The Truth About Aging

I’ve written a lot about being honest with ourselves – such as with food, where I need to know my own truth about what and how to eat. I’ve written about being honest and taking responsibility for my actions – just because my mother took me to Weight Watchers when I was nine, that doesn’t mean she’s responsible for my bulimia 30 years later.

Now, I have to be honest with myself about aging. Sure, i don’t want to die and don’t want to become infirm, but the truth is – if i am lucky enough to grow older, I will get all the physical and mental stuff that goes with it. I’ve got no control over that.

So, I might as well tell myself the truth. No amount of anti-aging creams will make me young. And if I’m not young, why try to pretend to look like someone I’m not?

(Now, I have nothing against anyone who wants to do anything to and for their own bodies. It’s your body – do what you like. And I’m sure I’ll think you look better than I do!!!!!)

Still, I don’t understand the anti-aging world – fillers, botox, facelifts, creams. Why bother? The affects are fleeting anyway – and the upkeep sounds exhausting. People say they use fillers to look “fresher” not younger. What does that mean? Fresher than what?

I doubt I’ll ever do anything. First of all, I HATE pain. No one’s sticking a needle in my jowly jowls! Would i think differently if I didn’t mind things that hurt AND had the money? I doubt it, but I suppose I’ll never know.

I do dye my hair; however, I’ve been dying it since high school, when I made my friend Frank pull my hair out of the Frost & Tip cap with a crochet hook. I don’t have much gray, and have always loved changing my haircut and color, so i don’t know if that counts as anti-aging?

As I don’t do stiff to hide my age, I’m rarely told that I look younger than my age. If some does say it, I know they’re being kind, but I don’t take it as a compliment. I have zero desire to look younger than I am.

My earlier years were fucking MISERABLE – I would not go back. I am pretty peaceful these days.

Of course, I want to be well and healthy. But I can’t ever be young again. Why pretend?

I wish looking old were just as desirable as looking young. Can’t we just look like ourselves?

Older Men/Younger Women

I had my taxes done last week. My accountant, Bob, is my age, he will turn 53 a month after I do.

After reviewing my finances, we both jokingly (at least for me!) decided that I needed to find a rich guy to marry me.

I laughed until he said, “he’d have to be in his 70s, of course to date a woman your age.”

According to Bob, all his (I assume wealthy) divorced friends our age are now looking for women in their 20s and early 30s.

Sitting across from Bob at that moment, a lot went through my head. First of all, who wants to date someone a quarter century younger than themselves? I have friends in their 20s, but they feel more like daughters. We don’t have a ton in common at this point, although I can remember what it was like to be that age – many many years ago. To me, they’re kids.

What are these guys thinking? If they weren’t rich, those lovely young ladies wouldn’t give them a second look.

(I would also like to say that Bob is not George Clooney and I doubt that his buddies are either, but of course I can’t be sure. Am I being snarky? Sorry/)

I suppose I’m defensive because it makes me feel small and old and less-than. I felt like Bob, my peer, was saying I’m way over the hill for him and his friends, like he has more power than I do.

And I have aged. I look at pictures from even a few years ago and see many more lines and jowls. It’s noticeable. I don’t usually mind at all – I am who I am, I’m comfortable aging – I wear less make-up, accept my 10 pound weight gain, and focus on having PURPOSE in my life. My life is so rich right now. But for a minute, all the new lines and lumps and bumps looked very prominent.

I made a list of all my friends who have recently met (and even married) guys our age. It’s a surprising big number – of course, I excluded my friend who’s been with a much YOUNGER man blissfully for several years. He just bought her a new car for Valentine’s Day. Take that Bob and Company! (Just between us, I have always stayed away from younger men, convinced that one day, they’d think I was too old. This isn’t particularly healthy thinking, I know.)

And of course, I wouldn’t want a man who ONLY wanted a young woman. Kind of creepy, if you ask me.

Still, I felt old.

And I am older. BUT I don’t have time to waste worrying about it. Off I go to do something useful 🙂

Eat, yet be Thin

When I was fat, I felt truly embarrassed to eat in front of other people, sure they were judging my portions. And plenty of people made comment on what I ate, “do you really need all that?”, “why don’t you try eating less?” Blah,blah, blah. Family and friends tsked, tsked when I ate bread or French fries or, God forbid, ordered dessert.

Then when I started starving myself to lose weight, people cheered. “Good for you”, they’d say, once I’d ordered the salad (dressing on the side) and steamed veggies. Praise bathed me – my diet-y food choices and, of course, my weight loss.

But – when I got thin, things changed. Suddenly, everyone wanted me to eat with gusto. But – being thin was such hard work. For me to be thin, I had to starve. Weight always clung to me. I have a slow metabolism, I don’t exercise, I’m not naturally thin.

Yet, suddenly, now slim, I was considered rude if I didn’t eat. If I went to someone’s house and ate lightly, I was a bad or picky guest. If I asked for a salad with dressing on the side and steamed veggies, I was weird. I began to DREAD dinner parties.

