Saturday, July 10, 2010


I made some huge strides today. I managed to walk a few feet without using the walker for balance. I then made it through my exercises at PT without "cheating" by leaning over the rail to relieve the pressure on my back. And then this evening, I walked (using the walker) from my apartment to the sidewalk in front of our building and even successfully made it down the flight of six stairs in our entranceway! Jon brought the wheelchair with him in case I needed a rest, but I never had to stop and sit down. By the end of my walk, my back was hurting and I was hunched over te walker to relieve the stress, but I reached my goal. Tomorrow, I plan to walk a few feet more up the sidewalk ... and I'll keep practicing until I can make it to the bus stop up the block.

At PT, my therapist was so happy to see me walking around. The other therapist who was working with me today was also pleased that I'd memorized my exercises and appreciated that I'm so motivated to work and get well. He told me that a lot of patients hate doing the exercises and end up leaving their practice to go to another one where all they do is give patients massages and have them relax with heat compresses. I admitted that when I'm doing the actual exercise moves that it sucks because I'm out of shape and it's painful, but that it felt really good afterward. He was very encouraging and cheered me on when I managed to complete 30 reps in a row without stopping or slouching over. What was really nice was that when I was finished, this other patient there -- who's overweight herself, but was further along in her therapy than I am --came over to give me a hug and said that I was doing a great job.

Next week, my therapist wants me to start doing balancing exercises and using the stair climber. I'm a little nervous about this and how it'll affect my back. The good news is, I've been working really hard to lose weight this week because I know that this is only way that I can get rid of my back pain. So far, it's working, at least somewhat. I've diligently returned to keeping a food journal and have been doing my PT workout every other day. I already feel a bit lighter and am finding it easier to stand for longer amounts of time. I know that as long as I keep this up, I'll get stronger and leaner. I can't say that I love working out because it's very tough for me right now, but I really like the therapists at PT and feel that they're pushing me just enough; they're encouraging and give me a lot to do, but they also understand that I have some limitations because of my leg and my weight. And yet they're never judgemental about it.

With so much going on, I almost didn't realize what today's date is: July 10. It's also the official 20th anniversary of my eating disorder.

For as long as I can remember, I've been obsessed with food. Don't get me wrong, my parents never starved me or anything; in fact, my mom is a great cook. But I did get a lot of "Nos" and "You've had enoughs" as a child. We didn't keep sweets or chips or sugary cereal in our home (which is a good thing, but I didn't see it that way back then) and whenever we went to a restaurant or a party, my mom would always give me a disapproving eye if I ate too much. Treats were saved for special occasions, like birthday parties or holidays; plus, whenever I got a good report card, we'd get ice cream sundaes at Friendly's. Whenever we went to a concert or movies, my parents would let me get one small bag of candy.

And yet, I was always hungry. I don't know why, exactly, but it seemed as if no matter how much good, healthy food I ate, I always wanted more. My parents tell me that when I was four or five, I actually went to my neighbors' homes and complained that my parents weren't feeding me so I could ask for food. I don't remember this, but I do recall judging my friends based on what kinds of foods they had in their homes. I used to love going to my friend, Michelle's, because she always had tons of junk in the house for us to snack on. But I didn't like spending time at Dina's because the food selection there was limited.

By the time I turned 11, my obsession went into overdrive. By now, I was a latch key kid and was staying home by myself a lot more. During these times while my parents were away, I'd gorge on bagels and low fat ice cream and anything good that I could find in my parents' kitchen. One time, my dad received a box of cookies as a holiday gift and hid them in the back of the pantry. I found them and ate the entire thing. Another time, I ate through all of the leftover frosting that we had from when I'd made birthday cupcakes. I even ate an entire jar of sprinkles. I think my preoccupation with food is best illustrated, though, by the time my parents took me to see a classical music concert and I freaked out because the candy stand didn't have M&Ms. I'd be so looking forward to having them that I actually broke down and cried. Over M&Ms! Can you imagine that?

I still haven't quite figured out why food meant (means) so much to me, so that'll have to be a post for another day. But I do know that by the time I was a sophomore in high school, I was no longer obsessed with food and had become more obsessed with being thin. To clarify things, I was NOT fat. Not even close. I was about 5'2" and weighed about 115 pounds -- pretty ideal, come to think of it.

