls. Sarah and I were planning an upcoming trip to Spain and somewhere around wondering if it would be warm enough to swim in Torremolinos, I blurted out, “You’re not fuzzy anymore.”

“What?” she laughed.

“You’re clearer. Not all fuzzy.”

What I was trying to express was that everything wasn’t moving so fast in my mind anymore and I was able to give others my full attention without worrying about the mathematics of the calories on my plate. I also had enough nutrients in my body to focus and function.

“You’re getting better,” she said, tearing up a bit. 

I continued to get better. And I gained weight because my body needed to and because there is such a thing as set weights and because our bodies take care of us, no matter what we do to them. They always take us back. 

I’ve gained even more weight since that night when I was 20. Most people (and movies, books, TV, even a lot of so-called “accepting” political voices) will tell you that my body indicates failure. They’ll say a person of my size doesn’t know anything about “good food”, obviously has an “unrefined palate” and “probably eats McDonald’s every day.” I could waste my time disputing all of that, but why should I?

I don’t believe in food morality, and talk of “cheat days” or “being bad” make me want to kick things. But they also make me want to hug the person talking, and tell them how much they matter, and much they deserve to see clearly.

I didn’t have an ending to this piece until I was scrolling through my photos snd found the above picture from almost a year ago. This is me at Stuffed Ice Cream in the East Village. I’m eating a “cruff”, which is ice cream between two donuts.  I chose the “Cereal Killer”, which features Fruity Pebbles and Cinnamon Toast Crunch  ice cream, topped with Cap’n Crunch and Caramel.  I sat across from my husband of ten years (he had the “Unicorn Poop” cruff, because YES) and I felt the same clarity I felt all those years ago on Arthur Ave.The clarity of happiness.

Food decorates life. Enhances it. Today, you’ll hear from brilliant, brave experts about why diets don’t work, how the diet industry manipulates us, and what we can do to reduce Diet Culture’s power, particularly over young people. We hope you enjoy what our colleagues at NEDA and other organizations share. 

We wish you not just a day, but a life free of dieting. You’re worth it.