(I will say that now that I don’t care as much about my weight, eating out and about is easier. But does that mean that soon I’ll be hearing, “are you sure you should be eating that?” again? There really is no winning!)

We live in a strange world of foodies and food channels and restaurants and cookbooks galore – and yet we’re supposed to be rail thin.

When I lived in Manhattan it felt like a personal war on me. Every storefront was either a restaurant, a liquor store, a bar, a supermarket or a bakery. Wherever I walked, food stared me down. Once, I had a panic attack as I walked through the cookbook section of Barnes & Noble – so overwhelming.

I recently read while filming (and thus eating all day), Padma Lakshmi of Top Chef, drinks some gross drink that includes Metamucil four times a day! yuck!!! And when filming ends she goes on a lengthy detox that prohibits flour, sugar, alcohol, etc. And she exercise constantly.

Eat and be thin. Really difficult. (I’d also like to say that I doubt that her male co-host, Tom Colicchio, drinks stool softener all day or goes on a deprivation diet after filming!)

Such a mixed message. I’m confused even writing this post.

Eating and Shame

Thinking about my addictions, I do have some really funny drug and alcohol tales. My 38th b’day was an endless party at an all night tapas bar in NYC. The pictures are hysterical and everyone remembers that night, nearly 15 years later, as one of the best spontaneous parties they’ve been to. Our sangria bill rivaled my car payment. In those years, my friends and I fell off a lot of bar stools together and cracked each other up about it. And a good hangover can be pretty funny too.

Even my drug years allow for some crazy stories that I can shake my head and laugh at now. AND, even as messed up as I was, I loved that weight loss.

But not with food. I have no happy, funny memories of bingeing. There are no good starving/fainting stories. I don’t laugh about sophomore year in college when I gained 70 pounds in 6 months. I can’t illicit a chuckle about eating out of garbage cans and making myself throw up in strange bathrooms. And when I’d drag myself into work after a night of bingeing and puking and sick as a dog, I didn’t tell anyone about the “escapades” of the night before and wait for them to jokingly say, “over-served last night, huh?”

The guilt, shame, pain, disgust and remorse of my eating disorder are unrivaled in my life. Blessedly, it is this pain that allows me the desperation to give up and accept a new way of life, which includes a new way of thinking about food and of course, a new way of eating.

More about that this weekend.

Power to Come/Freedom

Finding Power Greater than ourselves which will remove the food problem is a big and important topic. And I know it can be workable for all – from my friend’s mother who spends each and every day in prayer at her church to the most vehement of atheists. So, I will address it this weekend, when I have time to write at length.

For now, I will say that this reliance on Power allows us to be free and in a different way than I’d expected. It’s freedom to vs. freedom from. It’s not actually freedom FROM food. I don’t count the days, months or years FROM my last binge.I’m not counting time at all FROM my last. That kind of thinking keeps me tethered to the food. “It’s 30 days SINCE..” That’s like living in the past. And suggests that I miss the food.

Instead, I don’t think about food when I’m not hungry. The obsession has been lifted. I am free TO live my life. Free to go anywhere and be around any kind of food, and not want it at all. I am present, right now.

There was a time, early on in recovery, where I did still envy people who could eat whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted and not seem to gain weight. And I could get green with envy about people like my best friend Frank who forgets to eat unless reminded – imagine, naturally not caring about food! Poor guy even drinks Ensure to keep his weight up.

But now, I can live free, like Frank. Food doesn’t own me. It’s not my master; I’m not it’s slave.

I have a great life with the freedom to always be just fine around food.

Owning the Truth

If I am to get over my eating disorder (compulsive eating, anorexia, bulimia), I must be brutally honest with myself. This is my truth – I am NOT a normal, natural eater. Never have been. Never will be.

It’s not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing. It’s a fact. I take it seriously. I know my truth – what works for me. Your truth may well be different than mine. But I know mine, and I never play with it. Playing with it just means I’m lying to myself. So, I never;

*Decide that “today, I’m just going to graze all day”.
*Have “cheat” days, where I stray from my usual way of eating.
*Bank calories for later.
*Eat foods that set off a weird reaction (when I eat white bread, I will always want more, whether I’m hungry or not.)
*Eat large quantities. I discovered that pretty small amounts are sufficient to satisfy me. I don’t need much.
*Compare what and how I eat to other people. Sometimes, I find it interesting to watch normal people eat, BUT I know it won’t work for me.

These are the ‘for sures’. I definitely have other preferences, but I will be more flexible with them. I don’t like to eat when I’m not hungry, but I will if I have to – like if I know that when I am hungry, I’ll be in a meeting and it won’t be appropriate to eat, then i will eat before I go. I don’t tend to eat breakfast, as I don’t wake up hungry. I prefer not to eat an early dinner, because I’d rather not find myself hungry again later. But I’ll waver on these.