But during my freshman year, I fell for this guy, who didn't know that I was alive. He, in turn, liked the skinniest girl in our class. Looking back, I'm not so sure how healthy she was, but at the time, I was envious of her 95-pound frame. I figured that if I could get to be that thin and lose my wide hips and big butt (they were not wide or big at all, but this is what I thought back then), that this boy would find me attractive, too.

Many other things were going on in my life, too, at the time. I was shy and didn't have many friends. My childhood friend, Lani, whom I'm still close with today, was a year ahead of me in school and popular, so we didn't see as much of each other. The friends I did have weren't exactly loyal toward me, so I didn't feel very connected to anyone. I was in a special advanced program in school, so I was drowning in homework and reports every night and weekend. Plus, I was played flute in band and was very competitive with it at the time, so I was battling with some other flute players for first chair. In other words, I was lonely, stressed and getting hardly any sleep.

During sophomore year, my life spiraled even more out of control. My grandmother broke her hip and was given medication that made her really depressed. My then 90-year-old grandfather got pneumonia and wasted away to 75 pounds in the hospital (he survived and lived to be 98 1/2, but that's another story) -- and then moved into a home for the eldery. And then my great uncle died.

All of this happened in the span of about two or three months and it was very overwhelming for me. That's when I began my extreme dieting. The first time I tried it was when we were helping my grandfather clean out his apartment so he could move to the home. We'd always go to a nearby diner for lunch and I decided to eat only half of my meal that day. I was pleased when I lost three pounds that week.

But my real diet didn't begin until July 10, 1990, 20 years ago. My parents, who were both teachers, usually took me to some exotic place each summer like China or Egypt, but because there was so much going on in our family, decided to take a tour of the South instead that year. This was fine with me because I'd decided to use the five weeks we were away to lose some weight. I was scheduled to get my braces off at the end of the summer and I wanted to enter my junior year with a "perfect" figure and perfect teeth.

My plan worked -- sort of. That summer, I stuck with salads and fruits, making sure to cut out "bad" foods like breads and snacks. I ended up losing 15 pounds and went down two sizes. But that wasn't enough for me.

When I came home, I promised my mom that I wouldn't get below 95 pounds (which was probably still underweight for me), but I didn't listen. I hardly ate anything so that my stomach grumbled loudly in school. I exercised for hours a day. I ended up getting down to about 90 pounds, way underweight for someone with my frame. I remember my grandfather telling me that I was too skinny, but I usually wore layered outfits so it was difficult for most people to tell just how thin I was. Yet I could see every bone in my torso sticking out and bruised easily because I had no cushioning on my body.

Of course, the guy I liked continued to show no interest in me and people started making comments about my weight. The turnaround came for me when I went to a friend's sweet 16 and wore a slinky dress, thinking I looked great. My friend's older brother, who was always very nice to me, told me point-blank that I was too skinny and now had chicken legs. Since I was at that age where a boy's opinion meant everything, I actually listened to him and put some weight back on. Then, I entered the bulimia phase of my life, which wasn't much better ... and here I am.

I didn't realize until health class in my senior year that I'd flirted with anorexia, but I was a classic textbook case: the "good girl" who tries to please everyone and starts to diet when her life spirals out of control. I wish I'd gotten help back then, but am glad that I found the strength to pull myself out of it before I became really ill.

Still, it's pretty sad that 20 years later, I'm dealing with the same eating disorder, albeit in another form. It never went away; it simply changed. I honestly don't know if I'll ever beat this thing entirely, but I'd like to be able to at least manage it. So here's hoping that 20 years from now, my problems with food will be a very distant memory.


  1. Naomi,
    I found your blog via your hubs on Hubpages. You are very positive and I find your writing uplifting, and this blog is no different. I find it a bit ironic that you tell yourself that you have to be more positive, when you're one of the most consistently optimistic and positive people I've encountered online.
    Good luck with the weight loss, the writing, and the recovery from your broken ankle. I'll be reading about your progress!
    And, don't worry, I'm not stalking you in a creepy way - I'm gay :-)

  2. Thanks so much for your support!