5 Reasons to Date a Girl, Who Has Recovered from an Eating Disorder

A few days ago, while absentmindedly scrolling through my Facebook news feed, a certain article caught my attention. One of my female friends had posted it on her wall, along with a comment that said something like “Worst. Thing. Ever.”

The article was titled “5 Reasons to Date a Girl With an Eating Disorder.” (Warning: if you’re negatively triggered by dysmorphic body image material, I wouldn’t recommend clicking that link).

My initial reaction: Umm…WHAAAAAAT?!  

Nevertheless, persuaded by morbid curiosity, I gave it a read. Then, subsequently wished I hadn’t. Only 1 word can adequately describe my feelings toward the archaic, misogynistic, and downright offensive message perpetuated in this article: Horror.

Just pure and utter horror.

Whoever wrote this (come at me, bro!) is – in my admittedly biased opinion – a heinous human being. I consider myself a tolerant, unflappable individual, but I have ZERO patience for someone, who spouts unfounded and verbally abusive nonsense about such a sobering societal issue as mental illness.

An eating disorder is no joking matter. It’s a life-threatening concern that runs rampant in today’s culture. It does not discriminate across gender, racial, or socioeconomic boundaries. It trashes self-esteem. Destroys relationships. Ravages both mind and body. Causes long-term physical and emotional repercussions. It even has the power to kill.

Nope, not amusing. At all.

However, the dude behind this post sees things differently. From his sexist and – can we all agree?! – skewed POV, men should pursue anorexic and/or bulimic women for the following reasons:

  1. They look sexy.
  2. They won’t cost big bucks on date night.
  3. They’re easily dominated.
  4. They probably come from money.
  5. They’re great in bed.

‘Kay…???

Let me just begin by pointing out that I have personally battled and overcome anorexia, so I can assure you  none of these claims are factual. But, for good measure, I’ll break them down one-by-one.

  1. Sick isn’t sexy. It’s detrimental. Is outward beauty such a deal-breaker that a guy would rather see his girl suffer than gain 5 pounds?
  2. Not all disordered eaters starve themselves completely. But, even if they did, what kind of cheap bastard goes on a date without his wallet?
  3. Au contraire. While this illness does attack confidence levels, I’ve known several ED survivors (myself included), who are feisty little spit-fires. Dominate that!
  4. I was raised middle class. And I met girls in treatment, whose financial backgrounds ran the gamut from gated communities to inner cities. Wealth is NOT a contributing factor.
  5. To quote the author, “It’s a well-known fact that crazy girls are exceptional in the sack. A girl with an eating disorder has just the right cocktail of pent-up insecurity, neuroses, and daddy issues to ensure that your whole building knows every time you’re beating it up.” Yup. Nailed it. But not really.

Here’s another point worth mentioning: in the article’s comment section, some male readers were telling a (rightfully!) incensed female reader, “Chill out. It’s satire.”

Ummm…let’s examine that cavalier dismissal, shall we? As a former theatre major, I’ve read my fair share of satirical literature, from “The Importance of Being Ernest” to “Cloud Nine.” Satire uses “humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues” (source: dictionary.com). In other words, it aims to promote something more than misogyny.

Sorry, folks. Not buying the “it’s satire” argument.

Instead, I’ll offer a counterargument. Call it the “5 Reasons to Date a Girl With an Eating Disorder” in reverse. Consider, if you will, “5 Reasons to Date a Girl, Who Has Recovered from an Eating Disorder.”

Also known as The Truth:

  1. She has fought hard to achieve confidence and self-respect. 
  2. She recognizes and appreciates the value of inner beauty. 
  3. She exhibits joy and gratitude for life’s simple pleasures.
  4. She does not demand perfection and freely forgives a slip-up.
  5. She knows better than to take loving relationships for granted.

Think about it. This girl is a survivor. She has a positive new lease on life. She voices her opinions and beliefs. She can be counted on for honesty.  She admits to vulnerable moments, but isn’t controlled by them. She laughs at her own idiosyncrasies and doesn’t take herself too seriously. She embraces both strengths and weaknesses. She’s one tough chick and will go the distance for a real man, who treats her like his equal. Basically, this girl is a badass.

