National Eating Disorders Association

The holiday season is my favorite time of year. I know I’m not alone in that. Who wouldn’t love home, hearth, and family all bundled together in a peppermint-scented haze of love and gratitude?

But ever since I was diagnosed with anorexia, the beloved season has also become a huge challenge.

Just a few years ago, right before Hannuka (I’m Jewish), I was in treatment. Preparing us for the upcoming holiday, the hospital brought us all pies as a snack.

Melinda developed an eating disorder while she served in the military from 2003-2008. When she met her husband Jim several years later, she was still battling binge eating disorder and bulimia. They’ve coped as a couple as Melinda began her recovery for her eating disorder.

Something that really bothers me is when people say, “I'm going to binge-watch this show all weekend.” Although the word binge means to indulge in an activity to excess, there is a significant difference between binge eating and watching an entire season of a new Netflix show in one sitting. As someone who has a history of binge eating disorder, those comments feel insensitive.

I am enough. These three words appear in memes and on social media. We fling them around in the recovery community and silk screen them onto shirts. While in treatment, therapists repeated them and encouraged me to apply them to myself. With a flip of a pronoun, they altered the phrase and turned it into a mirror directed squarely at me. “You are enough,” they said. “You are enough.”

This morning, I checked my phone to find a flurry of excited Facebook posts about TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year, the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault. The magazine featured a group of women and men crucial to the movement, whom it dubbed “The Silence Breakers.” 

This past Saturday, the women of SNL united for “Welcome to Hell,” a catchy, candy-colored music video that serves to remind everyone that sexual harassment and abusive behavior toward women has been going on for a very, very, very, long time.

The image of recovery, particularly online, has such a pristine filter on it. Take a look at the recovery tag on Instagram or Tumblr and you will see some very positive things, but it can also be intimidating and even discouraging. Some may see the colorful fruit display and green smoothie close ups as what recovery truly is. It is not. Not only is there a sanitized version of recovery, but it is also very whitewashed. 

Approximately 30 million people will struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their lives – 10 million of those people are men. Despite the statistics, men with eating disorders are often mocked, belittled, or ignored in a culture that views eating disorders as a disease that affects only wealthy white women. 

More often than not these days, my eating disorder feels like a distant memory. I have to think really hard to put myself back in my own shoes. It was only five years ago that my entire life revolved around bingeing and purging and starving and drinking (and then bingeing and purging and starving and drinking), and yet that life feels so foreign to me now. Which is an incredible privilege. And a huge victory. I struggled for nearly a decade with anorexia and bulimia. It infected every corner of my life by the time I crashed and burned my way into treatment.

Before I sat down to write this blog for NEDA (a dream come true), I wrote down a grocery list with all my favorites foods. This is a normal part of life for some, but it was just a couple years ago when I would have severe panic attacks when my mother came home with groceries. The irony of it all is that I started working in a grocery store right out of treatment. I would bring in the shopping carts and find all of the left behind grocery lists. I saved all of the lists as a reminder to me of how badly I wanted a healthy relationship with food.