• Valentina Maldonado

Is this delicious or am I just fucking starving?


I’ll never forget the way food tasted when I had an eating disorder.


It was 4:30pm. Time to have breakfast. Not because I was at a rager the night before, but because I could bear the hunger till the early evening. Towards the end of my freshman year of college, I was sitting at Vapiano with my best friend Laura and two of her friends, Leigh and Ryan. It was a gorgeous afternoon in mid-May and we had just walked from ChipNYC, a bakery in Gansevoort Market, to the Village. Sort of a silly food crawl where we started with giant cookies and finished with shitty pasta. In between scarfing down mounds of spaghetti with tomato sauce, I was trying to explain to them why I didn’t typically eat till late in the day.


“Oh my god! That does not sound healthy…” Leigh was particularly shocked by my declaration. Her anger mixed with concern made me feel guilty, proud, and jealous. Easy for you to say, you eat like six entrees at restaurants and you’re probably the hottest person I know.


That euphemism, “cheating on your diet” reflects exactly how I felt. It really did feel like my eating disorder was my girlfriend. Every day, I would take a thousand pictures of my half naked body, scrutinizing them to make sure that I was still skinny. I loved that my restrictive diet was so effective. Much like anybody’s first relationship, my eating disorder absorbed all of my time and energy. Sometimes I would turn down going to events if I knew there would be free food. Sometimes I’d take those chances to be unfaithful, and I’d gorge myself on anything till I was painfully stuffed.


My first semester of college, all I did was go to class, eat, then sleep. The freshman 15 was more like the freshman 25. My weight gain was obvious around Thanksgiving.


“You’re looking pretty chubby!” my uncle offered nonchalantly. Fuck you.


I took my shame and determined myself to lose all the weight I had gained and then some when I got back to school. It was small stuff like exercising three times a week, having more veggie focused meals, and less dessert. By Christmas, I was already 20 pounds lighter than I was on Thanksgiving. I threw a cookie swap party where I allowed myself a single cookie. On Christmas Eve, I made myself choose between alcohol and dessert. I chose dessert. On New Year’s, I chose alcohol.


After winter break, my eating disorder and I got really serious. I was skipping breakfast entirely, eating egg white omelettes for lunch, and salads for dinner. Sometimes I treated myself to a cheeky banana, but they had too many calories to justify eating regularly. The less I ate, the more I thought about food. I would picture a decadent sundae with toasted marshmallow fluff, Oreos, cookie dough, seven scoops of vanilla ice cream, warm brownies, and peanut butter sauce. I would salivate in my bed every night, fantasizing about what I wanted to eat as my body continued to shrink. I would get up the next morning, ready to starve myself another day.


About two weeks before summer break started, my RA organized an event where we would watch Christina Tosi’s Chef’s Table episode, and there would be Milk Bar treats. I didn’t eat a single thing till about 4:30pm, when I had cold brew with Splenda and a banana. I then went on a four-mile run along the Hudson River. I was so hungry, I don’t think I even paid attention to the show. Everything was so scrumptious that I didn’t even care how badly I wanted to be skinny. I remember taking a bite of a big chewy “Blueberries and cream” cookie. Holy shit. The blueberry flavor was so intense, the texture heavenly, the artificial vanilla was sweet and nostalgic. I was ecstatic. Cheating is worth it. My sweet tooth was triggered and I ravaged the selection of treats available: Birthday Cake Truffles, Compost cookies, and Tosi’s famous “Crack Pie.”


Is this delicious or am I just fucking starving?


Hours later, I was laying in a ball in my bed. I felt sick from all the sugar and guilt.


Damn it. I don’t get to cheat again until at least Friday.


I’m not hungry. I’m not hungry. Just wait till 4, then you can have coffee. Think about how hot you look.


Remember how much you ate yesterday.


Choose the salad. If you have the burger, don’t get the fries. Maybe don’t eat the bun either.


This tastes so fucking good, I can’t believe it’s almost gone.


That was such a big meal, definitely don’t eat again till tomorrow night.


That voice was getting pretty irritating. The fear of being fat was always looming, and reminding me that the power I felt from being thin could be taken away quickly. My eating disorder was so possessive. It was cruel. I was sick of it.


Breaking up with my eating disorder was easy at first. Of course I wanted to eat things that weren’t egg white omelettes and salads. I wanted to be free of guilt when I ate one cookie on a Tuesday. The summer after my freshman year, I got an internship on a farm in West Virginia where I worked as a field hand. It would have quite literally been impossible to not eat all day while doing physical labor, so I started eating two decent meals a day. As the summer progressed, I became more liberal with what and how much I was eating. I was moving on. By the end of summer I gained some of the weight I’d lost, as well as muscle.


What they don’t tell you about eating disorder recovery is that after you’ve gained all the weight back (and probably more), the body image issues you started out with exponentially increase. Not only was I acutely aware of what I looked like, but I had all the evidence of what I looked like before. I felt so jealous of my past body.She got to flaunt crop tops and bikinis; I was alone and buying oversized clothing to hide myself. I wanted her sinister companion back.


By the end of my fall semester, sophomore year, I was sick and tired of feeling gross. I hated the softness of my belly, the tight fit of my jeans. I wanted to stop scrutinizing and hating every picture someone took of me.


I know that this is toxic, but I’m giving it another chance. It’ll be different this time. I’m not eating till the afternoon.


I didn’t talk to anyone about this so nobody was discouraging me by saying things like “Don’t go back to her!” and “She fucked you entirely up!” and “You can do SO much better!” Even when I talk to my friends about it now, there’s no convincing me once I’m entrenched in my old habits.


I feel like I have two choices: I either free myself from my eating disorder, eat what I want all the time, and not think about food obsessively, but also hate my body; or cave into my eating disorder, let the hunger consume me all day long, lose weight, and resent every single thing I let myself eat. Every time I look at a picture of myself I try to control my impulse to hate it. The memories of my worst episodes of body dysmorphia, restrictive eating, the thrill of bingeing, and excessive exercise are not always torturous, they’re nostalgic. Please, just take me back. You make me feel pretty. I’ll never cheat again.


The thing is, when you love your shitty girlfriend, she is everything to you. The most powerful moment I experienced was when I saw how abusive my eating disorder was. Not eat a single thing till the late afternoon, run four miles, for Christina Tosi’s overrated baked goods? Never again. Mediocre food tastes as mediocre as it should.



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