She lives with spirit, as though each day is hers alone to carpe diem. 

And loves with fierceness, as though her chosen person deserves happiness just as much as she does.

Breathe In. Breathe Out. It’s a Gift. And It’s Called Life.

Admission #1: As of precisely 1:32 P.M. this afternoon, I committed the very same trite, mainstream, and unoriginal act that just about every other 20-something female in the English-speaking world (and beyond) has been guilty of during these past several months.

I finished reading The Fault In Our Stars. 

And it was perfect.

Admission #2: I still haven’t seen the movie yet, and maybe I won’t, considering how masterful the book itself turned out to be. It’s rare that cinema can top literature, after all.

Admission #3: I didn’t cry while reading the book either, which is slightly disappointing. Especially since all I’d been hearing from this TFIOS  phenomenon’s onset is how Hazel and Augustus’ love story would reduce any mere mortal with a semi-functional soul into a waterfall of big, sloppy tears.

I, however, was dry-eyed. But I do have a semi-functional soul. So, there must be something else wrong with me. TBD.

Admission #4: My rather unfortunate tearlessness is in no way a negative reflection on the novel’s pure and astonishing genius.

Like I said, it was perfect.

Admission #5: TFIOS was a sobering read. That rare slice of humble pie, which stares you down silently, unblinkingly, disconcertingly nose-to-nose until you just can’t handle the guilt anymore. Until you’re forced to show some gratitude for your own health, wellbeing, and relative normalcy. 

Because that’s the thing about Life. It could always be worse.

Someone’s reality is shittier than mine. Truth. Undeniable truth.

And so, the only option left is to be grateful my body doesn’t suffer in the same way a chronically ill body would. Grateful that I’ve never reached a 10 on the infamous “pain scale” Hazel frequently references. Grateful that my physical capabilities run the gamut from back flips off a diving board to the “cha-cha slide” at wedding receptions. Grateful that I’m not acutely (and constantly) aware of my own fragility…abnormality…

Mortality. 

Admission #6: I’m rarely grateful for any of those blessings. I have every reason to be. But I’m not.

Instead of legs that have never been replaced by titanium steel (like what Augustus endured), I see flabby thighs that must be punished into lean, sinewy submission. Instead of a chest that inhales and exhales without needing oxygen tubes, I see boobs that just barely fit into the string bikini I bought last weekend. Instead of intestines that digest my meals with painless efficiency, I see a bloated belly that didn’t give 100% during today’s ab work-out.

Failure. All I see is FAILURE.

What would Hazel see though? Physical strength and stamina, like she may never experience. But enveloped in an attitude, undeserving of said strength and stamina.

Admission #7: If Hazel was a real person and that’s indeed what she saw…well, she’d be right.

Here’s the fundamental difference between me and someone, who’s chronically ill: s(he) never chose to get sick.

Whereas I did.

Not consciously, of course. I do believe that my particular disease is complicated and psychological and hard as hell to control. But it’s also curable and avoidable. Throughout my entire ordeal, I retained the freedom to make a full recovery. Whenever I was ready, health awaited.

That’s not the case for Hazel. Or Augustus. Or the countless actual cancer sufferers, survivors, and warriors.

REAL names.

REAL faces.

REAL stories.

REAL heartbreak…

And REAL capital-C courage.

They can’t simply flip the “recovered” switch. But, God, I wish they could.

So, this is the lesson I’ll take away from The Fault In Our Stars (an important read…perhaps the most important read I’ve stumbled upon in years): “Live your best life today.” And take no breath for granted.

the fault in our stars     (image courtesy of pinterest.com)

Why We Shouldn’t Need to Mind the Gap

I’ll admit…

I became preoccupied with obtaining a “thigh gap” before I even knew it had a name. Let alone a hashtag.

All I knew was if my feet were together but my thighs were NOT apart, then that equaled failure. If they so much as grazed against each other during an evening jog, I’d inwardly curse the loose folds of cellulite that had taken up residence there. Granted, this egregious cellulite only existed inside my head, but still…

Why. The. Hell. Must. Those. Stupid. Thighs. Touch?!