*There is a caveat – I will actually be flexible with all of it, if need be. I still know my truth and just that I’m bending it briefly. And I know that it’s okay if I do bend it a little – my truth is that I can get back on track. So, let’s say I have a boyfriend and we go to his mother’s house for lunch and she serves sandwiches on white bread, I will eat one. And I would eat a whole one, instead of my usual 1/2. (I’m not recommending anyone do what I do, but this works for me.) Stuff like that, I do, for a number of reasons. First of all, I want the boyfriend’s mom to like me and not think I’m rude or weird. (i don’t weigh or measure my food, but if I did, I wouldn’t show up anywhere with a scale and measuring cup. I figure as a grown woman who’s been on every diet in the world, I can at least temporarily, eyeball a portion.) Second, I NEVER want to make a scene or seem like I think I’m special and need special attention. Making a big deal about what I eat and MY food is self-involved and boring.

Overall, I don’t get involved with food much. I don’t like to cook or bake or get into food prep. I do simple stuff and will get involved if I have to, but for me, the less I do with food, the happier I am. There are a million other things I’d rather be thinking about. FOOD was my LIFE for most of my life. Now, I just want to deal with it when I am hungry, and go out live my actual life. (Quick sidebar – if my sister is reading this, she would tell you that mostly, I’m just plain lazy. That’s true too, but I’d much rather dust and vacuum and scrub the toilet than cook!!!)

I’d say most people are not like me in that respect. I have lots of sponsees who love to cook and prepare meals that work for them. Good for them! It’s just not my preference.

But most importantly, I have to face the truth that I have to face what’s underneath my weirdness with food. What’s going on that I want to soothe/anesthetize with food? Or that I want to distract with starving and counting calories? Or that I long to check out by throwing up for hours?

THAT’S WHERE I HAVE TO FOCUS MY ATTENTION. I need to put down the food and get to work.

Sometimes, recovery (the solution) doesn’t read as sexy as the problem (food depravity). But it’s the important part.

Nature vs Nuture: the Eating Disorder

Do I think body shaming can cause an eating disorder? Or are we pre-ordained to develop one, regardless of how we’re treated – like I’m a natural born alcoholic, while my brother and sister are not?

I’m really not sure about this one. I know that all the cruel comments and horrible teasing about my weight as a teenager did a lot of damage. I was deeply devastated by and ashamed of my growing body. Deep in my bones, I fully believed that if only I were thin, everything would be okay. In particular, I was sure that if I were thinner, everyone would like me more. Everyone seemed so disappointed in me, my eating and my weight.

At one point, when I was 16, I began to lose weight naturally. It was a brief time in my youth when I was happy. For a number of reasons, I was pretty much living alone with my very best friend in the world, Frank, and he was taking really good care of me. He loved me unconditionally (all these years later he’s still my best friend), and for once, I had no desire to use food to comfort, soothe,anesthetize or anything at all but to fuel.

But then as I lost a few more pounds, the compliments started flowing in nearly constantly. You’d have thought I’d cured cancer. I’m barely exaggerating here. It truly was cemented in my head that thinner was better. If losing a few pounds was good, losing tons of weight had to be even better.

And so I got to the point where I didn’t get my period for years, and I was often too weak to walk up stairs and I didn’t do anything but think about food and weight. When I couldn’t starve anymore, I turned vigorously to bingeing and puking.

(And fyi, may I just say that I was NOT happier when I was skinny. And my life was NOT better. I was f’ing miserable, furious and depressed.)

So, in my case, body shaming absolutely contributed to my anorexia and bulimia. But I don’t know if that’s true of everyone.

Is there a nature component? Am I born a disordered eater? In my case, I have to say yes. I truly did finish more bottles in the hospital than any baby before me. After that, I ate so much that the doctor put me on skim milk at six months. “Why”, I asked my mother,” did you feed me so much?” “Because”, she said, “you cried and cried until i gave you more.

Clearly, I was born with the disease of more and never enough; more and never satisfied. There wasn’t enough food in the world to make me feel better. But my brother and sister weren’t born this way. If you look at pictures of us when I was a baby – there’s my skinny sister, lanky brother and fat little me.

I remember eating and eating and eating as a child. I’d eat anything and everything until I couldn’t move. My body and mind wanted food all the time.

I can eat more pancakes in one sitting than my best friend Frank can eat in a lifetime. I know – Frank once tried bingeing on pancakes with me. He got grossed out quickly and stopped three DAYS before I did. Literally.

Does this mean everyone with an eating disorder has a body primed to eat dysfunctionaLly. I don’t know. i do know that mine sure is.

Does it matter whether it’s nature or nurture? I don’t think so. We find ourselves in the same place.

Sick.

Coming up – any thoughts? Do folks want to hear more about anything in particular? You can leave a comment on the blog or at Facebook or email me at melissa.statmore@gmail.com I’m really curious to hear. And, of course, I have a zillion ideas of my own. 🙂