Arrrrrgh!

What is this madness?!

Madness indeed. Not only was I fixated on a meaningless centimeter of space between my inner thighs, but now millions of other young women are too. You can’t scroll through an Instagram feed or peruse Tumblr posts without being inundated by this troubling trend. #MindTheGap has recently become just as much an institution as social media itself. Proponents of the elusive “gap” use these sites as sounding boards to either tout their progress or bemoan their inadequacy. Nope. There’s no mistaking it: thigh gap fixation has given us tunnel vision toward our own physical appearances.

It’s no longer acceptable to simply be considered fit and trim overall. Now every last INCH of our bodies demands perfection.

But, let’s be honest, are thigh gaps even all that noticeable? If you didn’t spend a solid 10 minutes positioning your legs at just the right angle to snap a boastful – and perhaps teeny tiny bit…filtered – selfie, would your friends have any idea that you claim membership in the Thigh Gap Club? Yeah, didn’t think so.

Which raises even more questions: Why is this our new benchmark for beauty? Why is a sliver of breathing room separating 1 skin layer from another suddenly the latest status symbol? Why do we measure personal success in such superficial, fleeting terms?

No, really. WHY?!

Do yourself a favor next time you cringe at your own reflection. Rather than gauging the dead air between your legs, consider instead how those same legs move you through each miraculous day of your beautiful life.

Not that’s worth minding.

What I’m Reading and How It’s Changed My Thinking

Recently, while meandering through the aisles at Barnes & Noble, I stumbled upon one of my favorite actress’s – Cameron Diaz – latest endeavor: The Body Book. Intrigued (and admittedly, a bit skeptical…she is in the business of flawlessness, after all), I snagged a copy off the shelf.

And I was hooked.

We’re talking instantly. I devoured that book in just a few days…and I do mean “devour!” Both my mind and body were STARVING to absorb the information leaping off each page. Never mind that Cameron graces the world’s most glamorous stages. Reading her words, you’d think she was just some unassuming girl-next-door. She was speaking to me. She was speaking to every woman’s innermost body-image struggles. Hell, she WAS every woman. She’d faced those struggles too. And she vanquished them. How could I not be inspired?!

Throughout my later years of adolescence, I harbored a shameful secret: anorexia nervosa. Then, upon entering young adulthood, I undertook an arduous yet fulfilling journey toward both physical and emotional recovery. And these days, I’ve become outspoken on the subject of eating disorders, freely sharing from personal experience in hopes that someone – anyone – might avoid falling prey to this illness because they heard my story.

However, the temptation to slip back into those destructive patterns is an ongoing occupational hazard. On a good day, I can easily tune out the nagging voices that tick off my failures, like a Justin Bieber song on repeat.

On a bad day, I can’t focus on anything else.

But this book altered my perspective on common misconceptions about the human body, which I’d blindly accepted as fact. For the first time, I finally learned the textbook definition of a “calorie.” This thing, which makes even the most self-assured women tremble, is actually not a villain. It’s a unit of energy that the body stores while at rest, then converts into fuel while in motion. Ahem…so, I DON’T need to fear the dreaded calorie?! Simple. Straightforward. Yet revolutionary. Mind blown.

As if that eyeopener wasn’t enough cause for celebration, Cameron went on to crush another fallacy I’d once sworn by: hunger is not a sign of weakness. Au contraire! Eating sustains life, which makes being hungry a biological trigger for our survival instincts. And furthermore, by responding to this urge, we’re fueling ourselves with energy rather than cellulite.

Why did we lose sight of these 6th-grade science basics? Why do they sound radical and groundbreaking, when they should have been our bread and butter all along?

Sometimes it takes an influential force (say…Cameron Diaz, perhaps?) to aim her star power toward setting the record straight. Once and for all. Because women – regardless of shape, size, or bra cup – have been conditioned to loathe every curve and contour, when they SHOULD be skakin’ what their mamas gave them.

Reclaim the right to love your body. And take my advice: crack open The Body Book.

Do it. Like yesterday.

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